Even in an era of inflated strikeout numbers, Corbin Burnes of the Milwaukee Brewers and Cleveland’s Shane Bieber are putting up absolutely ridiculous numbers.
On Sunday, Bieber matched a record of Nolan Ryan’s that has stood since 1978 by striking out 48 batters in his first four starts. On Tuesday, Burnes set a record for starting pitchers by reaching 40 strikeouts without a walk to start the season.
“You know, I’ve heard it from everyone in the clubhouse, so it’s kind of hard to escape it right now: ‘Hey, you set a record tonight,’” Burnes said after Tuesday’s masterpiece, which came in a 6-0 win over the San Diego Padres.
While Kenley Jansen, a reliever for the Los Angeles Dodgers, began the 2017 season with 51 strikeouts and no walks, Burnes is already second on the overall list before his next start, which is scheduled for Monday against the Miami Marlins. Burnes’s 40 strikeouts with no walks in a span of just four games is a feat without precedent in the modern game — Jansen’s streak came over the course of 31 appearances.
“I know. I know,” Burnes said of the record. “Thanks, and let’s move on.”
So far, the 2021 season has continued the trend of rising strikeouts, with an average of 9.4 per nine innings. That rate has increased in nearly every season since 1992, when it stood at just 5.6.
The competition to lead the majors in strikeouts could be fierce. Bieber, who struck out 259 batters in the 2019 season for an average of 10.9 per nine innings, has increased his strikeout rate in each season since. He is leading the A.L. with 14.7 per nine innings thus far in 2021. Burnes, who had an 8.82 earned-run average in 2019, has rebuilt himself into a powerhouse and is striking out 14.8 per nine innings, which trails Jacob deGrom of the Mets (15.8) and Milwaukee’s Freddy Peralta (15.5) in the N.L.
In terms of total strikeouts, Bieber (48) and Burnes (40) are the major league leaders, and the leaderboard is filled out by Gerrit Cole of the Yankees (39) and Joe Musgrove of the San Diego Padres (37), who has kept up his strong finish to the 2020 season and recently threw the first no-hitter in San Diego’s 53-season history.
Bieber, the American League’s reigning Cy Young Award winner, is scheduled to start against the Yankees on Saturday. He would need 11 strikeouts to keep pace with the start to Ryan’s 1978 season. Ryan finished that season with 260 strikeouts — a total that would be eye-popping for most but was just the eighth highest of his career.
Yankees Bats Stay Quiet in Loss
Ian Anderson took a shutout into the seventh inning, Austin Riley homered and the Atlanta Braves scraped by with just four hits to beat punchless Yankees, 4-1, Wednesday night.
Corey Kluber (0-2) kept the Yankees in it with his best start yet in pinstripes, but the team lost for the sixth time in seven games because of a star-studded lineup that has almost entirely spaced out.
Anderson (1-0) limited the Yankees to four hits and four walks in six and two-thirds innings, striking out four against the club he also beat in his major league debut last season. The 22-year-old right-hander threw 97 pitches as temperatures dipped into the low 40s in the late innings.
At 6-11, the Yankees are off to their worst start since 1991. Their 58 runs are fewest in the A.L. and their slugging percentage is the lowest in the major leagues.
Giancarlo Stanton had a 117.3 mph lineout but went hitless, dropping to 3 for his last 34. Gleyber Torres had a hit but is just 4 for his last 32 with one R.B.I. this season. Aaron Hicks is in a 1-for-17 rut, although he walked twice. Clint Frazier blooped a ninth-inning single to break a 1-for-27 slide, picking up his first RBI of the season in his 45th plate appearance.
Gio Urshela — among the few Yankees swinging the bat well — was lifted in the top of the eighth with lower back tightness. He ran gingerly to first on an inning-ending double play in the sixth. Manager Aaron Boone said the injury does not appear to be serious and no tests are planned.
The Yankees’ pitching has been better, and Kluber (0-2) had his best start since signing an $11 million, one-year free agent deal. He was charged with two runs, two hits and four walks over four and two-thirds innings, throwing 91 pitches. (AP)
Mets Get Blown Out by Cubs
Javier Baez hit a grand slam and the Chicago Cubs took advantage of a season-high four errors by the Mets in a 16-4 romp on a chilly Wednesday night at Wrigley Field.
Baez, who struck out four times Tuesday, scored three runs in this one and hit his sixth career slam off reliever Trevor Hildenberger in the sixth inning. The flashy shortstop became the first player to go 0 for 4 with four strikeouts in one game and then hit a grand slam in the next since Gorman Thomas did it for Milwaukee in the first two games of the 1978 season, according to STATS.
David Bote drove in four runs as the Cubs won their second straight after losing six of eight. Matt Duffy added three R.B.I. and Willson Contreras had two hits and scored twice.
Chicago scored its most runs since putting up 16 against Pittsburgh on Sept. 15, 2019.
Francisco Lindor hit his first homer for the Mets when he connected against Zach Davies in the first. J.D. Davis made it 2-0 with an R.B.I. double in the third, but things turned around in a big way in the fourth.
The Mets committed three errors to match their highest total in an inning since April 16, 2019, at Philadelphia. The Cubs sent 10 batters to the plate and chased David Peterson (1-2) on the way to their most lopsided win of the season.