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MLB.com Columnist

Roger Schlueter

Miller, Fernandez pair of rookies racking up K's

Miller, Fernandez pair of rookies racking up K's

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MLB.com Columnist

Roger Schlueter

Between 1893 and 1954, the highest strikeout-per-nine-innings rate by a pitcher with enough innings to qualify for the ERA title was Hal Newhouser's 8.46 in 1946. And then along came Herb Score. In 1955, in a season in which Major League starters as a whole averaged 4.41 K's per nine, the 22-year-old Indians southpaw posted a mind-boggling rate of 9.70 K's per nine. And while Score's breath-taking rate was surpassed just five years later (by Sandy Koufax), it stood as the best by a rookie pitcher until 1984, when another awe-inspiring talent -- Dwight Gooden -- reshaped adjectives like "mind-boggling" and "breathtaking."

The Major League strikeout rate for starting pitchers is now way above what it was in Score's rookie season (7.12 per nine, through July 23), but it is still worth noting that a pair of 2013 rookies -- the Marlins' Jose Fernandez and the Cardinals' Shelby Miller -- are hovering near that spectacular rate produced nearly 60 years ago.

Shelby Miller allowed three hits in six scoreless innings and picked up his 10th win of the year on Tuesday as the Cardinals defeated the Phillies, 4-1. Miller is the 37th Cardinals rookie (defined by the modern standards) in the live-ball era to collect at least 10 wins. Miller's ERA currently stands at 2.77 (133 ERA+) and he is averaging 9.60 K's per nine, 7.40 hits per nine, and has a 3.93 K:BB ratio. Among the previous 36 Cardinals rookies in the live-ball era to accumulate at least 10 victories, the best marks in each of these categories:

-- Wins: 21, Johnny Beazley (1942)

-- ERA: 2.13, Johnny Beazley (1942)

-- ERA+: 160, Johnny Beazley (1942)

-- K/9: 9.98, Rick Ankiel (2000)

-- Hits/9: 6.64, Dick Hughes (1967)

-- K:BB: 3.35, Dick Hughes (1967)

Twenty-year-old Fernandez (seven innings, two runs) struck out eight batters, pushing his season total to 111 strikeouts in 111 2/3 innings (8.95 K's per nine). Between 1893 and 2012, there were 80 pitchers who were in their age-20 or younger season and tossed enough innings to qualify for the ERA title; among this group, two -- Gooden in 1984 and Rick Ankiel in 2000 -- finished with an average of at least nine strikeouts for every nine innings.

  • In a 2-for-3, two-RBI night, Cardinals left fielder Allen Craig went 1-for-2 with runners in scoring position. Craig is batting .490 with runners in scoring position this year, the highest average for any player with at least 100 plate appearances in the situation (there are 60 players who qualify, and Craig has 109). Craig also owns the fourth-highest slugging average in the split and the fourth-highest OPS. In the Division Era (since 1969), the highest batting average with RISP (minimum 150 plate appearances), is owned by George Brett, who hit .469 in 1980.
     
  • Making his Major League debut, 21-year-old Christian Yelich started in left field for the Marlins and composed a 3-for-4, two-RBI night. Yelich is the third Marlins player in the team's history to have a three-hit debut, joining manager Mike Redmond (who had his game in 1998), and current teammate Giancarlo Stanton (who opened with three hits in 2010). Among the three, Yelich's two RBIs are tops.
     
  • Gerrit Cole (seven innings, two runs) and two relievers combined on a three-hitter, as the Pirates defeated the Nationals, 5-1.

-- The Bucs have 10 games this season in which they have allowed three or fewer hits; those 10 tie them (with the Rays) for the most in the Majors and represent the most for any Pirates team -- through 98 games -- since 1916;

-- Pirates starters are holding opponents to a .233 batting average. This mark is the lowest in the Majors. Since 1916, the lowest season-ending mark for Pittsburgh's starters is .238, accomplished in 1965.

  • In their 6-2 win over the Rays, the Red Sox added four doubles to their league-leading total. Boston has led the AL in two-base hits in every season since (and including) 2010, with the Blue Jays being the last team to overtake them. Boston has led the AL in doubles 44 times, the most for any one franchise in either league. The big league record for most consecutive years leading in the category is eight, by Cleveland from 1916-23.
     
  • The Yankees' Ichiro Suzuki became the 65th player to collect 2,700 career hits -- appropriately enough, on a single. Of the 65 players with at least 2,700 knocks, his percentage of hits that have gone for extra bases (18.96) is the second lowest, with only Willie Keeler's percentage (14.29) being lower.
     
  • In the Royals' 3-2 win over the Orioles, left-hander Bruce Chen improved to 4-0 this season, allowing one run and three hits in six innings of work.

-- Chen, 1998-2009: 121 games started, 19 of them seeing him finish the outing with at least six innings and no more than one run allowed.

-- Chen, 2010-2013: 84 games started, 22 of them seeing him finish the outing with at least six innings and no more than one run allowed.

  • Down, 4-2, and facing Athletics right-hander Grant Balfour in the ninth, the Astros rallied for three runs for a comeback win. The victory, which ended Balfour's consecutive save streak at 44 games, improved Houston's record to 2-58 when trailing after eight innings.
     
  • Playing in his fifth career game, Cubs outfielder Junior Lake went 3-for-5 and hit his second home run; he has 12 hits, and three games with three or more hits.

-- Lake's 12 hits through five games represent the most for any Cubs player since 1916;

-- Lake is the fourth player since 1916 to have -- through his first five games -- three games with three or more hits. The others: the Pirates' Jack Merson in 1951, the Twins' Kirby Puckett in 1984 and the Reds' Jay Bruce in 2008.

  • Arizona's Patrick Corbin allowed one run in six innings and came away with his 12th win of the season (against one defeat). In Corbin's 20 starts this season, Arizona is 18-2. For the franchise, the highest season-ending winning percentage for a hurler with at least 30 starts is Ian Kennedy's .840 (21-4) in 2011. That season, the D-backs were 25-8 when Kennedy got the starting nod.
  • Minnesota piled on a seven-run 10th inning to defeat the Angels, 10-3. The seven runs are the most for the club in that particular inning since the Twins amassed eight on Aug. 1, 1970, against the Tigers. A year before that game, the Twins -- on June 21, 1969 -- set a Major League record for runs in a 10th inning when they tallied 11 in a win over the Athletics.
  • The Mariners topped the Indians, 4-3, to notch their eighth straight victory and move to within four games of .500. The team record for most consecutive wins is 15, set by the 2001 club. During their current winning streak, Seattle has outscored its opponents, 50-24. 

Roger Schlueter is senior researcher for MLB Productions. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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