In this age of record-breaking strikeout totals, this should be a more common occurrence. But when Patrick Corbin notched his seventh strikeout of Sunday’s game, he lifted the Nationals rotation into some awfully elite territory.
Corbin joined Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg in surpassing the 200-strikeout mark for the season. That’s three pitchers on the same staff with at least 200 strikeouts this year. And that hasn’t happened very often in major league history.
In fact, this is only the sixth time in history a team has had three pitchers reach 200 strikeouts in a season. And it’s only the second time a National League team has done it.
Yep, prior to this the only NL club to pull it off was the 1969 Astros, who had Larry Dierker, Tom Griffin and Don Wilson.
The four AL teams who have done it? The 1967 Twins (Dave Boswell, Dean Chance, Jim Kaat), the 2013 Tigers (Scherzer, Justin Verlander and a guy named Aníbal Sánchez) and the 2018 Astros (Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton) and Indians (Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Mike Clevinger, Corey Kluber).
“As a starter, you want to make every start and go as deep as you can into every ballgame,” Corbin said. “If you do that, your strikeouts will add up. To be a part of this staff that has pitched so well all year ... it’s just an exciting team to be a part of right now. I think everyone in this clubhouse will say we’ll match up against anybody.”
Corbin’s answer carries the real reason this hasn’t happened more in recent years despite the meteoric rise in strikeouts across baseball. Starting pitchers simply aren’t throwing as many innings as they used to.
Only 13 major leaguers are on track to pitch 200 or more innings this season. In 2014, there were 34. In 2005, there were 50.
The Nationals are the rare team that has multiple starters who pitch that much. If not for Scherzer’s upper back injury, they’d have three pitchers reach the 200-inning plateau this season.
“You have to throw innings to strike 200 people out,” Ryan Zimmerman said. “It’s kind of nice to have people to throw innings and do what starting pitchers are supposed to do. You don’t try and reinvent the game. I think those guys are pretty good at it.”
They are pretty good at it. And they are among the biggest reasons the Nationals currently sit 19 games over .500.