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Scherzer reaches 300-strikeout milestone

MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- The crowd at Nationals Park clapped and chanted along, "Let's go, Max! Let's go, Max!" They hung on every pitch as they sensed it was near. Max Scherzer pitched himself into the history books once again Tuesday night with another dominant performance against the Marlins to reach 300 strikeouts in a single season for the first time in his career.

Scherzer won a 10-pitch battle with Marlins outfielder Austin Dean before he fanned him on a slider for the milestone-sealing strikeout. Scherzer became the sixth pitcher since 1990 to record 300 strikeouts in a single season, joining Curt Schilling, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Clayton Kershaw and Chris Sale.

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WASHINGTON -- The crowd at Nationals Park clapped and chanted along, "Let's go, Max! Let's go, Max!" They hung on every pitch as they sensed it was near. Max Scherzer pitched himself into the history books once again Tuesday night with another dominant performance against the Marlins to reach 300 strikeouts in a single season for the first time in his career.

Scherzer won a 10-pitch battle with Marlins outfielder Austin Dean before he fanned him on a slider for the milestone-sealing strikeout. Scherzer became the sixth pitcher since 1990 to record 300 strikeouts in a single season, joining Curt Schilling, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Clayton Kershaw and Chris Sale.

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Schilling was the most recent right-hander to cross the threshold before Scherzer, whiffing 316 batters in 2002.

After accomplishing the feat, Scherzer received a standing ovation from the crowd as well as the Nationals dugout and bullpen. He leads the Majors in strikeouts, and his total has set a new career high and Nationals record. But the achievement also added to his already Hall of Fame-caliber career resume.

 

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals, Max Scherzer

Ohtani to undergo Tommy John surgery

MLB.com

ANAHEIM -- It's official.

The Angels announced Tuesday that Shohei Ohtani will undergo Tommy John surgery to repair a damaged ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow during the first week of the offseason. The procedure will be performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles.

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ANAHEIM -- It's official.

The Angels announced Tuesday that Shohei Ohtani will undergo Tommy John surgery to repair a damaged ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow during the first week of the offseason. The procedure will be performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles.

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Ohtani received a Tommy John surgery recommendation Sept. 5 after an MRI exam revealed new damage to his pitching elbow, but the 24-year-old rookie spent some time processing the news and consulting with the Angels' medical staff before formally agreeing to the surgery. The procedure, which generally entails a recovery period of 14-16 months, is expected to keep Ohtani off the mound until the 2020 season.

Still, Ohtani should be able to return as a hitter in 2019, giving the Angels an impact power bat to slot into the middle of their order while he rehabs his elbow. Manager Mike Scioscia said the organization will have a better idea of when Ohtani will be available to hit after he undergoes the surgery. Scioscia added that there are "too many variables" to know whether Ohtani will be ready by Opening Day.

"We're waiting to get direction from the medical department on that, but certainly he'll be hitting before he's pitching," Scioscia said. "I think we'll wait for Dr. ElAttrache to do the surgery, see how the rehab goes and see what that date is."

Position players typically return to the field in less time following Tommy John, such as Yankees rookie infielder Gleyber Torres, who missed about half a season in 2017 after tearing the UCL in his non-throwing elbow. Dodgers star Corey Seager underwent Tommy John surgery this past May, and he's expected to be on the team's Opening Day roster in '19. Other notable position players to receive the surgery include former MLB outfielder Carl Crawford, Angels infielder Zack Cozart, Twins third baseman Miguel Sano and Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez -- all of whom were able to return to the field in a year's time or sooner.

Ohtani, who throws right-handed and bats left-handed, could also benefit from the fact that he doesn't play a defensive position and has been used exclusively as a designated hitter by the Angels. His damaged elbow ligament certainly hasn't held him back offensively over the past few weeks. Since receiving the surgery recommendation, Ohtani has batted .297 with a 1.009 OPS, five home runs and 12 RBIs over 18 games, helping him re-establish himself as a favorite in the American League Rookie of the Year race.

Video: TEX@LAA: Ohtani belts 112.9-mph HR, hardest of career

"It's remarkable the way he's able to separate putting that batting helmet on and putting that cap on to go out and pitch," Scioscia said. "I think he put all his focus into hitting once he knew he wasn't going to be pitching this year. I think the decision to have surgery, obviously, puts him out of pitching for 2019. But I think he's at peace with it, and I think he's focused on hitting, He's putting all his efforts into that."

Ohtani, who batted cleanup against the Rangers on Tuesday, is hitting .280 with a .925 OPS, 21 home runs, 56 RBIs and nine stolen bases on the season. Prior to the elbow injury, he logged a 3.31 ERA over 10 starts while striking out 63 hitters over 51 2/3 innings.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Los Angeles Angels, Shohei Ohtani

Yelich crosses 100-RBI threshold with triple

MLB.com

ST. LOUIS -- Christian Yelich added another bullet point to his National League MVP resume on Tuesday: triple-digit RBIs.

Yelich's three-run triple in the fourth inning gave Milwaukee a 6-0 lead over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium and gave the hot-hitting outfielder 101 RBIs to go with the rest of his statistical case to edge the Cubs' Javier Baez, the Mets' Jacob deGrom and the rest of a fine field of league MVP candidates.

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ST. LOUIS -- Christian Yelich added another bullet point to his National League MVP resume on Tuesday: triple-digit RBIs.

Yelich's three-run triple in the fourth inning gave Milwaukee a 6-0 lead over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium and gave the hot-hitting outfielder 101 RBIs to go with the rest of his statistical case to edge the Cubs' Javier Baez, the Mets' Jacob deGrom and the rest of a fine field of league MVP candidates.

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That triple capped a four-run Brewers rally that began with two outs -- a theme for Milwaukee in the middle game of a critical three-game series in St. Louis. In the first inning, Cardinals rookie Austin Gomber got two quick outs on five pitches before Jesus Aguilar and Ryan Braun delivered back-to-back home runs for a 2-0 lead.

Video: MIL@STL: Aguilar, Braun hit back-to-back jacks in 1st

It marked the 10th time that Brewers batters hit consecutive home runs, and the second time on this road trip to Pittsburgh and St. Louis. The homer was Aguilar's team-leading 34th long ball this season. Braun's was his 17th home run this season and second in as many nights against the Cardinals.

Getting both players hot would be a boost to the Brewers as they chase a spot in the postseason. Aguilar entered the night with two home runs in his first 20 games in September, and Braun had one home run in his last 28 games entering Monday's series opener.

In the fourth, the Brewers struck once again after making two quick outs. Jonathan Schoop and Manny Pina singled before Milwaukee starter Gio Gonzalez, a career .092 hitter entering the night, lined a single that chased Gomber from the game in favor of Tyson Ross.

Ross walked Lorenzo Cain before throwing an 0-1 slider right down the middle to Yelich, who pulled it to the right-center-field gap to clear the bases.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

Milwaukee Brewers, Jesus Aguilar, Ryan Braun, Christian Yelich

Hechavarria's HR sparks Yankees' 7-run 3rd

Sanchez caps big inning with 3-run shot; Voit adds RBI double
MLB.com

NEW YORK -- Adeiny Hechavarria's calling card is his glove, but as the shortstop prepares for the possibility of more playing time, the newcomer sparked a seven-run inning while showing the Yankees the pop in his bat.

Hechavarria slugged his second homer since joining New York on Tuesday, a third-inning solo blast off the Rays' Jake Faria at Tropicana Field.

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NEW YORK -- Adeiny Hechavarria's calling card is his glove, but as the shortstop prepares for the possibility of more playing time, the newcomer sparked a seven-run inning while showing the Yankees the pop in his bat.

Hechavarria slugged his second homer since joining New York on Tuesday, a third-inning solo blast off the Rays' Jake Faria at Tropicana Field.

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Brett Gardner followed with a triple, and after a walk to Andrew McCutchen, Faria somehow snared a scorched 109-mph Aaron Judge liner up the middle.

Video: NYY@TB: Faria snags Judge's sharp comebacker in 3rd

Luke Voit greeted Andrew Kittredge with a two-run double, and after an intentional walk to Giancarlo Stanton, Jalen Beeks issued a bases-loaded free pass to Neil Walker.

Video: NYY@TB: Voit rips an RBI double to left field

Miguel Andujar lifted a sacrifice fly and Gary Sanchez connected for a three-run homer, his 17th, to complete scoring in the inning. The seven runs tied the Yankees' season high, also accomplished on April 21 against the Blue Jays.

Video: NYY@TB: Sanchez smashes a 3-run jack to left field

Acquired from the Pirates on Aug. 31 for cash considerations or a player to be named, Hechavarria could see an increase in playing time due to Didi Gregorius' right wrist injury.

Gregorius tore cartilage in his wrist on a headfirst slide into home plate during the Yankees' postseason-clinching win over the Orioles on Saturday, and manager Aaron Boone has said that Hechavarria will get the majority of reps at shortstop in Gregorius' absence.

Hechavarria entered Tuesday batting .248/.280./.340 in 89 combined games for the Rays, Pirates and Yankees this season, with five homers and 30 RBIs.

Sterling references ABBA for HR call

Gleyber Torres is also expected to fill in for Gregorius, who is scheduled to be re-evaluated on Wednesday.

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.

New York Yankees, Adeiny Hechavarria, Gary Sanchez, Luke Voit

Swanson exits early with sore left hand

MLB.com

NEW YORK -- Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson exited Tuesday night's game against the Mets with a sore left hand.

Swanson did not take the field after lining out to center field in the top of the second inning. The Braves almost immediately announced it was a precautionary exit. The 24-year-old infielder missed a little more than two weeks in May because of left wrist inflammation.

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NEW YORK -- Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson exited Tuesday night's game against the Mets with a sore left hand.

Swanson did not take the field after lining out to center field in the top of the second inning. The Braves almost immediately announced it was a precautionary exit. The 24-year-old infielder missed a little more than two weeks in May because of left wrist inflammation.

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As the Braves prepare for next week's National League Division Series, they may be very cautious with Swanson, who has hit just .206 with six RBIs in September. He entered Tuesday ranked sixth among all Major League shortstops with 10 Defensive Runs Saved.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves, Dansby Swanson

A good dog took in a Nationals game while eating a hot dog

They say that sharing is caring. Dogs are particularly generous with their care -- waiting at the door for you to get home or snuggling on the couch watching television. The primary way we show we care is by sharing food and treats with our dogs.

On Tuesday night, a dog accompanied its human to Nationals Park to watch the Nationals host the Marlins. And, to thank the dog for being such a good fan, he shared his hot dog with him. Of course, the dog ate the dog right up.

Select few have reached 300 K's in a season

Scherzer is just 17th pitcher to accomplish feat since 1900
MLB.com

Max Scherzer won't get the chance to earn his first World Series ring next month, but he did check off one of the highest achievements on his career to-do list Tuesday night.

Making what could be his final start of 2018, Scherzer punched out 10 Marlins over seven innings to reach 300 strikeouts on the season. In doing so, the Nationals ace became the 17th pitcher since 1900 to reach the 300-K mark in a season, and the first right-hander to do so since Curt Schilling back in 2002.

Max Scherzer won't get the chance to earn his first World Series ring next month, but he did check off one of the highest achievements on his career to-do list Tuesday night.

Making what could be his final start of 2018, Scherzer punched out 10 Marlins over seven innings to reach 300 strikeouts on the season. In doing so, the Nationals ace became the 17th pitcher since 1900 to reach the 300-K mark in a season, and the first right-hander to do so since Curt Schilling back in 2002.

While baseball's obsession with round numbers runs deep, there's little denying the significance of a 300-strikeout season (even in today's K-friendly climate for pitchers). With Scherzer solidifying another big bullet point on his potential Hall of Fame resume, here's a rundown of the 17 pitchers who have reached the 300-K plateau within a single season.

SIX 300-K SEASONS

Randy Johnson, LHP
Years: 2002, '01, '00, 1999, '98, '93

Few pitchers have ever intimidated on a mound as much as The Big Unit, and once the 6-foot-10 Johnson corralled the wildness that plagued him in Montreal and his first years in Seattle, it was lights out for hitters.

"I told Randy he could be the most dominating pitcher in baseball if he would just work on his game," fellow Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan said in 1992. "He was a lot like me when I was younger. He was just pitching and not doing a lot of thinking."

Video: Randy Johnson fans 250 for 6 straight seasons

Whipping his high-90s fastball and biting slider seemingly from first base, Johnson wiped out batter after batter in an astonishing run through a remarkable renaissance in his 30s and early 40s. Seven of the top 10 strikeout-rate seasons by a qualified starter through 2002 belong to Johnson, peaking with his banner '01 campaign in which the 37-year-old struck out 37.4 percent of hitters (still the second-highest rate in a qualified season since 1900) before dominating even further during the D-backs' postseason run. The 1,746 strikeouts Johnson accumulated in a five-year period from 1998-2002 might remain unmatched for a long, long time.

Nolan Ryan, RHP
Years: 1989, '77, '76, '74, '73, '72

Before Johnson came along, it was hard to foresee any pitcher striking out as many hitters over as many years as The Ryan Express. Ryan's trade from the Mets to the Angels in 1972 represents one of the most favorable changes of scenery for any player, as the hard-throwing righty blossomed from a back-of-the-rotation starter in Queens to the preeminent strikeout artist in baseball history.

"I've never been afraid at the plate, but Mr. Ryan makes me uncomfortable," said Hall of Fame slugger Reggie Jackson. "He's the only pitcher who's ever made me consider wearing a helmet with an ear flap."

Video: Check out Nolan Ryan's unreal career strikeout stats

Ryan averaged one strikeout per each inning of a ballgame, first through ninth, which might be the best stat to show his dogged determination to sit down each and every hitter he faced. He also averaged 10.1 strikeouts per nine from 1972-78 (when the average starter during that time averaged roughly five), and then he averaged 10.6 strikeouts per nine in his age 40-44 seasons at the end of the following decade. That's how one becomes the game's all-time K leader by a wide margin.

THREE 300-K SEASONS

Video: A look at Curt Schilling's first and last strikeouts

Curt Schilling, RHP
Years: 2002, 1998, 1997

Schilling is baseball's modern leader in strikeout-to-walk ratio among retired pitchers thanks to his innate ability to command the ball. His 33 walks in 2002 represent the fewest of any of the 300-strikeout seasons on this list, and all three of his 300-K campaigns rank within the top 10 of that list.

Schilling notched back-to-back season of 300 punchouts in 1997 and '98 with Philadelphia before joining forces with Johnson in Arizona midway through the 2000 season. Two years later, the pair made the D-backs the first (and thus far only) team in modern history to boast two 300-strikeout pitchers in the same rotation.

Video: 2015 ASG: Koufax throws out first pitch to Bench

Sandy Koufax, LHP
Years: 1966, '65, '63

"The Left Arm of God" was a completely appropriate nickname in the eyes of Koufax's opponents, as they watched impossibly hard fastballs rain down alongside hissing curveballs from the pitcher's mound. Koufax remains one of the most beloved and revered pitchers in history thanks in large part to his willingness to pitch through pain; he likely would have tallied many more 300-strikeout seasons had chronic arm and shoulder ailments not swayed him to hang up his spikes for good at age 30.

"It was frightening," said Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, who famously stated that Koufax would tip his pitches but batters still couldn't hit them. "He had that tremendous fastball that would rise, and a great curveball that started at the eyes and broke to the ankles. In the end you knew you were going to be embarrassed. You were either going to strike out or foul out."

The lefty peaked with 382 strikeouts in his penultimate 1965 campaign, a Major League record until Ryan did his idol one better in '73. Don Veale, the NL's next-closest strikeout pitcher that year, finished more than 100 punchouts behind.

TWO 300-K SEASONS

Video: Pedro strikes out 17 Yankees on Sept. 10, 1999

Pedro Martinez
Years: 1999, '97

Martinez's 1999 season has plenty of arguments for the greatest campaign by any modern-day hurler. His 37.5 percent strikeout rate that year is the best by any qualified starter, as is his 11.6 fWAR, while his 1.39 FIP rating in '99 ranks second behind Christy Mathewson (1.29) way back in '08. And this wasn't just the case of a pitcher trying to throw as hard as he could; Martinez walked just 37 hitters the entire year. And don't forget the one game that didn't count: When Martinez punched out five of the six batters he faced in an electric All-Star Game performance at Fenway Park.

"The '99 season, I think, was something different," said Martinez, who paced the American League in wins, ERA and strikeouts that year. "The triple crown as a pitcher, you can't top it. In such a difficult era to play, I would have to say that's the highlight."

Martinez's final season in Montreal wasn't too shabby, either. The Dominican righty led the Majors with a 1.90 ERA and struck out 305 to capture the 1997 NL Cy Young Award -- the first of his celebrated career.

J.R. Richard
Years: 1979, '78

It's safe to say Richard got the baseball world's attention when he tied a Major League record with 15 strikeouts in his debut against the Giants in September 1971. But Houston's righty really put it all together seven years later, when he placed fourth in the NL Cy Young Award voting with a 3.11 ERA and an MLB-most 303 strikeouts. Richard rode his triple-digit fastball and menacing slider to another strikeout crown (313) in '79, and was poised for more the following year before a blood clot in his neck and subsequent stroke brought his career to an abrupt end at age 30. He remains one of baseball's biggest "what if" aces based on what lay ahead in his unfinished second act.

Sam McDowell
Years: 1970, '65

McDowell was nicknamed "Sudden Sam" for a reason, as his rocking-chair motion from the left side could lull a hitter to sleep before his fastball got on top of hitters with purpose. Like Ryan, hitters could never really get comfortable in the box against McDowell, who led the Majors in walks on five occasions. But he also racked up five AL strikeout crowns with the Indians, beginning with a breakout 325-strikeout campaign in 1965.

McDowell's punchout prowess inspired Sports Illustrated to feature him on its cover in May 1966 with the headline "Faster than Koufax?" -- and the southpaws' heaters were a legitimate source of debate at the time. Control issues would keep McDowell from reaching that kind of level, but he did top 300 strikeouts once more in a 305-inning season with Cleveland in 1970.

Video: Harold and Al break down rare footage on Monday

Walter Johnson
Years: 1912, '10

Johnson's fastball was truly unprecedented when he came on the scene late in 1907, and he used that to his advantage for years to come. Whipping his signature heater from a dropdown delivery, The Big Train racked up a record 12 league strikeout titles in a span of 15 years from 1910-24, peaking with a pair of 300-strikeout campaigns at the beginning. Johnson's 313 strikeouts in '10 were just 130 shy of the Boston Braves' entire pitching staff that season, and his 7.6 strikeouts per nine innings were nearly twice as many as the league average.

"His fastball looked about the size of a watermelon seed," Ty Cobb once said of Johnson, "and it hissed at you as it passed."

Rube Waddell
Years: 1904, '03

Waddell might be remembered for his off-beat personality as much as his pitching prowess, as he occasionally missed starts while he was out of town on fishing trips, and he walked off the mound in the middle of a game. But when Waddell focused his attention toward the catcher, he could be downright dominant. The southpaw paced the nascent AL in strikeouts six years in a row (and led the Majors in each of those last five seasons), peaking with 349 for the Philadelphia A's in '04. That stood as baseball's single-season record for more than half a century before Koufax surpassed Waddell in '65.

ONE 300-K SEASON

Max Scherzer
Year: 2018

Scherzer had already clinched an NL-record fifth consecutive 250-strikeout season when he entered his final start needing 10 K's for his first 300-punchout season. The righty struck out at least one Miami hitter in each of the first six frames, and capped off the performance with a lengthy seventh-inning battle against Marlins left fielder Austin Dean. After 10 pitches, Scherzer got Dean to swing through a slider for strike three, earning a standing ovation from the Nationals Park crowd.

Video: Must C Classic: Sale joins elite company with 300th K

Chris Sale
Year: 2017

Sale surged to the line, fanning the Orioles' Ryan Flaherty for his 13th strikeout in his second-to-last start of the regular season at Camden Yards. That made him the first AL pitcher to reach 300 since Martinez in 1999, and just the second southpaw after Johnson to hit the mark since the designated hitter was introduced in 1973.

"That's special," Sale said of joining Martinez in the Red Sox's 300-K club. "We all know that's about as good a company as you can get. Being here and having that name thrown around is special to me; I don't take it lightly."

Video: SD@LAD: Kershaw tallies his 300th K of the season

Clayton Kershaw
Year: 2015

Kershaw entered his final start of the year needing six strikeouts to reach the 300 plateau, and he was efficient in getting there, reaching the mark within the first 10 Padres he faced. The Dodgers' ace kept his typically stoic resolve as the Dodger Stadium crowd gave a standing ovation, but his teammates were certainly aware of the countdown.

"I know it meant a lot to him, even though he lied and said it didn't," said catcher A.J. Ellis. "I was counting from the first strikeout of the game. I knew what we needed to get to and where his pitch count was at, just hopeful he would execute so those strikeouts would pile up and get to that number."

Video: TEX@HOU: Scott talks about the Astros team from 1986

Mike Scott
Year: 1986

Scott and his split-fingered fastball were so dominant in 1986 that the Mets accused him of scuffing the baseball during the NL Championship Series. While that was never proven, Scott's overpowering stuff was undeniable. Scott had never topped 137 strikeouts coming into '86, making his 306 punchouts one of the more unexpected totals in recent history. His 11 starts with 10 or more strikeouts were just shy of half his career total, and his magical '86 also included a no-hitter against the Giants in his second-to-last start.

Video: 1972 Carlton-Wise trade was seen as fair at the time

Steve Carlton
Year: 1972

Cartlon's strikeout reputation was well established by 1972; he had set the single-game record with 19 strikeouts for the Cardinals three years prior. Still, Lefty's 310 K's in his debut season with the Phillies took his career to a new level. Carlton won an MLB-most 27 games and posted a 1.97 ERA for a Phillies club that lost 97 games, making his season the best individual performance by a player on a losing team.

"Sometimes I hit him like I used to hit Koufax," Hall of Famer Willie Stargell once said of Carlton, "and that's like drinking coffee with a fork."

Eight years later, Carlton would help complete Philly's renaissance by winning the decisive Game 6 of the 1980 World Series.

Mickey Lolich
Year: 1971

Lolich's 308 strikeouts in 1971 probably aren't the most memorable achievement of his career -- that would be his three complete-game victories over Bob Gibson and the Cardinals in the '68 World Series -- an indication as to how talented Lolich was in his prime. He worked hard for the honors in '71, leading the Majors with a total of 376 innings that has been topped just one time since. Lolich's 308 punchouts remain a Tigers record, and no Detroit pitcher has equaled his 25 wins from that year since.

Vida Blue
Year: 1971

The A's likely would not have won three straight World Series crowns without Blue in tow, but the lefty's best season came right before Oakland's title run. In his first full season as a Major League hurler, Blue compiled an AL-best 1.82 ERA and a Major League-best eight shutouts to go along with his 301 punchouts, topped that year only by Lolich. Sports Illustrated featured Blue in his day-glo yellow A's uniform in mid-May, labeling him the "hottest" pitcher of them all. With Blue, Rollie Fingers and Catfish Hunter leading the way, the A's punched their first postseason ticket in 40 years, eventually falling to the Orioles in the ALCS.

Bob Feller
Year: 1946

Feller's fastball ranks among the most revered in baseball history, and few could touch it in 1946. In his first full season back from World War II, "Rapid Robert" racked up 348 strikeouts to finish one shy of Waddell's record at the time. Feller tried hard to break the record down the stretch, starting two games on short rest and coming into another game in relief. The Hall of Famer finished with an MLB-most 26 wins, representing about 38 percent of the hapless Indians' total for the season.

Fellow Hall of Famer Bucky Harris, the longtime manager of the Washington Senators, probably summed up the best way to beat Feller: "Go on up there and hit what you see. If you can't see it, come on back."

Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.

Dodgers go with Ryu's hot hand in final series

Kershaw, Buehler following lefty in San Francisco; Hill skipped
MLB.com

PHOENIX -- The Dodgers will start pitchers Hyun-Jin Ryu, Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler in the three-game series in San Francisco that ends the regular season, skipping Rich Hill.

Manager Dave Roberts said Hill would be a likely candidate to start a tiebreaker game or the National League Wild Card Game on Monday or Tuesday, if needed. Starting Ryu is an indication of his importance for any postseason series.

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PHOENIX -- The Dodgers will start pitchers Hyun-Jin Ryu, Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler in the three-game series in San Francisco that ends the regular season, skipping Rich Hill.

Manager Dave Roberts said Hill would be a likely candidate to start a tiebreaker game or the National League Wild Card Game on Monday or Tuesday, if needed. Starting Ryu is an indication of his importance for any postseason series.

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"There was some thought in starting Ryu along those lines, for sure," Roberts said. "But these games right now are the most important. It is a possibility, and we have to think through that, too."

The Dodgers entered Tuesday with a 1 1/2-game lead on the Rockies in the NL West with five games to play and a magic number of five to clinch.

"Rich is throwing the ball really well, but Hyun-Jin has been throwing the ball as well as anyone in the National League over the course of four or five starts," said Roberts. "To have Rich, don't know if it's in the 'pen, but Rich has been a huge part of what we've done and where we're going, for sure."

Video: COL@LAD: Ryu shuts down Rockies over 7 strong innings

Ryu has made 14 starts this season, despite being sidelined from early May to mid-August by a severe groin strain. He hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in any start, is 6-3 with a 2.00 ERA and he allowed two earned runs in 11 2/3 innings in two starts against San Francisco this year.

Hill is 10-5 with a 3.87 ERA and is coming off a win over the Padres in which he allowed one run in seven innings. But he's allowed more than three earned runs in seven of his starts, including three of the last four.

"Just got to stay ready, that's the biggest thing," said Hill. "Obviously, I want to be out there pitching. Any time I can get the ball, I want the ball. Just stay positive about it and try to do whatever you can to help the team win."

Video: LAD@ARI: Walker gets hit in the mouth by pitch, exits

Maeda shaken up after hitting Walker
If it looked like Dodgers reliever Kenta Maeda was rattled after hitting Christian Walker in the face with a 94-mph fastball on Monday night, he was.

"I have never hit someone in the face or near the face in my career," Maeda said. "Honestly, I was not able to recover. I was hesitant to throw inside high against the next batter. I waved off those balls and was thinking of throwing with more command of the ball."

Before resuming the inning, Maeda was visited on the mound by pitching coach Rich Honeycutt.

"Honey told me to forget about it and get through the next batter," Maeda said. "As long as I'm playing baseball, stuff like that will happen and I need to get over it quick. Honey told me to focus and concentrate on the next batter."

Walker suffered a sinus fracture and will be held out of Arizona's final five regular-season games.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Kenta Maeda, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Christian Walker

Cardinals sketch out rotation for final weekend

MLB.com

ST. LOUIS -- Though plans are subject to change based on the standings, the Cardinals are prepared to start Adam Wainwright, Jack Flaherty and Miles Mikolas in their final series of the regular season.

Those outings would come at Wrigley Field, where the Cardinals will begin a three-game series against the Cubs on Friday. It's likely that Wainwright will start the series opener regardless of where the Cardinals are in the Wild Card standings at that time. Whether Flaherty and Mikolas will pitch behind him could be a day-of decision.

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ST. LOUIS -- Though plans are subject to change based on the standings, the Cardinals are prepared to start Adam Wainwright, Jack Flaherty and Miles Mikolas in their final series of the regular season.

Those outings would come at Wrigley Field, where the Cardinals will begin a three-game series against the Cubs on Friday. It's likely that Wainwright will start the series opener regardless of where the Cardinals are in the Wild Card standings at that time. Whether Flaherty and Mikolas will pitch behind him could be a day-of decision.

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The Cardinals would prefer to hold those two pitchers back as options to start the National League Wild Card Game (Oct. 2) and/or Game 1 of the NL Division Series (Oct. 4). But they'll only have that luxury if they've secured a Wild Card berth by the weekend.

Entering Tuesday, the Cardinals held a half-game lead over the Rockies for the NL's second Wild Card spot. The earliest St. Louis could clinch a postseason spot would be Friday.

The Cubs have not officially laid out their rotation plans for the weekend, though Kyle Hendricks, Cole Hamels and Mike Montgomery are currently in line to make those starts.

Wong back in lineup

After appearing as a pinch-hitter Monday, Kolten Wong returned to the Cardinals' lineup as the eight-hole hitter Tuesday. It marked Wong's first start since he exited Friday's game with cramping in both hamstrings.

"Obviously at this point in the season, nobody is 100 percent," Wong said Tuesday. "As long as I know I can run and I can play, I'm going to be in there. To have both hamstrings barking at the same time wasn't fun. But with the couple days I had off, I was able to relax and get to the point where I know I can play."

Video: SF@STL: Wong drives in 2nd RBI of the game

The discomfort hasn't entirely disappeared, though, and Wong knows he still has to address the underlying issue -- a compromised left knee with loose cartilage -- over the offseason. Until then, the key, he acknowledged, is to try to manage how hard he pushes.

"For me that's hard because I'm a guy who plays hard all the time," Wong said. "And I think that's why injuries happen to me pretty frequently. There is no second gear. It's zero to 100 with me. That's how I play."

To sub or not to sub?

Since implementing Jose Martinez as his everyday right fielder in August, manager Mike Shildt has been mostly predictable in how he's managed Martinez's outfield exposure late in games. If the Cardinals have a lead late, Martinez typically exits for a defensive replacement.

But Monday presented a more complex decision for Shildt, who, with the game tied after seven innings, stuck with Martinez knowing that his spot in the lineup would likely come up in the ninth. It did, but not before Martinez bungled a play in right field that set the Brewers up to score the go-ahead run in their eventual 6-4 win.

Video: MIL@STL: Thames lines a triple in the 8th

"Outside of the ball last night, I don't know if there have been any glaring issues with Jose," Shildt said. "He's throwing to the right base. He's hitting his cutoff man. And I've actually gotten to a point where some nights I go, 'Why do I feel the need to get him out of there?'"

Also factoring into the decision was the fact that Tyler O'Neill and Matt Adams had already been used off the bench. That meant neither would have been available to hit behind Matt Carpenter in the ninth inning if Martinez were already out of the game.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

St. Louis Cardinals, Jack Flaherty, Jose Martinez, Miles Mikolas, Adam Wainwright, Kolten Wong

Harper expresses desire to remain with Nats

MLB.com

The prospect of watching Bryce Harper take the field at Nationals Park in a visiting jersey is one that isn't just bemusing to most baseball observers, but Harper himself.

"That's weird," Harper said on Tuesday in an interview with The Washington Post. "And who wants to see that? That's really weird."

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The prospect of watching Bryce Harper take the field at Nationals Park in a visiting jersey is one that isn't just bemusing to most baseball observers, but Harper himself.

"That's weird," Harper said on Tuesday in an interview with The Washington Post. "And who wants to see that? That's really weird."

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In one of his first interviews relating to his impending free agency, Harper told the Post that he would "absolutely love to be" in Washington long term. Harper established himself as a fan favorite and the face of the franchise -- if not all of MLB -- while leading the club to four postseason berths since he was selected with the first overall pick in 2010.

"I think about other cities, but I love it here," Harper said.

Harper's free agency has been calendar-marked for years, given his rapid ascent to becoming one of the Majors' best players at such a young age. And it's long been speculated that Harper wouldn't have pause to leave Washington given the demand he would likely see on the free-agent market, though Harper tempered those assertions in his interview with the Post.

"When I talk about D.C., I get giddy. I get happy. Because it's me. It's what I know," Harper said. "I don't know anything else. I don't know what it feels like to play for the Dodgers. I don't know what it feels like to play for the Yankees. I don't know what it feels like to play for anybody that you look at. I don't know!"

Harper won the 2012 National League Rookie of the Year Award and the 2015 NL MVP Award, he's a six-time All-Star and will turn just 26 years old next month, positioning him to hit the market with established credentials as he enters the prime of his career. However, the Nationals' disappointing end to the 2018 season has created uncertainty as to how the club plans to address the team's needs heading into the offseason. Harper has also had one of the most up-and-down seasons of his seven-year career, hitting just .214/.365/.468 through the first half -- though he did club 23 homers and made the All-Star team.

"Am I in the [Nationals'] plans, you know? I don't know," Harper said. "It's hard to think about ... It's like, 'Well, it could all be over in a second.' It's kind of crazy.

"I've always said, 'If I'm in those plans, I'd absolutely love to be here,'" Harper said. "But if I'm not, there's nothing I can do about it. There's nothing I can do. I would love to play next to Victor Robles or Juan Soto or Adam Eaton. I'd love to. But am I in those plans? I have no idea."

Harper is expected to sign a lucrative long-term deal this offseason, perhaps exceeding the record $325 million mark that Giancarlo Stanton inked in 2014. And there are high-payroll teams that have been linked to interest in his services -- such as the Phillies and Dodgers, who reportedly claimed Harper off trade waivers last month before he was pulled back by the Nats when a deal didn't manifest.

At the very least, the Nationals will likely offer Harper a qualifying offer to retain Draft pick compensation. But whether the club even makes an offer in the ballpark that other clubs can -- and likely will -- extend remains a question, one that Harper is now clearly pondering.

Daniel Kramer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @DKramer_.

Washington Nationals, Bryce Harper

What happens if there's a 4-way tie in NL?

Brewers, Cardinals, Dodgers, Rockies in for a wild final week
MLB.com

We had dreams. Big dreams. Dreams of a three-way division tie. Or a five-way Wild Card tie. Or -- gulp -- an eight-way tie spanning all the division and Wild Card races. As recently as a month ago, the National League dared us to dream about these ridiculous scenarios with its peculiar cluster of clubs.

And then something happened. Math happened.

We had dreams. Big dreams. Dreams of a three-way division tie. Or a five-way Wild Card tie. Or -- gulp -- an eight-way tie spanning all the division and Wild Card races. As recently as a month ago, the National League dared us to dream about these ridiculous scenarios with its peculiar cluster of clubs.

And then something happened. Math happened.

OK, the eight-way fever dream was not meant to be (there's always next year). But we've still got some very realistic tiebreaker possibilities in play in this last week of the regular season, and foremost among them is that the Brewers, Cardinals, Dodgers and Rockies could all end up with the same record -- leaving both the NL West and the two NL Wild Card spots up in the air after Sunday's final out.

Those four clubs finished Monday within three games of each other in the loss column:

Brewers: 90-67, 1 1/2 games back of Cubs in NL Central, 3 games up in race for top NL Wild Card spot
Cardinals: 87-70, 3 games back of Brewers for top NL Wild Card spot, 1/2 game up in race for second NL Wild Card spot
Dodgers: 88-69, first place in NL West
Rockies: 86-70, 1 1/2 games back of Dodgers in NL West, 1/2 game back of Cardinals for second NL Wild Card spot

And here are their remaining schedules:

Brewers: at Cardinals (Tuesday, Wednesday), vs. Tigers (Friday, Saturday, Sunday)
Cardinals: vs. Brewers (Tuesday, Wednesday), at Cubs (Friday, Saturday, Sunday)
Dodgers: at D-backs (Tuesday, Wednesday), at Giants (Friday, Saturday, Sunday)
Rockies: vs. Phillies (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday), vs. Nationals (Friday, Saturday, Sunday)

If the Brewers go 1-4, the Dodgers go 3-2, the Cardinals go 4-1 and the Rockies go 5-1 -- voila! -- there's the kind of chaos this dual Wild Card format (which so far has only given us one tiebreaker game, back in 2013) has never seen before.

So what happens if there really is a four-way tie?

Monday, Oct. 1: Two tiebreaker games
The Rockies and Dodgers would play a game to determine the NL West winner. Los Angeles would host that game by virtue of winning the season series, 12-7.

And the Cardinals would play the Brewers (the site can't yet be determined because the season series is still unsettled) to determine one NL Wild Card spot.

Tuesday, Oct. 2: The consolation game
Monday's losers would face each other to determine the other NL Wild Card club. The site of this game would determined by the outcome of the regular-season series between the two clubs involved (intradivision record the next determining factor if the season series was a split, but that's not the case in any of these options).

So here's who would host in each potential scenario:

Brewers vs. Dodgers: Dodgers host (4-3 record in 2018 meetings)
Brewers vs. Rockies: Brewers host (5-2)
Cardinals vs. Dodgers: Cardinals host (4-3)
Cardinals vs. Rockies: Cardinals host (5-2)

Wednesday, Oct. 3: The real NL Wild Card Game
This game is scheduled to be played on Tuesday, but a four-way tie would make that schedule impossible to honor. The winner of Monday's Brewers-Cardinals game would face the winner of Tuesday's consolation game, with home-field advantage determined by the same factors as described above.

If we assume that the Cubs maintain the NL's No. 1 seed over the Braves (and for this four-way tie to even exist, Chicago would have to maintain its top spot in the NL Central), the winner of this game would then proceed to Wrigley Field for the start of the NL Division Series. As of now, the NLDS is scheduled to begin with Game 1 on Thursday, Oct. 4 and Game 2 on Friday, Oct. 5.

If you're scoring at home, there's a scenario that exists in which the Brewers, to use the most extreme example, end their season in Milwaukee on Sunday, play in St. Louis on Monday, play in L.A. on Tuesday, play in St. Louis again on Wednesday and play in Chicago on Thursday and Friday.

That's just "plane" crazy.

Of course, the four-way tie isn't the only remaining tie possibility. Here are some other scenarios still in play:

Scenario: The Dodgers and Rockies tie for the NL West title and tie the Cardinals for the second NL Wild Card spot (behind the Brewers)
The Dodgers and Rockies would play at Dodger Stadium on Monday, Oct. 1, to determine the NL West champion. The loser of that game would then travel to St. Louis to play the Cardinals the next day to determine the second Wild Card spot. The winner of that game would play the Brewers on Wednesday.

Scenario: The Dodgers win the NL West, and the Brewers, Cardinals and Rockies all finish with the same record
The Cards, Brewers and Rox would choose/receive A, B and C designations, based on head-to-head records. Club A would host Club B on Monday, Oct. 1, to determine one NL Wild Card spot. Club C would then host the loser of that game on Tuesday to determine the second NL Wild Card spot.

Scenario: The Dodgers and Rockies tie for the NL West title, and both clubs finish behind the Brewers and Cardinals in the Wild Card standings
Simple. A Monday tiebreaker game in Los Angeles between the Dodgers and Rox to determine who advances to face the Braves in the NLDS.

Scenario: The Cardinals and Brewers tie for the two NL Wild Card spots
Also simple. The winner of the season series (still undetermined, as of this writing) hosts the NL Wild Card Game.

Scenario: The Cubs and Brewers tie for first in the NL Central, with both clubs ahead of the Dodgers, Rockies and, naturally, Cardinals in winning percentage
The two clubs would play Monday at Wrigley Field (the Cubs won the season series, 11-8) for the NL Central title, and the loser would host the NL Wild Card Game the following day.

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.

Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals, Colorado Rockies

Crew not yet looking ahead to Wild Card Game

MLB.com

ST. LOUIS -- As of Tuesday, the National League Wild Card Game was one short week away. But the Brewers are pushing the roster and strategy planning that would accompany a potential appearance in that win-or-go-home affair until this weekend at the earliest.

For one, they had not clinched anything yet. And they still had hope of winning the NL Central.

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ST. LOUIS -- As of Tuesday, the National League Wild Card Game was one short week away. But the Brewers are pushing the roster and strategy planning that would accompany a potential appearance in that win-or-go-home affair until this weekend at the earliest.

For one, they had not clinched anything yet. And they still had hope of winning the NL Central.

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"Look, I think you think about possibilities in your head, certainly," manager Craig Counsell said. "But things change enough where it's easier to wait. I think you end up wasting a lot of breath on stuff that doesn't happen if you do it the other way.

"As we get into the weekend, we have to prepare for everything. We have to prepare for what's first, and a Wild Card situation would be first. We would have to prepare for that as we get to Thursday, Friday."

First things first.

"Our focus at this point is really, 'Let's get through this series [against the Cardinals] and see where we are,'" said Brewers GM David Stearns. "We have an off-day on Thursday, which gives us a nice time to regroup, take stock of the situation and plot out how we want to handle this weekend, and if we're fortunate enough to make the playoffs, how we want to handle any rosters going forward. We've been talking on and off."

Obviously, the preferred path to October is winning the division and avoiding the stress of a Wild Card Game. The Brewers have plenty of players who know that firsthand, including three participants in the Royals' epic, 12-inning win over the A's in the 2014 American League Wild Card Game. Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain played in that game for Kansas City (Erik Kratz was on that Royals team, too), and Stephen Vogt played for the A's.

"It was incredible," said Moustakas. "We talk about it all the time. I have no idea [what the score was]. Honestly, people ask me questions about that game and I don't remember anything. It was such a blur. It was unbelievable."

Joakim Soria (2015 Pirates), Jonathan Schoop (2016 Orioles) and Curtis Granderson (2016 Mets) have also appeared in Wild Card Game box scores.

Ryan Braun has not, since the Brewers' last postseason appearance in 2011 came in the year preceding the introduction of the second Wild Card in each league. But he made the case Monday night that chasing the Cubs in the division while trying to hold off the Cardinals and other clubs in the Wild Card race will help Milwaukee should the team find itself in a Wild Card contest.

"I think Ryan is right," Counsell said. "We've tried to treat these games in a manner closer to how a playoff series or a Wild Card Game would be treated. But a Wild Card Game is a nine-inning season. That's literally how you have to treat it. It's a nine-inning baseball season. That's totally different."

The NL Wild Card Game will air on ESPN. The precise time of the first pitch is to be announced.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

Milwaukee Brewers

Listen to John Sterling's latest home run call for Adeiny Hechavarria