In the sixth inning at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday, Clayton Kershaw made Jayson Werth his 200th strikeout victim of the year. And with the milestone strikeout, the left-hander recorded his fifth consecutive 200-strikeout campaign. And with this run, Kershaw became the fourth pitcher since 1893 to have at least five straight 200-strikeout seasons through an age-26 season (joining Bert Blyleven, Walter Johnson and Sam McDowell).
Typically, this would be an excuse for all sorts of noise-making, woohooing, confetti-throwing and other modes of celebrating. But in early September 2014, this particular milestone seems almost tertiary to the smaller (in scope) but larger (in significance) themes of what Kershaw has done over the past four seasons, and how his extraordinary, potentially historic '14 campaign fits inside this almost unimaginable peak.
Kershaw allowed one run in eight innings and picked up his Major League-leading 17th win as the Dodgers defeated the Nationals, 4-1. Kershaw -- who also leads the Majors in ERA (1.70) and WHIP (0.83) -- is now third in the National League in strikeouts, eight behind leader Stephen Strasburg of the Nats.
Kershaw's 0.83 WHIP currently stands in a tie (with Christy Mathewson, 1908) for the sixth lowest for any pitcher (and the lowest for any southpaw) among qualifiers for the ERA title since 1893. Of the five pitchers ahead of him, three are dead-ball era representatives (Johnson in 1913, Addie Joss in 1908, Ed Walsh in 1910), and two are more contemporaneous examples: Pedro Martinez in 2000 and Greg Maddux in 1995.
The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner and 2011 pitching Triple Crown claimant is having his best season -- one that could put an exclamation point on an extraordinary and historic four-year stretch (at least relative to age). For all pitchers since 1893 who amassed at least 800 innings in their age-23-26 seasons (he has thrown 866 1/3 innings over this stretch, beginning in 2011), Kershaw's numbers are as follows:
• His 2.11 ERA stands as the ninth lowest, with all eight pitchers ahead of him (Johnson, Chief Bender, Ed Reulbach, Walsh, Joss, George McQuillan, Mathewson and Doc White) representatives of the dead-ball era
• His 174 ERA+ stands as the second best, behind Johnson's 202
• His 0.94 WHIP is currently tied with Johnson's mark for the lowest
• His 6.47 hits per nine is the third lowest, behind Nolan Ryan's 6.19 and Reulbach's 6.46
• His 4.70 K/BB ratio is the highest, with Ben Sheets' 4.31 mark the second best
• His 27.2 strikeout percentage is the highest, ahead of Tim Lincecum's 27.1.
Stanton reaches milestone plateaus for pop
In the Marlins' 8-6 loss to the Mets, Giancarlo Stanton hit his 35th home run of the year and drove in two to reach the century mark in RBIs for the first time in his career. Stanton is the 59th player to post a 35-homer/100-RBI season in an age-24 or younger season, and the first to do this since Ryan Braun in 2008. A few other ways of thinking about his year:
• Among these 59, Stanton's 163 OPS+ would tie for the 27th highest
• Among the first 58, 16 of them also drew at least 100 walks (Stanton has 90)
Stanton leads the NL in both home runs and RBIs. Among the first 58, the others to lead their league in both categories:
• Jose Canseco in 1988 (42 and 124 in age-23 season)
• Johnny Bench in '72 (40 and 125 in age-24 season)
• Bench in '70 (45 and 148 in age-22 season)
• Orlando Cepeda in '61 (46 and 142 in age-23 season)
• Hank Aaron in '57 (44 and 132 in age-23 season)
• Mickey Mantle in '56 (52 and 130 in age-24 season)
• Ted Williams in '42 (36 and 137 in age-23 season)
• Hank Greenberg in '35 (36 and 170 in age-24 season)
• Jimmie Foxx in '32 (58 and 169 in age-24 season).
Young boppers headline for Red Sox
In the Red Sox's 9-4 win over the Yankees, Xander Bogaerts (21 years and 336 days old) and Mookie Betts (21 years and 330 days old) each homered.
Before this game, the Red Sox last had two players less than 22 years old homer in the game on Sept. 8, 1965, in a 5-3 win over the Indians. In that contest, Tony Conigliaro (20 years and 244 days) and Tony Horton (20 years and 276 days) each hit one.
Before this game, the last team to see 21-year-old (or younger) teammates homer in the same contest was Kansas City on Sept. 23, 2011. In that game, it was Eric Hosmer (21.334) and Salvador Perez (21.136) doing the honors.
Here and there
• In the Royals' 2-1 win over the Rangers, Jarrod Dyson stole three bases and scored the go-ahead run in the eighth after swiping second and third. Dyson now has 33 steals and an 84.6 percent success rate in attempts. In 2013, he stole 34 with an 85 percent success rate, and in 2012, he swiped 30 with a success rate of 85.7 percent.
If Dyson could finish 2014 with a success rate of at least 85 percent, he would be the fourth player since 1951 to post at least three straight seasons of 30-or-more steals with stolen-base percentages of at least 85 percent. Tim Raines did this in five straight seasons (1983-87), Jimmy Rollins had four in row (2005-08) and Eric Davis put together three straight (1986-88).
• In San Diego, Cory Spangenberg -- playing in his second career game -- delivered a pinch-hit walk-off home run in the ninth for a 2-1 win over the D-backs. Using the available records, Spangenberg emerges as one of seven players in the past 62 seasons to have a walk-off homer in his first or second career game.
• Bill Bruton (April 14, 1953): In his second career game, Bruton started and hit a solo homer in the bottom of the 10th to give the Braves a 3-2 win over the Cardinals
• Bill Virdon (April 14, 1955): In his second career game, Virdon started and hit a solo home run in the bottom of the 11th to give the Cardinals an 8-7 win over the Braves
• Billy Parker (Sept. 9, 1971): In his Major League debut, Parker started and hit a solo home run in the bottom of the 12th to give the Angels a 3-2 win over the Brewers
• Josh Bard (Aug. 23, 2002): In his debut, Bard started and hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth to give the Indians a 4-2 win over the Mariners
• Miguel Cabrera (June 20, 2003): In his debut, Cabrera started and hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the 11th to give the Marlins a 3-1 win over the Devil Rays
• Drew Stubbs (Aug. 20, 2009): In his second career game, Stubbs started and hit a solo home run in the bottom of the 10th to give the Reds a 2-1 win over the Giants
• Spangenberg (Sept. 2, 2014): In his second career game, Spangenberg delivered a pinch-hit solo home run in the bottom of the ninth to give the Padres a 2-1 win over the D-backs.
Roger Schlueter is senior researcher for MLB Productions.