From 1901-13, the Boston Beaneaters/Braves finished last in the National League five times, so when the 1914 club was swept by Brooklyn in a doubleheader on July 4, its last-place standing (15 games out of first) wasn't all that uncommon. What Boston did over the next three months, however, went far beyond uncommon and ventured into the realm of miraculous. Starting with a victory against Brooklyn on July 6, the Braves played .782 ball for the remainder of the season, going 68-19. And that 15-game deficit wasn't just erased; it was obliterated, as Boston ended up capturing the NL pennant by 10 1/2 games.
In August and September of that year, the Braves went 45-11, a run of better than .800 ball that, among other things, saw right-hander Bill James go 15-1 with a 1.65 ERA. There aren't many storylines that baseball history can offer in response to how Clayton Kershaw and the 2013 Dodgers have so dramatically reshaped their season, but the saga of the 1914 Miracle Braves is one that -- a little more so every day -- seems to fit.
On Sunday, Kershaw worked eight innings, allowed three hits, two runs (one earned) and two walks to come away with his 11th win of the season as the Dodgers defeated the Rays, 8-2. With the effort, Kershaw lowered his ERA to 1.88 and his WHIP to 0.867.
Kershaw's WHIP -- one that in the 93 seasons from 1920-2012 would have ranked as the seventh lowest for any qualifying pitcher -- is second in the league in 2013, behind Matt Harvey's 0.858. Only one season since 1920 has seen two pitchers finish the year with marks below 0.870. In 1968, Dave McNally posted a 0.842 mark for the Orioles, while the Cardinals' Bob Gibson owned a 0.853 WHIP.
Kershaw's combination of ERA and WHIP has been seen only 12 times since 1893, with nine of the 12 seasons being produced between 1905-15 (by Cy Young, Ed Walsh twice, Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown, Christy Mathewson twice, Addie Joss, Walter Johnson and Pete Alexander). Since 1920, the only three contributors to this list are Gibson in '68, Greg Maddux in '95 and Pedro Martinez in 2000.
With Sunday's effort, Kershaw also lowered his hits per nine innings to 5.87. In the live-ball era, that rate would be tied for the 13th lowest. Kershaw's ERA+ stands at 190. Since 1893, four pitchers have finished a qualifying season with an ERA+ of at least 190 and a hits per nine as low as 5.87.
Pitchers since 1893 with ERA+ of at least 190 and H/9 mark as low as 5.87
The Dodgers, meanwhile, have won 37 of their past 45 games (.822). During this torrid stretch, they have gone from languishing in last place and staring at a deficit of 9 1/2 games to owning a 7 1/2-game lead in the NL West.
Strasburg checks another feat off list
Washington's Stephen Strasburg hurled his first career shutout Sunday, allowing four hits while striking out 10 and issuing one walk in a 6-0 victory over the Phillies.
Before Strasburg, the Nationals had last seen one of their pitchers throw a shutout and reach double digits in K's on Aug. 4, 2005, when John Patterson (13 strikeouts) did it.
The effort marked the sixth time in his 68-game career that Strasburg has struck out at least 10 and issued no more than one walk. Those six through 68 games tie him with Roger Clemens, Oliver Perez and Madison Bumgarner for the fourth most for any pitcher since 1916. Those with more: Dwight Gooden (10) and Mark Prior and Tim Lincecum (seven apiece).
Royals' second-half surge rolls on
The Royals defeated the Red Sox, 4-3, improving to 18-5 since the All-Star break. Since being swept by the Indians in its final series of the first half, Kansas City has won seven straight series: it took two of three from the Tigers, three of four from the Orioles, swept the White Sox and Twins in three-game sets, took two of three from the Mets and Twins and took three of four from the Red Sox.
Right-hander Greg Holland converted his 25th consecutive save opportunity, throwing a scoreless ninth with two strikeouts.
Holland's streak is the second longest in franchise history, behind Joakim Soria's 36-game run in 2010. With Holland at the back end of things, the Royals own the American League's lowest bullpen ERA, at 2.73.
Davis, Jones leading way for slugging O's
Chris Davis collected his 33rd double of the season, Adam Jones doubled and homered, and the Orioles defeated the Giants, 10-2. Davis now has 75 extra-base hits. Over the past 40 seasons, those 75 through 117 team games are the fourth most. Those with more:
In 1995, Albert Belle had 78 and finished with 103 -- tied for the sixth most in history;
In 2000, Carlos Delgado had 78 and finished with 99 -- tied for the 16th most in history;
In '01, Barry Bonds had 77 and finished with 107 -- tied for the third most in history.
Jones has 29 doubles and 24 home runs on the season. Thirty-four center fielders have had a 30-double, 30-homer season, with Joe DiMaggio, Duke Snider and Willie Mays each sharing the claim for the most, with five apiece. Jones is already on the list, having done this in 2012. If he were to replicate the feat in '13, he would join the following center fielders who did it in consecutive seasons:
Four straight: Hack Wilson (1927-30), Snider (1953-56)
Three straight: DiMaggio (1937-39), Mays (1961-63)
Two straight: Earl Averill (1931-32), Wally Berger (1934-35), Dale Murphy (1984-85), Ron Gant (1990-91), Ray Lankford (1997-98), Ken Griffey, Jr. (1997-98), Jose Cruz (2000-01), Jim Edmonds (2003-04), Carlos Beltran (2006-07)
Felix still the King
Felix Hernandez threw eight scoreless innings of four-hit ball, striking out nine and walking one. With their ace leading the way, the Mariners defeated the Brewers, 2-0.
With the effort, Hernandez lowered his ERA to an AL-leading 2.28. In 2010, he finished the year with a 2.27 mark. In the live-ball era, 16 right-handers have had multiple seasons in which they qualified for the ERA title and finished the season with an ERA below 2.30.
Among the 132 pitchers with at least 20 starts in Interleague Play, Hernandez's 2.63 ERA is the third lowest. Erik Bedard owns the lowest, at 2.38, and is followed by Jered Weaver (2.55). Rounding out the top five, one includes Justin Verlander at 2.65 and Matt Cain at 2.71.
Here and there
Martin Perez threw a four-hitter for his first career complete game, and the Rangers captured their seventh straight win, defeating the Astros, 6-1. Rangers starters hold a 3.98 ERA at this point; over the past 20 seasons for the franchise, only the 2011 starters posted a lower ERA (at the end of the season). The 3.65 mark in '11 was the lowest for the franchise since 1983.
Roger Schlueter is senior researcher for MLB Productions. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.