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MLB.com Columnist

Roger Schlueter

MLB Notebook: Red Sox's starters leading the way

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In the first three games of the 2013 season, the Red Sox handed the ball to starters Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Ryan Dempster. Two-and-a-half weeks after Opening Day, the three have combined for a 6-1 record and 71 strikeouts in 65 innings pitched.

Lester, Buchholz and Dempster have also posted a combined 1.52 ERA, leading to a 2.69 team ERA that stands as the best for any of the 15 clubs representing the American League. No Red Sox club has featured an ERA that low after its first 15 contests since 2001, when hurlers such as Pedro Martinez, Hideo Nomo, Tim Wakefield, Derek Lowe and Tomo Ohka helped Boston to a phenomenal 1.78 ERA after 15 games were in the books.

Thursday, the Red Sox defeated the Indians, 6-3, with Lester (seven innings, two runs) improving to 3-0 with a 1.73 ERA for the season. Since 1916, five Red Sox southpaws have finished a March/April with at least three wins and an ERA below 2.00.

• Babe Ruth (1916): 4-0, 1.27 ERA
• Lefty Grove (1936): 3-0, 0.35 ERA
• Frank Viola (1993): 4-1, 1.47 ERA
• Mickey Harris (1946): 3-0, 1.67 ERA
• Bruce Hurst (1984): 3-2, 1.95 ERA

Verlander
Justin Verlander fanned 12 batters and walked one in Detroit's 2-0 loss to Seattle.

With Verlander's 12 K's coming a day after Max Scherzer fanned a dozen of his own, the two became the first Tigers starters since 1956 to have at least 12 strikeouts in back-to-back games. Paul Foytack and Billy Hoeft did it in late July in '56.

Verlander now has five career games in which he has struck out at least 12 and issued no more than one walk. Those five tie him with Denny McLain for the second most for any Tigers pitcher since 1916. Mickey Lolich had seven such games. Verlander was the first Tigers pitcher since Lolich on June 4, 1974, to be the losing pitcher in a game in which he struck out at least 12.

Cubs
Carlos Villanueva allowed two runs in seven innings, Cubs batters erupted for nine extra-base hits and Chicago defeated Texas, 6-2.

Villanueva, who is now 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA in 21 innings (three starts) this season, has posted game scores (an equation used to measure a pitcher's dominance) of 62, 74 and now 66. He is one of nine pitchers this season to begin the year with at least three straight starts with a game score of at least 62. Hisashi Iwakuma has four in a row, while the rest -- Mike Minor, Cliff Lee, Buchholz, Paul Maholm, Anibal Sanchez, Matt Harvey and Justin Masterson -- have three.

This game marked the 77th time since 1916 the Cubs had collected at least nine extra-base hits in a game (they improved to 69-8 in these 77). However, the six runs generated in this contest were the fewest for any of the 77 games. In fact, this game marked only the 34th time since 1916 that a team collected as many as nine extra-base hits and manage no more than six runs.

Orioles
Playing in their first extra-inning game of the season, the Orioles got a walk-off grand slam from Matt Wieters and defeated the Rays, 10-6.

Dating back to the 2012 season, Baltimore has now won 17 consecutive extra-inning games. The Orioles are tied with the Athletics for the most extra-inning home runs (nine) during that time.

Wieters is the first Orioles hitter since Harold Baines on May 4, 1999, to hit a game-ending slam in extra innings.

Braves
The Braves hit four home runs, with shots by B.J. and Justin Upton, Chris Johnson and Evan Gattis, and defeated the Pirates, 6-4, to improve to 13-2 on the season.

Justin Upton's homer was his Major League-leading ninth of the season, making him the 18th player in the live-ball era to have that many through 15 games. The Braves have hit at least two home runs in eight of their 15 contests. The only other Braves teams in the live-ball era to do this were the 1994 and 2006 clubs.

The Braves' 13-2 record ties this team with the 1884 Beaneaters and the 1982 and '94 Braves for the best 15-game start in franchise history.

Cardinals-Phillies
In the Cardinals' 4-3 win against the Phillies, Adam Wainwright went seven innings, struck out four and didn't issue a walk. In his four starts this season, Wainwright has notched 28 K's against no walks.

Wainwright is the fourth pitcher since 1916 to open his year with at least four consecutive games in which he finished with at least six innings pitched and no walks. In '23, Pete Alexander opened the year with six straight such starts, and Tiny Bonham ('44) and Paul Byrd (2002) each began with four straight.

The Phillies -- with zero walks in 38 plate appearances against the Cardinals -- have not drawn a single walk in any of their past four games. That streak is the longest for the team since the 1920 Phillies failed to draw a walk in five straight games.

Here and there
• Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo picked up his first win of the year and also hit his 11th career home run, and the Brewers topped the Giants, 7-2. Gallardo's 11 homers are the most in team history by a pitcher, and the most for any active pitcher. Among active pitchers with at least 200 plate appearances, Gallardo also owns the highest slugging percentage, the highest OPS and the highest ISO (isolated power).

• Dexter Fowler, Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki -- Colorado's 2-4 hitters -- combined for a double, two homers and three singles, scored seven runs and collected four RBIs, as the Rockies won their sixth straight game, 11-3, over the Mets. For the season, those three own a combined .694 slugging percentage. Gonzalez is second in the National League in total bases, Fowler is tied for third and Tulowitzki is tied for 18th. Rockies right fielder Michael Cuddyer is tied for 15th.

• Iwakuma threw six innings of three-hit ball and combined with two Mariners relievers on a five-hit shutout, beating the Tigers, 2-0. Iwakuma -- who wasn't part of the decision -- lowered his ERA to 1.69 and saw his record stick at 2-0. Only four pitchers in Mariners history have finished a March/April with an ERA below 2.00 (with a minimum of four starts): Floyd Bannister (1.21 in 1980), Randy Johnson (1.53 in '92), Erik Hanson (1.53 in '93) and Doug Fister (1.67 in 2010).

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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