The King’s Court
Felix Hernandez made what will likely be his final start for the Mariners on Thursday, allowing three runs over 5 1/3 innings in a loss to the Athletics.
The final line doesn't matter, nor do the unsightly numbers he'll finish this season with. What will be remembered about this night is King Felix's exit as he walked off the T-Mobile Park mound for the last time, hugging his teammates as he continued to wipe tears away with his sleeves, and the curtain call from grateful Mariners fans chanting "Thank you, Felix" as he waved one final goodbye.
The Cy Young Award winner and six-time All-Star will finish his brilliant 15-year career -- assuming he's done; Thursday sure felt like a sendoff -- having won 169 games with a 3.42 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 2,521 strikeouts in 2,724 1/3 innings of work in a Mariners uniform. Per STATS, he's the only pitcher in MLB history to win a Cy Young, throw a perfect game and strike out more than 2,500 batters for one team.
Despite pitching 15 seasons in the big leagues, Hernandez is still only 33-years-old, so it's in the realm of possibility that he'll look to continue his playing career elsewhere in 2020. He admitted as much after the game, telling reporters that he still feels as though he can compete and does not intend to retire after this season. He finished an injury-plagued 2019 season with a 1-8 record and an unsightly 6.40 ERA, 1.53 WHIP and 57/25 K/BB ratio over 71 2/3 innings in his 15 starts.
In the day and age off free agency though, it would look awfully strange to see Hernandez donning any jersey other than the Mariners'.
Long live the King.
Twins Slug 300th HR
Even on a day where the Twins rested most of their regular starters after clinching a division title, they were still setting records on offense in Thursday’s victory over the Tigers.
The Twins and Yankees each entered the day on Thursday tied with 299 home runs on the season. With the Bombers idle, the Twins needed just one long ball against Jordan Zimmermann and company to become the first team in big league history to blast 300 home runs in a single season.
It took awhile to get the job done, but eventually it would get done. Jonathan Schoop crushed the first pitch that he saw from Jose Cisnero in the seventh inning for a no-doubt two-run blast -- increasing the Twins’ lead in the contest to 8-4.
When asked about it after the game, Schoop made sure to acknowledge that it has been an unbelievable team effort to achieve this milestone, "It's not only me, so I cannot take the credit for myself… I cannot hit 300 home runs by myself. It's my teammates. I'm lucky enough that I hit the 300th home run, but it's all teamwork. We're all in history because we all did it together. I'm happy. I'm happy that I did it, but it's teamwork.”
Willians Astudillo tacked onto the record in the eighth inning with a solo shot off of Zac Reininger. Which, what else would you expect from a team that has averaged two home runs per game the entire season.
The Twins will now have a two homer head start against the Yankees heading into the weekend for the battle of ultimate home run supremacy. The Twins will wrap up the season with a three-game series against the Royals in Kansas City over the weekend while the Yankees will battle the Rangers in Arlington.
The Twins also have a chance to make more history as a team over the weekend. They are currently sitting on 99 wins on the season -- which is the second highest total in franchise history. If they sweep the Royals, they’ll match the 1965 Twins that ultimately fell to the Dodgers in the World Series.
Just one more victory over the weekend would give rookie manager Rocco Baldelli his 100th victory of the season, which would set a new franchise record for a manager in his first season on the job.
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Getting that W
Stephen Strasburg delivered another outstanding performance in Thursday’s victory over the Phillies, striking out 10 over six innings of one-run baseball. The only blemish against him on the afternoon was a solo shot off the bat of Cesar Hernandez.
With the victory, Strasburg now sits at 18-6 on the season with a 3.32 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and a career-high 251 strikeouts over 209 innings. The 18 victories are tops among all National League hurlers. Max Fried trails him by one victory, though he’s not scheduled to start over the weekend, meaning that Strasburg is likely to remain atop the heap.
He may even get another opportunity to earn another victory. Though it’s assumed that Max Scherzer would start for the Nationals in the Wild Card Game, with the way that Strasburg is throwing the ball currently, he has to be in the conversation as well. Strasburg has already stated that he’d be willing to work out of the bullpen in that game as well.
The 31-year-old right-hander remained healthy throughout the 2019 season, and in turn blew his average draft position completely out of the water. He finished the draft season as the 18th starting pitcher off the board, as he was selected just inside the top 60 players overall. He should go at least a full round higher next season.
American League Quick Hits: Khris Davis (flu) remained out of the Athletics’ lineup on Thursday. He’s considered day-to-day…. Mark Canha (groin) reported considerable improvement on Thursday and is tentatively expected to return to the A’s lineup on Friday… Shohei Ohtani (elbow, knee) was able to play light catch while sitting down on Wednesday -- the first step in his throwing program. He’s not expected to ramp up activity until mid-December… Carlos Correa (back) will not play over the final weekend of the regular season, but is expected to return or Game 1 of the ALDS next week… Willians Astudillo went 4-for-5 with a homer and four runs scored as the Twins walloped the Tigers… Mike Minor struck out nine batters over 8 ⅔ innings in a victory over the Red Sox, bringing his season total to 200. He needed 126 pitches to finally get the job done… Danny Santana blasted a grand slam in that victory -- his 27th home run of the season -- to pace the Rangers’ offense… James McCann smacked a three-run homer as the White Sox defeated the Indians -- and crushed their postseason hopes… Daniel Palka smacked a pair of solo home runs in that one… Matt Chapman clobbered a two-run homer as the Athletics beat the Mariners… Sean Manaea struck out five over six innings of one-run baseball in a win over the Mariners. He's now 4-0 on the season and could be the one to get the ball in next week's Wild Card Game... Kyle Tucker homered in back-to-back games for the first time in his big league career on Thursday.
National League Quick Hits: Eric Thames was removed from Thursday’s game against the Reds after one inning due to bilateral hamstring discomfort. He’s considered day-to-day… Jeff Hoffman (knee) is expected to start Sunday’s regular season finale against the Brewers… Trevor Gott underwent successful surgery on his left groin on Thursday… Justin Turner was held out of the Dodgers’ starting lineup on Thursday due to back tightness… Trevor Bauer’s final start of the season was pushed back until Sunday due to illness… The Phillies have opted to shut down Aaron Nola, scratching the right-hander from his scheduled start against the Marlins on Sunday… Tyler Beede was pulled from Thursday’s start with a left oblique injury. He’ll undergo an MRI on Friday… Jean Segura was removed from Thursday’s game against the Nationals with a right ankle sprain. With only three games left, the Phillies may simply play things cautiously and hold him out through the weekend… Robinson Cano was removed from Thursday’s game after being hit on the hand by a pitch… The Cubs announced that Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks will not make their final scheduled starts of the season… Cole Hamels (shoulder) will start against the Cardinals on Saturday... Orlando Arcia went 2-for-4 with a three-run double, leading the Brewers to victory over the Reds… Aristides Aquino went 3-for-5 and clubbed his 18th home run in a loss to the Brewers… Clayton Kershaw punched out seven over six shutout innings in a victory over the Padres… Mike Yastrzemski slugged his 21st home run as the Giants topped the Rockies… Zack Wheeler struck out 10 over eight innings of three-run baseball in a loss to the Marlins… Jordan Yamamoto punched out 10 while allowing just one hit over six shutout innings in a no-decision against the Mets… Tyler Heineman blasted a game-tying two-run homer in the eighth inning of that one… Pablo Reyes went 3-for-4 with a triple and two RBI as the Pirates beat the Cubs.