In the Cubs' ninth game of the 2003 season -- a 7-1 loss to the Expos -- Chicago's pitching staff collected seven strikeouts, which was a fairly low amount for the club in relation to what it had done in the first eight games.
Even with that relatively unimpressive total, the club was averaging more than nine K's per game and had recorded 84 punchouts for the season. The Cubs would go on to set a Major League record with 1,404 K's.
Ten years later, the 2013 Detroit Tigers -- in a decisive 11-1 win versus the Blue Jays on April 11 -- compiled six strikeouts (their second-lowest total at that point of the year) to bring their nine-game tally up to 73. They would pick up the pace after that and finish with a new Major League record of 1,428 K's.
The 2014 Washington Nationals are not only ahead of the nine-game pace set by those two record-setting clubs; they are generating strikeouts on a scale that hasn't been seen in more than a century's worth of Major League Baseball.
Strasburg leads strikeout parade
Led by Stephen Strasburg's 12 K's in a superb 6 2/3 innings (three hits, one run, one walk) on Thursday, the Nationals finished their 7-1 win against the Marlins with 17 strikeouts.
Washington's pitching staff now has 105 strikeouts through nine games. That is 12 more than any club over the past 101 years. The 2012 Yankees had 93, followed by the 1966 Indians (91), 2013 D-backs (91) and 2013 Red Sox (90). The Nats opened the season with an 18-strikeout performance against the Mets, and with Tuesday's 17-K effort in their ninth contest, the club is the first -- dating back to 1914 -- to have two games with at least 17 strikeouts through its first nine games. The 100 seasons between 1914-2013 had produced 15 total games with 17-plus strikeouts through all teams' first nine contests.
Tuesday's game was the 39th since 1914 in which a pitching staff compiled at least 17 strikeouts in a nine-inning game while issuing no more than one walk. The Expos/Nationals franchise had one of the previous 38: on June 8, 2010, they defeated the Pirates, 5-2, collected 17 strikeouts and surrendered no walks.
Strasburg enjoyed his 13th career double-digit strikeout game Thursday, giving him one fewer through his first 78 games than Roger Clemens and Oliver Perez had in theirs. Dwight Gooden tops this list for the most through any pitcher's first 78 games, with 28.
Abreu's homers come in pairs
After going his first seven games without a home run, White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu has picked up multihomer games in two of his past three, including two blasts vs. the Indians on Thursday in a 7-3 Chicago win.
Abreu joined Dino Restelli (1949 Pirates) and Mark Quinn ('99 Royals) as the only players since 1914 to have a pair of multihomer efforts through their first 10 career games.
Abreu drove in three runs and has an American League-leading 14 RBIs for the season. Those 14 through his first 10 career games are the most for any White Sox player since 1914, eclipsing the 12 from center fielder Larry Rosenthal in '36.
Dating back to 1914, Abreu's 14 RBIs through his club's first 10 games tie him for the fourth most in club history. Joe Jackson had 16 in '20 for the top mark, followed by Zeke Bonura's 15 in '37 and Floyd Robinson's 15 in '62. Abreu is matched with Jackson in '18, Bob Nieman in '55 and Ron Kittle in '83.
Brewers undefeated on the road
The Brewers collected 11 hits and outscored the Phillies, 6-2, to complete a three-game sweep in Philadelphia. It was the second straight series sweep on the road for Milwaukee, which won three in a row in Boston.
The Brewers piled up 38 hits in their three-game sweep against the Phils, with at least 11 hits in all three wins. In their six road games this season, the club has 78 hits in 244 at-bats (.320) and has scored 42 runs.
Milwauke iss 6-0 on the road for the first time since it started 7-0 in 1987. Before the current trip, the most recent time the Brewers had won six straight road games was in 2008, when they won nine in a row over two separate trips.
At 7-2, Milwaukee is off to its best start since 1998, when that Brewers team also won seven of the first nine.
Here and there
• In the Brewers' victory, Carlos Gomez had two singles and a triple. Gomez has batted leadoff in all nine games for Milwaukee this season, and he has reached safely at least three times in five of them. The only other Brewers leadoff hitter to have five such games through the team's first nine was Fernando Vina in 1998. Outside of the leadoff spot, Cecil Cooper had five such games through Milwaukee's first nine in '79, as did Gorman Thomas in '82 and Jeff Cirillo in '98.
• Indians starter Danny Salazar accomplished something no other starting pitcher in the modern era has: a double-digit strikeout line while recording fewer than 12 outs. Salazar went the first 3 2/3 innings Thursday vs. the White Sox, fanned 10, and was touched up for six hits and five runs. (Salazar nearly reached this dubious distinction on Sept. 13, 2013, when he struck nine in a start that lasted 3 2/3 innings.) Previously, the low innings mark for a 10-K performance by a starter was four innings, accomplished by the Mariners' Felix Hernandez last Sept. 22. There have now been 10 games since 1914 in which a starter reached at least 10 K's in less than five innings, with Sandy Koufax in '61 being the first conductor of such a performance.
• Batting first for the Mets in their 6-4 win over the Braves, Eric Young Jr. delivered three hits, stole three bases and scored four runs. Young was the 19th leadoff hitter in the past 101 seasons to have a three-hit, three-steal, four-run game, and the first since Emilio Bonifacio in 2009. There are a lot of left fielders on this list, with Young being the seventh. Willie Norwood, Vince Coleman, Rickey Henderson, Coleman again, Shannon Stewart and Dave Roberts were the others.
• Pedro Alvarez's three-run home run capped a five-run seventh inning for the Pirates, and Pittsburgh came back from a 4-0 deficit to defeat the Cubs, 5-4. For the Bucs third baseman, the homer was his fifth of the year. The most recent player to have five long balls through the Pirates' first nine games was Willie Stargell, in 1971.
• Athletics starter Dan Straily gave the team seven innings of one-run ball, and Oakland defeated Minnesota, 6-1. A's starters now own an AL-best 1.93 ERA. Since the team moved to Oakland for the 1968 season, its starters' overall ERA has been 4.04, tying them with Yankees starters for the lowest ERA in the AL for that span. Boston, at 4.14, ranks third on the list. The lowest mark for any AL team's rotation in one season since 1968 was the '68 Indians' 2.50 ERA.
Roger Schlueter is senior researcher for MLB Productions.