Having an ace like David Price, who leads the American League with 46 K's, certainly helps. Rick Porcello, looking primed for a bounceback season, was tied for sixth in the league entering Wednesday with 30 strikeouts.
But manager John Farrell thinks the biggest difference is in the bullpen. New closer Craig Kimbrel had 18 strikeouts over his first 10 innings. Matt Barnes, Robbie Ross Jr., Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara all did their part to contribute to the 20-game record. Heath Hembree punched out 11 in his first three appearances (7 2/3 innings) after getting called up.
"I think somebody brought to my attention the other day that per nine innings, the strikeout rate is four more currently than we were the last couple years," Farrell said. "Any time late in the game you can put less balls in play, certainly the better, and we're starting to really build a power bullpen that hasn't been the case the last couple years."
Making the mark more impressive is that starter Eduardo Rodriguez and reliever Carson Smith have both started the season on the disabled list. Smith should return in less than a week.
"Well, we're looking forward to his return because he is a late-inning guy and he's got closing capability," Farrell said. "So the more power type and strikeout arms we can add, we're hopeful we can continue to distribute the workload in those high-leverage situations."