Quartet vies for top Pitching Performance of August
First shutouts for Harvey, Strasburg in running with Yu's near no-no, Fernandez's gem
Yu Darvish of the Rangers, Jose Fernandez of the Marlins, Matt Harvey of the Mets and Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals are your choices for August as voting is underway at MLB.com to decide Major League Baseball's Pitching Performance of the Month presented by Head & Shoulders.
This monthly award is part of the ongoing "Season of the #Whiff" campaign. Will it be a repeat for Darvish, whose previous one-hitter at Houston earned him this first monthly honor for April? Will you go with a leading National League Rookie of the Year Award candidate? Will it be the first career complete game and shutout from an NL East star who came back from an arm injury -- or from one who now faces his own elbow trouble?
Here is a closer look at the candidates for August:
Darvish, Aug. 12 at Houston
W, 8 IP, H, ER, BB, 15 K's
After just missing a perfect game in his first start of the season at Minute Maid Park, the right-hander put together another near no-hitter in the same place. Carlos Corporan broke it up with a homer in the eighth. The Rangers righty fanned a career-high 15 over eight, amid what might rank as one of the highest single-season strikeout totals in club history.
"As I think I've said before, a win is a win," Darvish said after his gem, saying he was "locked in." The only American League nominee in this field added: "I was glad I was a big part of this win."
Fernandez, Aug. 2 vs. Cleveland
W, 8 IP, 3 H, 0 R, BB, 14 K's
Out of the four candidates, Fernandez is the only one whose performance came against a bona fide contender. The Marlins righty established a club rookie record with 14 strikeouts and even chipped in an RBI in a 10-0 Interleague rout, throwing up to 97 mph in the latter innings. The gem ended Cleveland's eight-game winning streak, and it followed a start in which Fernandez had just set Miami's rookie single-season strikeout mark.
"He's a pretty young kid as far as starts in the Major Leagues," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "We saw the stuff, and he put it together tonight for eight innings. Unfortunately for us, that's as good a start as I think we've seen all year. He had everything."
Harvey, Aug. 7 vs. Colorado
SO, 4 H, 0 BB, 6 K's
Mets fans probably can appreciate this nominated outing now more than ever, having just seen their 2013 All-Star Game starting pitcher -- and a key to the club's rebuilding process -- sidelined with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Harvey said he plans to be back next Opening Day, although the club has announced no timetable and Tommy John surgery remains a possibility.
Harvey was at his best against the Rockies, throwing his first career shutout and inducing weak contact despite few strikeouts. Whether it was one of those games that ultimately led to his injury, no one can say, but manager Terry Collins said there was no doubt about letting Harvey finish that one, citing only 91 pitches thrown entering the ninth.
"My mindset's never going to be not to throw a complete game," Harvey said. "That's always my approach. That's always going to be my approach. And fortunately enough tonight, it happened."
Strasburg, Aug. 11 vs. Philadelphia
SO, 4 H, BB, 10 K's
While Harvey faces an unknown comeback situation, Strasburg gave a glimpse of his pre-Tommy John greatness in an outing against the Phillies. Like Harvey, Strasburg recorded his first career complete game and shutout, needing only 99 pitches. Throwing more changeups than normal, the right-hander didn't allow a baserunner to reach scoring position.
"I felt good," Strasburg said. "It's something you try to do every time out. I learned how to go out there and get outs with less pitches. ... I knew it was going to be a matter of time where I was going to have one of these games where they hit it right to where we were playing and the defense made great plays.
"It's definitely different at the big league level. You are definitely a lot more strained as the game goes on. Like I said, the defense played great. The offense scored some runs. I was just able to go out there and pitch to contact."
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