Roger Schlueter

MLB Notebook: Dual threat Altuve makes history

Astros' second baseman batting above .400 with 16 stolen bases in June

MLB Notebook: Dual threat Altuve makes history

On July 10, 1994, Indians leadoff hitter Kenny Lofton singled twice, doubled and homered, plating four runs in a resounding 9-1 win over the Twins. Lofton didn't steal any bases in that game, but he had picked up three in the previous contest. It was the final flourish to a remarkable first half of baseball that saw the center fielder bat .378 with a 1.021 on-base plus slugging percentage, collect 129 hits (41 for extra bases) and pocket 45 steals.

Running for history

Jose Altuve is batting .424 in June. If he finishes at or above .400 (a pretty reasonable bet), he will be the seventh player since 1914 to finish any monthly split with at least 16 steals and a .400 batting average.

Player Split BA SB
Ty Cobb Sept./Oct. 1914 .407 16
Ty Cobb Sept./Oct. 1916 .404 19
Johnny Neun July 1927 .402 16
Cesar Cedeno Sept./Oct. 1977 .417 16
Rickey Henderson June 1985 .416 22
Brett Butler July 1992 .442 18
Jose Altuve June 2014 .424 16

That year, Lofton joined Rickey Henderson (1986) as the only players in the All-Star era to enter the break with at least 40 steals and 40 extra-base hits. The 2014 Astros entered Monday with 13 scheduled games remaining before this year's All-Star break; considering the June he has just put together, perhaps that's enough time for Jose Altuve (116 hits, with 29 for extra bases, and 36 stolen bases) to make a run at joining Henderson and Lofton.

In Houston's 6-4 win over Detroit on Sunday, Altuve went 3-for-5 with a double and two singles, two stolen bases and a run scored. Altuve has collected at least two hits and two steals in four straight games; he is the first player since at least 1914 to do this. Since '14, there have been only eight previous players to do it in even three straight: Ray Chapman ('17), Bert Campaneris ('69), Gene Richards ('80), Rodney Scott ('80), Bob Dernier ('82), Tim Raines ('83), Rickey Henderson ('88) and Shane Victorino (2007).

Altuve has collected at least one stolen base in six straight games, the longest streak in Astros history, and he has accumulated 39 hits and 16 stolen bases in June to become the fifth player since 1914 to reach those two numbers in any June:

  • Benny Kauff (1914): 41 hits and 20 steals for the Indianapolis Hoosiers (Federal League)
  • Bert Campaneris (1969): 39 and 20 for the Athletics
  • Ron LeFlore (1980): 39 and 23 for the Expos
  • Henderson (1985): 47 and 22 for the Yankees
  • Altuve (2014): 39 and 16 for the Astros

Emerald City's gem
In Seattle's shutout win over Cleveland, Felix Hernandez fanned nine over eight innings of one-hit ball. With the effort, Hernandez improved to 10-2 and lowered his ERA to 2.10. In Los Angeles, Clayton Kershaw allowed five hits and two walks over seven scoreless innings and fanned 13. Behind his effort, the Dodgers defeated the Cardinals, 6-0.

Hernandez's full-season numbers include an extraordinary June in which the right-hander has made six starts and posted a 1.22 ERA with a 0.72 WHIP and 54 strikeouts. In the latter three categories, Hernandez's numbers are bested by those of Kershaw, who made six starts in June and posted a 0.82 ERA, a 0.68 WHIP and fanned 61 batters. The combination of respective numbers are not only spectacular for any June, they are notable for any monthly split:

1914-2014: Monthly splits featuring at least 54 K's, an ERA at or below 1.22 and a WHIP at or below 0.722
Pitcher Split ERA WHIP K's
Tom Seaver Sept./Oct. 1971 1.03 0.705 63
Roger Clemens August 1998 0.90 0.700 68
Pedro Martinez Sept./Oct. 1999 0.86 0.619 71
Pedro Martinez May 2000 0.86 0.690 54
Johan Santana July 2004 1.17 0.630 61
Justin Verlander June 2011 0.92 0.714 54
R.A. Dickey June 2012 0.93 0.600 55
Clayton Kershaw June 2014 0.82 0.682 61
Felix Hernandez June 2014 1.22 0.722 54

Among Mariners pitchers with at least six starts in any monthly split, Hernandez's 1.22 ERA is the fifth lowest. Mark Langston's 0.50 ERA in September/October 1988 is the lowest. For these same criteria, Hernandez's 0.722 WHIP is the second lowest. Hisashi Iwakuma produced a 0.69 WHIP in March/April 2013.

'K' is for Kershaw
Among Dodgers pitchers with at least six starts in any monthly split, Kershaw's 0.82 ERA is the seventh lowest since 1914, and the lowest since he had a 0.71 ERA in July 2009. Orel Hershiser leads with his 0.00 ERA in September/October 1988. Kershaw is the only pitcher to appear twice in the top seven. Among Dodgers pitchers with at least six starts in any monthly split, Kershaw's WHIP is the second lowest, bested only by his own 0.596 WHIP in July 2013.

Kershaw's 61 K's tie him with Randy Johnson (June 1995) for the 19th most for any pitcher in any June since 1914. It's a list headed by a right-hander (Nolan Ryan, with 87 in 1977) but dominated by southpaws. Of the 20 pitchers to have at least 61 strikeouts in a June since 1914, Kershaw is one of 16 left-handers. Johnson and Sandy Koufax each appear five times, and fellow left-handers Vida Blue, Ron Guidry, Frank Tanana, Steve Carlton and Sam McDowell each make one appearance.

With his nine-strikeout effort on Sunday, Hernandez ran his career strikeout total to 1,840 and in the process moved past Dwight Gooden (1,835) and Bob Feller (1,836) and into the fifth spot for most career strikeouts since 1893 through a pitcher's age-28 season.

Here and there
The Rays' Matt Joyce went 5-for-6 with two homers, a double and four RBIs as Tampa Bay outslugged Baltimore, 12-7. Joyce is the first player for the Rays franchise to have a five-hit game with two home runs, and he's the second player this season -- after the Indians' Lonnie Chisenhall -- to do this. Since 1914, there have been 177 instances of a player recording five hits and at least two home runs in one game, with two players -- the Athletics' Bob Johnson and Pittsburgh's Willie Stargell -- each having three, for the most. Josh Hamilton is the only active player to have two such performances.

Pittsburgh defeated the Mets 5-2, improving to 17-10 in June. In 2012, the Pirates were 17-10 for the month, and in 2013, the club was 17-9. With the 2014 team off Monday, the last three Junes have produced three of the 13 best live-ball era winning percentages in June for the franchise. Since the start of the 2012 season, the Pirates own a Major League-best .638 winning percentage in June; the next-closest team, Oakland, is at .600.

Facing the Giants at AT&T Park, Reds right-hander Homer Bailey took a no-hit bid into the seventh inning, and although he didn't author his third career no-hitter, Bailey did finish with a three-hit shutout. With the effort, Bailey and the Reds completed their first four-game series sweep in San Francisco since May 16-18, 1972.

The Braves allowed 13 hits but just two runs in defeating the Phillies, 3-2, to complete a four-game sweep in Philadelphia. The Braves had last swept a four-game series in Philadelphia from Sept. 24-27, 1964.

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