(CBS Los Angeles) — The regular season is winding down, and the playoff race is heating up. As of Monday, the National League West and the American League East would each send three teams. The San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers would be two of them out west, followed by the San Diego Padres, if they can hold onto their slim lead.
Four teams have a legitimate shot at the playoffs out of the AL East. The Tampa Bay Rays hold a nine-game lead in the division race. But the Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox, and New York Yankees all sit within a game of each other. How it will play out is anyone’s guess.
This week’s Baseball Report looks at three stories playing out against the backdrop of the playoff races. The first is Max Scherzer’s continued dominance, as the new Dodger threw his 3,000th strikeout. The second is Francisco Lindor’s three-home run game to lift the New York Mets over the New York Yankees. The third is the Toronto Blue Jays’ outpouring of runs at the expense of the hapless Baltimore Orioles.
Scherzer Throws 3,000th Strikeout
Scherzer has reached yet another milestone in his Hall of Fame career. The 37-year-old right-handed pitcher threw his 3,000th strikeout in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 8-0 win Sunday over the San Diego Padres. He reached the milestone in the fifth inning, setting down Eric Hosmer on a 3-2 pitch. Scherzer became the 19th pitcher in MLB history to toss at least 3,000 strikeouts in his career.
The three-time Cy Young Award winner had a no-hitter going into the eighth inning, until Hosmer broke it up with a one-out double. That would be the only hit he allowed. Scherzer threw 92 pitches, recording no walks and nine strikeouts on the afternoon. Three of those came in the second inning, when he struck out the side on nine pitches for an immaculate inning.
Scherzer is 6-0 with the Dodgers after coming over from the Washington Nationals at the trade deadline. He had a 1.05 ERA with the team going into the game, and has a 2.26 ERA in his 26 starts this season across the two teams.
Scherzer made his major-league debut with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2008. The 11th-overall pick two years prior was traded to the Detroit Tigers after two seasons and 240 strikeouts. He played five seasons with the Tigers, piling up 1,081 strikeouts and earning his first Cy Young Award for his efforts. Scherzer was traded to the Nationals in 2015, where he struck out 1,610 more batters, won a World Series and two more Cy Young Awards. In Washington, he led the majors in strikeouts for three consecutive years. Scherzer has exceeded 200 strikeouts every season since 2012, except for the shortened 2020 season.
Scherzer is the first pitcher to reach 3,000 strikeouts since 2019, when Justin Verlander accomplished the feat. It’s impossible to predict when the next pitcher will join the 3,000 club. Starting pitchers are throwing fewer innings, but pitchers, in general, are recording more strikeouts. Houston Astros’ Zack Greinke is the closest active pitcher. He currently has 2,799 strikeouts.
Lindor Blasts Three Home Runs
The Mets and Yankees are still in the playoff hunt. The Mets hurt their chances with a miserable August that saw them drop from first to third in the NL East. They now sit five games out of the division lead and three games out of a Wild Card spot. The Yankees have gone cold of late too, losing eight of their last 10. That includes a four-game sweep at the hands of the Toronto Blue Jays. They now sit 10 games back in fourth in the AL East but only one game out in the Wild Card race.
This weekend’s subway series at Citi Field was an opportunity for one of these teams to possibly gain a little ground. With only a few weeks left, chances are becoming fewer and fewer. The teams split the first two matchups. The Mets downed the Yankees 10-3 Friday, and the Yankees returned the favor 8-7 on Saturday.
Things got a little chippy on Sunday night in the series rubber match. The Mets already harbored some bad feelings based on suspicions that the Yankees had been whistling from the dugout to signal pitches in the previous game. After his second home run in the sixth inning , Lindor, who also hit a three-run shot in the second, referenced that suspicion to Yankees players as he rounded the bases. The Yankees didn’t like that.
Giancarlo Stanton let his feelings be known while running the bases after his solo shot the next inning. He actually slowed to a walk between second and third base to jaw with Lindor. The benches cleared, and the bullpens emptied. But it didn’t amount to anymore than talk.
The fireworks weren’t over. In the eighth inning, with the score tied at six runs apiece, Lindor hit his third home run of the game. That ended up being the margin of victory.
THREE HOMERS FOR FRANCISCO. 😱 pic.twitter.com/D4iO3ClKOV
— MLB (@MLB) September 13, 2021
Stanton had a chance to even up the game or take the lead in the ninth inning. He stepped to the plate with two men on and two outs, but then popped up to end the game.
Blue Jays Score 44 Runs On Orioles
The red-hot Blue Jays now occupy one of the two American League Wild Card spots. (The Boston Red Sox have the other.) And after scoring 44 runs on the hapless Baltimore Orioles in just three games, they show no signs of letting up.
The Orioles won the opener of the four-game series on Friday. But the Blue Jays struck back hard the following day. Toronto won both games of Saturday’s doubleheader, 11-10 and 11-2. They would follow that up with 22 more runs in Sunday’s game.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Teoscar Hernández each pounded a grand slam. It was the first time the team has ever hit a pair of grand slams in a game. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. added his 44th home run of the season to climb into a tie with Shohei Ohtani for the league lead. The Blue Jays would end the game with 19 hits overall.
Toronto, as a team, currently leads the league in home runs with 230. They’re also second in team batting average at .267 and second in RBI with 729.