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MLB Notebook: Donaldson making All-Star case

A's third baseman has been among the top hitters in the game this season

Despite ending the 2013 season as a fourth-place finisher in American League MVP Award voting, and despite posting the Majors' second-highest OPS+ for any qualifying third baseman, Oakland's Josh Donaldson was not a 2013 All-Star (and he entered the All-Star break last season among the top seven in the AL in OPS and in the top 10 in both extra-base hits and RBIs).

If his current April is any indication, Donaldson's 2014 might include an invite to Target Field for this year's Midsummer Classic.

Across the Majors so far this season, Donaldson is the leader in extra-base hits, is tied for second in total bases, tied for third in doubles, tied for fifth in home runs, and he owns the highest OPS+ for any qualifying third baseman. If he can collect four more extra-base hits before May arrives, Donaldson will match Mark McGwire (in 1997) for the most combined doubles, triples and homers in any March/April for any Athletics player since 1914. He is the most valuable position player on the team that is currently tied for the best record in the AL.

Donaldson's extra effort
Donaldson contributed two homers, a double and four RBIs in the Athletics' 10-1 win over the Astros on Thursday, and he now has 15 extra-base hits for the season.

Donaldson's 15 extra-base hits (nine doubles and six home runs) through the A's first 22 games are the most for the franchise since McGwire had 15 (seven doubles and eight homers) in 1997.

Donaldson now has three different games as a third baseman in which he's collected at least three extra-base hits and at least three RBIs. He is the fourth A's third baseman since 1914 to have at least three such games. Pinky Higgins and Eric Chavez each had four, while Hank Majeski had three.

Since the beginning of the 2013 season, Donaldson's 149 OPS+ is the seventh highest among any of the 60 players who have collected at least 700 plate appearances. Those ahead of him: Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout, Chris Davis, Andrew McCutchen, Paul Goldschmidt and Joey Votto.

Kluber joins elite group
Indians right-hander Corey Kluber fanned a career-high 11 with no walks, allowing just four hits and one unearned run in hurling his first complete game. Behind Kluber, Cleveland defeated Kansas City, 5-1.

Kluber was the 22nd Indians pitcher since 1914 to compile at least 11 K's and no walks, and he was the first to do it since Scott Kazmir last Sept. 6. Kluber was the first to do it in a complete game since Tom Candiotti in 1986, and the first to do it in a complete game while not allowing any earned runs since Len Barker had 11 K's in his perfect game on May 15, 1981.

Kluber is the ninth pitcher this season to have at least 10 strikeouts and no walks in a game. There were 45 such performances last season -- the most in any season since 1998, the year the Majors expanded to 30 teams. In terms of ratios, there has been one such performance this year for every 73.6 starts made. Last year, that ratio stood at one for every 108 starts.

Award winners lead way for Tigers
Reigning AL MVP Award winner Cabrera and reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer led the way for the Tigers in a 7-4 win over the White Sox.

Cabrera had a pair of singles and drove in three, giving him 2,014 career hits and 1,273 career RBIs. With the hit total, he is four behind Tris Speaker for the 20th most in history for any player through his age-31 season. With his 1,273 RBIs, Cabrera is three shy of tying Al Simmons for the ninth most in history for a player through his age-31 season.

Scherzer, with a six-inning line that featured seven hits and two runs allowed to go along with 10 strikeouts and one walk, owns a two-year line that includes 10.33 strikeouts per nine and a 0.978 WHIP.

There have been 16 pitchers in baseball history (minimum 300 innings) who have held a WHIP below 1.00 when their age-28 and age-29 seasons are combined (Scherzer's 2013 and 2014 age-seasons). Arranging their strikeout rates for these two combined years, Pedro Martinez 's 12.06 from 2000-01 resides at the top, with Sandy Koufax's 1964-65 two-season average of 9.75 K/9 inning ranking second.

Here and there
• Making his fifth start of the season, Kazmir allowed a double and four singles in six innings of work, fanned seven and walked two, and improved to 3-0 while lowering his ERA to 1.62. Kazmir is limiting opponents to a .501 OPS -- the third lowest among AL qualifiers (he trails the Angels' Garrett Richards at .473 and White Sox southpaw Chris Sale, who is at .475). Since 1973 (the first year of the designated hitter rule in the AL), only two Athletics pitchers with at least five starts in a March/April have posted a lower OPS-against than Kazmir's current mark: Vida Blue in 1975 (.488) and Mike Moore in 1989 (.489).

• In the White Sox-Tigers tilt, Chicago's Dayan Viciedo fell a home run shy of the cycle and Detroit's Rajai Davis came up a triple short. Since 1914, there have been 13,007 instances of a player missing a cycle due to a triple, 5,065 who were a homer short, 1,709 who needed a double and 457 who were a single shy.

• Twins leadoff hitter Brian Dozier had three walks and a hit while crossing the plate twice to up his AL-leading total to 22 runs. Dozier has drawn 17 walks (fourth in the league) and has 19 hits (tied for 54th). Only one player in the modern era has qualified for the batting title and finished the year with more runs scored than hits: Max Bishop, in 1930. That season, Bishop scored 117 runs while collecting 111 hits and drawing 128 walks.

• The Orioles piled up double digits in runs in back-to-back games vs. the Blue Jays with an 11-4 win Thursday. Eight of the O's nine starters collected at least one hit, and the team amassed six extra-base hits and added three steals. Before this two-game barrage, the Orioles had most recently posted back-to-back 10-run games in August 2008 (one game against the Tigers, one vs. the Indians) and had last plated 10 or more in consecutive games against the same team in September 2007 against the Yankees. The Orioles most recently put together a three-game streak of 10 or more runs in 2003.

Carlos Ruiz had his second multi-double, multi-RBI performance of the Phillies' four-game series against the Dodgers, helping lead his club to a 7-3 victory over Los Angeles. For the game, Ruiz was 3-for-3 with two runs scored, two RBIs and two walks. It marked the third time in his Phillies career Ruiz had a two-run, two-RBI game in a perfect day at the plate while serving as the team's catcher. Among Phillies backstops, only Andy Seminick had more such games (five), with Bob Boone and Jimmie Wilson also having three.

Roger Schlueter is senior researcher for MLB Productions.

Miguel Cabrera, Josh Donaldson, Brian Dozier, Scott Kazmir, Carlos Ruiz, Max Scherzer