In 1996, John Smoltz reached double digits in strikeouts 12 times, and in two other starts, he fanned exactly nine batters. In these 14 games, Smoltz collected a total of 149 strikeouts against only 26 walks. It was all part of a season in which the Braves right-hander led the league in wins, winning percentage, innings, strikeouts and strikeouts per nine, ending Greg Maddux's four-year run as the National League Cy Young Award winner and sculpt a combination of K's and walks that had previously been managed only by an iconic southpaw three decades earlier.
In 1996, Smoltz joined Sandy Koufax (in 1963 and '65) as the only pitchers in the modern era to reach at least 275 K's and finish the season with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of at least five to one. But getting back to those 14 games referenced earlier: In each one of them, he did issue at least one walk, meaning that at no point during his brilliant season did Smoltz work back-to-back starts in which he struck out at least nine and issued no walks. As it turns out, Smoltz never had back-to-back games like this in any of his 20 seasons with the Braves. Warren Spahn never did this during his long and illustrious Braves career; neither did Maddux or Pascual Perez or Tom Glavine or Phil Niekro or Johnny Sain or any other Braves pitcher in the live-ball era. But Kris Medlen now has.
Medlen struck out 12 with no walks and went the distance on a five-hitter as the Braves defeated the Rockies, 6-1.
Medlen's scoreless innings streak ended 34 2/3 innings -- the longest for the Braves since Maddux's 39 1/3 scoreless-inning streak in 2000.
Medlen is the first Braves pitcher since Derek Lowe on Sept. 13, 2010, to strike out at least 12 with no walks. He is the first Braves pitcher since Smoltz on Sept. 6, 1998, to do this in a complete-game effort.
Medlen improved to 6-0 in seven starts since being inserted into the rotation. In 49 2/3 innings, he has allowed three earned runs (four runs total) for a 0.54 ERA, has struck out 50 with five walks and is holding the opposition to a .468 OPS.
Medlen's 12-K, no-BB effort followed a start in which he struck out nine with no walks. He is the only Braves pitcher in the live-ball era to have back-to-back starts of at least nine strikeouts and no walks. Medlen is the only pitcher in the Majors to do it this year, and the first to do it since Cliff Lee in September 2011.
The Braves have won each of Medlen's past 18 starts -- a streak that began on May 29, 2010.
Nationals Adam LaRoche hit his 25th home run of the year, a solo shot that opened the scoring in an eventual 2-1 victory. Among Major League first basemen, LaRoche is tied for second in home runs, ranks fourth in RBIs, fourth in total bases and fourth in extra-base hits.
Orioles Joe Saunders (6 1/3 innings, three hits) and three relievers combined on a three-hit shutout as Baltimore defeated Toronto, 4-0. The game marked the eighth time this season the Orioles have allowed no more than three hits -- the eighth most in the Majors. The Mariners lead with 11, and are followed by the Nationals and Rays (10 each). The Angels, Dodgers, Mets and Athletics each have nine.
Rangers Josh Hamilton hit his 38th home run to tie for the American League lead, Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz hit back-to-back home runs and Geovany Soto and Michael Young also contributed jacks in a five-homer 8-4 win over the Royals. The game marked the fourth time this season Texas has hit at least five home runs in a game, with those four being the most in the Majors.
With the Rangers' victory, manager Ron Washington notched his 507th win to break out of a tie with Johnny Oates and move into sole possession of second place on the all-time franchise list. Bobby Valentine won 581 games with Texas.
Yu Darvish allowed three runs in seven innings and fanned six to bring his win total to 14 and his strikeout total to 188. Darvish is the first first-year pitcher to win 14 games since the Tigers' Rick Porcello in 2009 and the first first-year pitcher to collect at least 188 strikeouts since Daisuke Matsuzaka in '07.
Red Sox Dustin Pedroia went 2-for-3 to reach and surpass the 1,000-hit milestone. Pedroia is the 31st player in Red Sox history to have at least 1,000 hits, and one of only two second basemen to do it. Bobby Doerr had 2,042 hits.
Twins Jamey Carroll hit his first home run since Aug. 9, 2009. Since Carroll's previous homer, the rest of the Major Leagues produced 14,829 home runs.
Mariners Jason Vargas allowed one run in seven innings and picked up the win as the Mariners defeated the Red Sox, 4-1. It was the seventh time this season Vargas has finished a start with at least seven innings and one run or no runs allowed, which ties him with 14 others for 18th most in the Majors. Vargas' seven are the second most on the Mariners, behind Felix Hernandez's Major League-leading 16.
Most Extra-Base Hits Through First 8 Years, 75 percent of Games at SS
Cal Ripken, Jr.
Thanks in large part to the combined efforts of Hernandez and Vargas, the Mariners are tied (with the Mets) for the most such starts in the Majors, with 34. Rounding out the top-five, the Athletics and Giants each have 32, and the Reds have 29. The Mets are led by R.A. Dickey's 15, Oakland has Tommy Milone and Bartolo Colon sharing their top spot (with eight apiece), San Francisco is led by Madison Bumgarner's nine, and Johnny Cueto (with 10) has the most on the Reds.
Dodgers Los Angeles defeated San Diego, 4-3, on A.J. Ellis' RBI single in the bottom of the 11th, giving the Dodgers walk-off hits in back-to-back games. They have eight walk-off hits this season -- the most in the NL. Los Angeles improved to 59-12 this season when scoring four or more runs.
Hanley Ramirez hit his 24th homer of the season, and 10th in 38 games with Los Angeles. Ramirez has 425 career extra-base hits; for all eight-year players with at least 75 percent of their games at shortstop, that extra-base hit total is seventh all-time.
Roger Schlueter is senior researcher for MLB Productions. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.