Twins right-hander Phil Hughes capped off his impressive 2014 season in dominant fashion on Wednesday afternoon, limiting the Diamondbacks to five hits -- all singles -- over eight innings of one-run ball in a 2-1 Minnesota win. Hughes struck out five batters and walked none, improving his K/BB ratio for the season to 11.63 (186/16). That’s the highest mark ever for a major league starter, besting Bret Saberhagen’s 11.00 K/BB ratio from 1994.
Hughes probably could have gone the distance Wednesday against the punchless Diamondbacks lineup, but a 66-minute rain delay after the top of the eighth prevented that from happening. It also prevented Hughes from reaching 210 innings and triggering a $500,000 incentives bonus. Unless the Twins allow him to pitch in relief in their season-finale Sunday as a show of good faith, Hughes will finish at 209 2/3 frames.
The 28-year-old was one of the best free agent signings of the offseason at three years, $24 million and will remain the ace of the Twins’ staff for 2015. Hughes has far better command of his arsenal than he did in New York and Target Field is a much friendlier environment for pitchers than Yankee Stadium. That’s why we’re pretty confident he’ll repeat as a front-line fantasy starter next season.
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Too Late But Still Good From Taijuan
The Mariners once held a firm grip on a 2014 American League Wild spot but have completely collapsed down the stretch, dropping 11 of their last 15 games -- including a 1-0 loss to the Blue Jays on Wednesday evening. Now let’s focus on a positive for Seattle.
Taijuan Walker did his part and more Wednesday in Toronto, yielding just one run over eight innings in his best performance at the major league level to date. He struck out six, walked only one, and held the Jays to four hits, needing only 99 pitches to get through eight frames.
Walker will finish 2014 with a 2.61 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 38 innings. The 22-year-old right-hander was a consensus Top 11 prospect between Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com, and Baseball America before the start of the season and should be ready to fully blossom in 2015 as a leader of the Mariners’ rotation. His light usage in 2014 -- largely due to a right shoulder injury -- might help his sleeper status in fantasy drafts next spring.
Yankees Eliminated, Beltran And Ellsbury Too
The Yankees were officially eliminated from postseason contention on Wednesday afternoon with a 9-5 loss to the Orioles, so they’re shutting down some of their injured players. That includes veteran outfielder Carlos Beltran, who has been dealing with painful bone spurs in his right elbow since the spring and can finally undergo previously-scheduled offseason surgery to have them removed.
Beltran wound up batting just .233/.301/.402 with 15 home runs and 49 RBI this season in the first year of a three-year, $45 million deal. But he was playing through pain pretty much the entire time and looks like a decent bounceback candidate in 2015, even at age 38. Surgery for bone spurs is not overly complicated, and Beltran can keep his legs strong in 2015 with regular starts at DH. Plus, there aren’t many better environments for power than Yankee Stadium. Look for Beltran to be a good bargain in drafts next spring.
The Yankees are also shutting down Jacoby Ellsbury, who strained his right hamstring late last week. Ellsbury, 31, batted .271/.328/.419 with 16 home runs and 39 stolen bases in the first year of a massive seven-year, $153 million free agent deal.
National League Quick Hits: Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton suffered a concussion Wednesday when he robbed Ryan Braun of a home run with a leaping against-the-wall catch … Clayton Kershaw helped the Dodgers clinch the National League West title with eight inning of one-run ball Wednesday night against the Giants … Justin Upton went 2-for-4 with his 28th homer and a walk Wednesday as the Braves topped the Pirates … Jake Arrieta surrendered just one (unearned) run over seven innings and struck out 10 as the Cubs defeated the Cardinals on Wednesday … Pirates catcher Russell Martin is day-to-day after leaving Wednesday’s game with left hamstring tightness … Kyle Lohse tossed a two-hit shutout against the Reds on Wednesday … Dodgers left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu (shoulder) hopes to begin throwing off a mound in the next few days … Reds manager Bryan Price said he’ll decide "in the next day or two" whether Joey Votto (quad) will return this season … Evan Gattis (kidney stone) is expected to be in the Braves' starting lineup Thursday for the first time since September 7 … Rafael Montero will start for the Mets on Saturday versus the Astros … Travis d'Arnaud was out of the Mets' starting lineup on Wednesday night and will also sit out Thursday due to an apparent illness … Jon Jay was excused from the Cardinals on Wednesday due to a private family matter … Braves third baseman Chris Johnson suffered a lower back strain on Wednesday night … Kyle Kendrick won in his final start of the season, holding the Marlins to one run over seven innings on Wednesday … Padres closer Joaquin Benoit tallied his 10th save of the season in Wednesday’s victory against the Rockies.
American League Quick Hits: Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe suffered a fractured left forearm on Wednesday afternoon … Justin Verlander tossed eight innings of one-run ball Wednesday in the Tigers’ win over the White Sox … Mike Trout left Wednesday's game against the A’s because of a stomach illness … Blue Jays starter Mark Buehrle shut the Mariners out over eight innings on Wednesday, striking out 10 … Rougned Odor went 2-for-3 with his ninth home run, a double, a walk, and a stolen base Wednesday in the Rangers’ victory over the Astros ... The Blue Jays are expected to pick up Adam Lind's $7.5 million option for 2015 … Jered Weaver (flu) is confident he’ll be fine for his Friday start against the Mariners … Orioles slugger Nelson Cruz finished 4-for-5 in Wednesday’s defeat of the Yankees … Josh Hamilton (shoulder) is done for the rest of the regular season but expects to be ready for the playoffs … Prince Fielder has begun swinging a bat, a major step in his rehabilitation from cervical fusion surgery … White Sox ace Chris Sale struck out 10 batters and allowed just one run over six innings Wednesday against the Tigers … Yan Gomes slugged a three-run homer Wednesday in the Indians’ defeat of the Royals … Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar (knee) is likely done for the season … Hector Santiago pitched 5 1/3 scoreless innings in a win over the A's on Wednesday … Yu Darvish (elbow) will resume a throwing program in early November … David Freese remains day-to-day with mid-back tightness … Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli was out again Wednesday with lingering discomfort in his left ring finger … Tom Wilhelmsen will make a spot start for the Mariners on Thursday against the Blue Jays … Twins fill-in closer Jared Burton picked up his third save of the season on Wednesday … Rays catcher Ryan Hanigan is day-to-day with a sore big toe … Garin Cecchini hit his first major league home run on Wednesday as the Red Sox coasted to a win against the Rays.