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MLB Notebook: Kazmir among AL's best arms

A's left-hander shines against Red Sox to continue impressive first half

From 1914 through June 18, 2014, the Athletics and Red Sox had gotten together to play a regular-season game on 1,663 occasions.

Over this stretch, Lefty Grove made 40 starts against the Red Sox. Catfish Hunter and Dave Stewart each had 24 while going for the Athletics vs. Boston. Vida Blue went up against the Red Sox in 19 starts while he was representing the A's. Oakland's big three of a recent vintage -- Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito -- combined for 29 starts against Boston. It goes on and on and on.

At no point during this stretch of contests did the Athletics' pitching staff finish up a game vs. the Red Sox with a double-digit strikeout tally and no walks. It took game No. 1,664 to realize this feat, and it took Scott Kazmir -- making his first start against Boston as a member of the A's -- to lead the way.

A contrived approach to looking at things perhaps, but it's a way to offer additional appreciation for the exceptional season being authored by the Oakland southpaw.

Kazmir showing ace form
Kazmir allowed two runs on four hits with no walks and eight strikeouts in seven innings Thursday, and he improved to 9-2 in the A's 4-2 win over the Red Sox.

Kazmir ranks third in the American League in wins, second in the league with a 2.08 ERA (in 15 starts), and he owns the league's lowest WHIP at 0.947. He's on pace to become just the sixth AL pitcher since 1973 to have an ERA below 2.20 and a WHIP below .950 through at least 15 starts heading into the All-Star break. Jered Weaver (15 starts, 1.96 ERA, .900 WHIP in 2012) was the most recent to accomplish the feat.

Over his past five starts, Kazmir has gone 4-0 with a 1.27 ERA and has held opponents to a .515 OPS. For the season, his OPS-against stands at .550, tying the Angels' Garrett Richards for the second-lowest in the AL (Felix Hernandez leads, at .539).

Kazmir is holding opposing hitters to a .203 batting average, which leads the AL. In the DH era (since 1973), the lowest opponents' batting average at the end of a season for a qualifying AL left-hander belongs to Johan Santana (.192) in 2004. Santana is one of four AL southpaws since 1973 to qualify for the ERA title and finish the year below .200, with Ron Guidry owning a .193 in '78, Dave Righetti posting a .196 in '81 and Randy Johnson owning a .194 in '97.

Swisher slams Angels
After Albert Pujols gave the Halos a two-run lead in the top of the 10th with a two-run single, Nick Swisher delivered a walk-off grand slam in the bottom half of the inning and Cleveland defeated Anaheim, 5-3.

Over the past 50 seasons, this was the 12th extra-inning, game-ending grand slam to come with the batter's team trailing at the time of the homer. During this span of seasons, Swisher is the second Indians player among the dozen, joining Carlos Martinez. On Sept. 6, 1992, Martinez hit his slam off of the Mariners' Mike Schooler to erase a 9-8 deficit in the bottom of the 12th.

Nine feels fine for Polanco
In the Pirates' 4-3 win over the Reds, Gregory Polanco went 2-for-6, and he has hit safely in all nine games since making his big league debut.

Dating back to 1914, Polanco is one of 24 players to have at least one hit in each of his first nine games, and he is the only Pirates player on this list of 24.

Polanco's 17 hits through his first nine games are the most for any Buccos player since 1914, ahead of Jack Merson's 16.

Aroldis keeps mowing them down
In Cincinnati's loss, Aroldis Chapman faced four batters and fanned all four, giving him 37 strikeouts among the 65 batters he has faced this season in 18 1/3 innings. One pitcher -- the Braves' Craig Kimbrel in 2012 -- has finished a year with at least 50 innings pitched and fanned at least half of the batters he faced. That season, Kimbrel worked 62 2/3 innings and struck out 116 of the 231 batters he faced.

Wheeler rolls to first shutout
Mets right-hander Zack Wheeler posted his first career shutout -- a three-hitter with eight K's and one walk in a 1-0 victory over the Marlins.

There have been 119 shutouts on three hits of fewer in Mets history. Wheeler is the 45th pitcher to have at least one, with Tom Seaver's 17 the most. Among the 119 such shutouts, Wheeler's was one of 26 to come in a 1-0 game. The most recent had been R.A. Dickey's one-hit shutout against the Phillies on Aug. 13, 2010.

If one integrates age into the equation, Wheeler (24 years and 20 days old) was the youngest Mets pitcher since Jon Matlack (23 years, 201 days old) on Aug. 8, 1973, to hurl a shutout on three hits or fewer in a 1-0 contest.

Howard piling up RBIs
The Phillies won their fourth straight with a 4-1 victory over the Cardinals. In the win, Ryan Howard drove in three runs, and has driven in at least two runs in four straight games.

The past three times a Phils player had authored at least four straight multi-RBI games, Howard has been responsible. In addition to his current four-game streak, he had a four-game run in April 2013, and he had a five-game streak in May 2006. The most recent time any other Phillies player had at least two RBIs in at least four straight games was when Chase Utley produced a four-game run in July 2005.

Dating back to 1914, Howard's five-game streak in 2006 is tied with six others for the longest for any Phils player.

Here and there
Yovani Gallardo allowed one run in seven innings and picked up his fifth win of the season as the Brewers defeated the D-backs, 4-1. For his career, Gallardo owns a 7-0 record with a 1.86 ERA in 10 career games (all starts) against Arizona. Among pitchers with at least 10 starts against the D-backs, Gallardo's ERA is the second lowest (after Kaz Ishii's 1.59), and Gallardo is the only pitcher with an undefeated record (Tim Hudson is 9-1).

• San Diego's Huston Street worked around a couple of hits and produced a scoreless frame to record his 20th save in 20 opportunities this season. Street's streak to open the year is tied for the third longest for the franchise. Trevor Hoffman owns the longest with 33 straight conversions to open the 1998 season. Street had a 23-game streak in 2012, and Hoffman ('02), and Rod Beck ('03) also had 20-game streaks.

• The Yankees defeated the Blue Jays to notch their 16th consecutive home win against Toronto. Since 1914, the Yanks' longest home winning streak against any one franchise stands with their 20-game run against the Senators from July 4, 1939 through April 26, 1941.

• Making his Major League debut at the age of 30 years and 175 days, right-hander Yohan Pino gave Minnesota seven innings of five-hit, two-run ball in a no-decision, as the Twins topped the White Sox, 4-2. In franchise history, Pino was the oldest starting pitcher to allow two or fewer runs in his debut since John Martina (34 years and 286 days old) went the full nine in a nine-hitter for a 7-2 win against the Yankees on April 19, 1924.

Roger Schlueter is senior researcher for MLB Productions.

Aroldis Chapman, Yovani Gallardo, Scott Kazmir, Yohan Pino, Gregory Polanco, Huston Street, Nick Swisher, Zack Wheeler