Off the field for the Nationals, SP Stephen Strasburg got paid, signing a seven-year extension with the team valued at $175 million. He was due to become a free agent in the offseason, but he apparently decided he wanted to stay with the team and sign the long-term deal without going out to the open market, which likely would have gotten him a bigger payday. Strasburg becomes the first pitcher in MLB history to sign a contract this big after undergoing Tommy John surgery, which he had in 2010; the previous highwater mark for such a deal was former teammate SP Jordan Zimmerman, who inked a $110 million deal with the Tigers this past offseason. Strasburg is enjoying a strong season so far through eight starts; he has a 6-0 record, 2.95 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 55 innings.
On the field, SP Max Scherzer through a gem this week for the Nats. He became the fourth pitcher in MLB history to strike out 20 batters in a game, doing it against the Tigers on Wednesday. The 20 strikeouts tied the major-league record, and he had a chance to break the record but induced a groundout from C James McCann to the end the game, which Washington won 3-2. Scherzer threw 119 pitches in the game, just 23 of which were balls. He allowed 6 hits and 2 earned runs in the complete game. For the season, Scherzer — who threw two no-hitters last season — is 4-2 with a 4.15 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 52 innings over the course of eight starts.
In Texas, Rangers RP Matt Bush made his major-league debut on Friday, He pitched the ninth inning of a 5-0 loss to the Blue Jays, striking out defending AL MVP Josh Donaldson, then getting OF Jose Bautista and DH Edwin Encarnacion out for a perfect 1-2-3 inning in his first appearance in the big leagues. Bush’s story is notable because he was selected by the Padres as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 draft but then went nearly 12 years before getting his first taste of the majors. Part of that is because he spent several years in jail following a 2012 hit-and-run DUI in which he allegedly hit a motorcyclist and then fled the scene. He was released in October, then signed a minor-league contract with the Rangers in December. Bush is now living with his father and says he does not drink anymore.
Elsewhere in MLB, there continues to be surprising teams leading their respective divisions in the American League, with the Orioles, White Sox and Mariners leading the East, Central and West, respectively, entering Sunday’s action. The White Sox also have the best record in the AL and the second-best record in the majors, behind the NL Central-leading Cubs. The division leaders in the National League aren’t as unexpected, but the Phillies continue their surprising season in second place in the NL East behind the Nationals, as good young pitching led by SPs Vincent Velasquez and Aaron Nola continues to propel them to victories.
The Week Ahead
It’s the battle of Los Angeles this week, as the Dodgers and Angels have a home-and-home on the docket, with two games at Chavez Ravine Monday and Tuesday, followed by two in Anaheim on Wednesday and Thursday. After a day off Monday, the Nationals and Mets have a three-game series at Citi Field starting Tuesday in what could be a key NL East series, with 1.5 games separating the team’s going into Sunday’s action. Later in the week, the White Sox host the Royals as the defending World Series champions look to lessen the gap between themselves and the division leaders. And the next chapter of the Silver Boot Series is on deck starting Friday as the Astros host the Rangers for a weekend series at Minute Maid Park.
As for some probable pitchers in the coming week, Dodgers SP Kenta Maeda tries to get back on the right track after posting a 5.09 ERA in his last three starts as he takes the mound Monday against the Angels and SP Matt Shoemaker. We could see a couple of pitchers’ duels on Tuesday. One in Toronto, where Rays SP Chris Archer, who has gotten better lately after a rocky start to his season, goes against Blue Jays SP Marcus Stroman, who is a perfect 4-0 on the season and has a 2.14 ERA in his last three starts. The other one is in Queens, with Scherzer getting his first start after striking out 20 last week; he’ll oppose Mets SP Noah Syndergaard, who hit 2 home runs the last time he pitched, the same day as Scherzer’s gem. There could be more good pitching Thursday in the finale of the Nats-Mets series, with Strasburg going up against SP Matt Harvey, who has put up good numbers the past couple years but is struggling so far in 2016. Cubs ace Jake Arrieta is slated to put his undefeated 7-0 mark on the line when he is scheduled to take the mound in San Francisco on Friday.