Athletics Catcher Bruce Maxwell Becomes 1st MLB Player to Kneel for Anthem

Oakland A's catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first Major League Baseball player to kneel during the national anthem, according to the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser.

"The Oakland A's pride ourselves on being inclusive," the team said in a statement. "We respect and support all of our players' constitutional rights and freedom of expression."

Earlier Saturday, Maxwell hinted at kneeling with a post on Twitter:

According to the Dallas Morning News' Evan Grant, Maxwell is the son of a United States soldier and was born on an army base.

Maxwell's decision comes one day after President Donald Trump said at a rally in Alabama that he would like to see NFL owners cut players who protest social injustice during the national anthem.

"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he's fired. He's fired,'" Trump said, per CNN's Brian Stelter. "You know, some owner is going to do that. He's going to say, 'That guy that disrespects our flag, he's fired.' And that owner, they don't know it [but] they'll be the most popular person in this country."

Trump also implied in a tweet Saturday that the Golden State Warriors wouldn't be invited to the White House after Stephen Curry said he would advocate for the team not to visit.

"I don't want to go," Curry said Friday, according to USA Today's Sam Amick. "That's kind of the nucleus of my belief...(But) it's not just me going to the White House. If it was, this would be a pretty short conversation."

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New York Yankees Clinch MLB Postseason Berth with Win vs. Blue Jays

The New York Yankees are headed back to the postseason after beating the Toronto Blue Jays 5-1 on Saturday afternoon at Rogers Centre. 

MLB noted the achievement via Twitter:

The triumph was buoyed by a three-run home run courtesy of first baseman Greg Bird at the top of the fifth inning and a solo jack from Todd Frazier in the eighth.        

Right-hander Sonny Gray drew the start for the Bronx Bombers and pieced together an efficient outing. 

In six innings, the Yankees' big non-waiver trade deadline acquisition allowed four hits and struck out four batters while allowing just one earned run—a solo homer off the bat of Teoscar Hernandez in the bottom of the third. 

By virtue of Saturday's result, four American League teams—the Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros and Cleveland Indians—have clinched playoff spots. 

That leaves one position up for grabs as the Minnesota Twins attempt to quell charges from the Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels and Kansas City Royals for the AL's second wild-card spot. 

Speaking of which, the Yankees are likely to slot into the top wild-card position barring a major collapse from the Red Sox over the final week of the regular season. 

Following a 5-0 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday at Great American Ball Park, the Red Sox remained four games clear of the Yankees for first place in the AL East with eight games to play. 

Should the Yankees wind up hosting the AL Wild Card Game at Yankee Stadium, they will attempt to avoid falling flat like they did in 2015, when the Astros defeated them 3-0 to secure a spot in the American League Division Series.      

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MLB Announces $1 Million Donation to Puerto Rico, Mexico Disaster Relief Efforts

Major League Baseball announced Saturday a $1 million donation to support ongoing relief efforts following Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the earthquake in Mexico.

Mike Teevan of MLB Communications provided MLB's statement:

MLB previously announced a joint $1 million donation with the MLB Players Association following Hurricane Harvey in Texas.

Dave Graham and Robin Respaut of Reuters reported Hurricane Maria, which killed at least 25 people as it moved through the Caribbean, left the entire island of Puerto Rico without power and that dangers are ongoing because of the potential collapse of an earthen dam.

An early damage estimate from the storm was set at $80 million, per Luis Ferre-Sadurni and Frances Robles of the New York Times.

Meanwhile, Jason Hanna, Rosa Flores and Ed Lavandera of CNN reported Central Mexico was struck by a magnitude 7.1 earthquake Tuesday that led to at least 298 deaths. The search for potential survivors has continued.

Mexico had already been hit with an 8.1-magnitude earthquake Sept. 8, and a 6.1-magnitude earthquake struck the country Saturday morning.

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Cody Bellinger Hits His 39th Home Run to Break NL Rookie HR Record

Fact: Cody Bellinger hit his 39th homer during the Los Angeles Dodgers' 4-2 victory over the San Francisco Giants on Friday to break the NL rookie HR record, surpassing Wally Berger and Frank Robinson.

Bleacher Report will be bringing sports fans the most interesting and engaging Cold Hard Facts of the day, presented by Coors Light.

Source: @MLBStatoftheDay

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Dodgers Clinch NL West for 5th Straight Year to Earn Postseason Berth

The Los Angeles Dodgers clinched their fifth consecutive National League West title Friday night with a 4-2 victory over the San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium, earning a berth in the 2017 MLB playoffs.

The Dodgers secured their place in the postseason with more than a week left in the regular season, and they have much bigger goals on the horizon.

"You have to celebrate every accomplishment," first baseman Adrian Gonzalez told reporters. "But it's World Series or bust."

    

This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available.

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Cody Bellinger Hits 39th HR vs. Giants to Set NL Rookie Record

Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Cody Bellinger set the National League rookie home run record when he blasted his 39th jack of the season in the third inning of Friday night's 4-2 win over the San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium.

Major League Baseball's official Twitter account relayed video of the historic moment: 

According to MLB Stat of the Day, the swing moved Bellinger past Wally Berger (1930) and Frank Robinson (1956) and into sole possession of first place on the NL rookie home run chart. 

The Associated Press noted Bellinger now ranks third on the all-time rookie home run list behind Mark McGwire, who smashed 49 home runs in 1987, and New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (via ESPN.com)

Judge, 25, recorded his 46th home run of the season Friday night in the Yankees' 8-1 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. 

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Derek Jeter Reportedly Asks Marlins President to Fire Jack McKeon, More

Derek Jeter has reportedly asked Miami Marlins president David Samson to fire four front-office special assistants, including former manager Jack McKeon, who led the team to a World Series title in 2003. 

On Friday, the Miami Herald's Barry Jackson and Clark Spencer reported Jeter "has informed the team that he plans to fire" McKeon, who serves as a special assistant to owner Jeffrey Loria, as well as Andre Dawson, Tony Perez and Jeff Conine, all of whom are special assistants to the president.

Jackson and Spencer added that the former New York Yankees shortstop asked Samson "to fire those four Marlins luminaries for him because [he] didn't want to do it."

Sampson himself is not expected back with the team assuming Major League Baseball's owners approve the sale of the Marlins from Loria to the group spearheaded by Jeter. 

"Sure, I'm sad," McKeon told the Herald. "No question you're sad. I'm disappointed, but you understand. A new regime is coming in, and they want their new people in there. You can’t fault them with that."

On Aug. 11, Jackson reported Loria had agreed to sell the franchise to a group of investors that includes Jeter, businessman Bruce Sherman and Michael Jordan, among others, for $1.2 billion. 

Conine, who spent eight seasons with the Marlins, joined McKeon as a key piece of the 2003 Marlins team after he rejoined the club following its midseason trade with the Baltimore Orioles

Dawson, on the other hand, closed out his Hall of Fame career in South Florida from 1995 to 1996, while Perez spent part of the 2001 season as manager after he was named a special assistant the year prior. 

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Robinson Cano Joins 2 Others with 300-Plus Homers as 2nd Baseman

Seattle Mariners veteran Robinson Cano went 1-for-4 with a home run during Thursday's 4-2 loss to the Texas Rangers. In doing so, he became just the third second baseman in MLB history to have recorded 300 or more homers, per Sportsnet Stats.

Not normally a position of power, Cano's unique strength as a second baseman has been on display for most of his 13-year career. As a rookie with the New York Yankees, he went yard 14 times and took second in Rookie of the Year voting.

His real breakout as a slugger occurred in 2009, when he cranked out 25 round-trippers. He also finished a solid 17th in American League Most Valuable Player voting that season, slashing .320/.352/.520 and driving in 85 runs.

His prime years were between 2010 and 2014, however. Over that stretch, Cano slashed .312/.375/.518 while averaging 26 homers and 102 runs batted in per season. He also collected four Silver Sluggers, two Gold Gloves and never finished worse than sixth in MVP voting.

Cano, at 34, is putting together another quality campaign with the Mariners—the organization he's been a part of for the past four seasons. Over his 141 games played, the eight-time All-Star has hit 22 home runs, recorded 93 RBI and ranks fourth on a loaded Seattle offense in on-base plus slugging percentage (.805).

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Noah Syndergaard Will Return from Arm Injury, Start vs. Nationals

New York Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard will return from the 60-day disabled list Saturday after being sidelined since late April with a lat injury.

Per MLB.com's Anthony DiComo, Syndergaard will start Saturday against the Washington Nationals and pitch one inning before giving way to Matt Harvey in the second inning. 

Syndergaard was one of the best starters in baseball last season. He posted a 2.60 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 31 appearances, including one relief appearance, with 218 strikeouts in 183.2 innings. He accumulated a 3.29 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in five starts before the injury this season.

In June, Joe Giglio of NJ Advance Media noted the 25-year-old right-hander was asked on WFAN's Boomer and Carton if he had any regrets about skipping an MRI on his biceps or adding more weight during the offseason.

"No. No regrets from me, really," Syndergaard said. "I knew the biceps tendinitis that was flaring up—there was no structural damage. I was able to go out there through bullpens, play catch and start that game."

As for bulking up, he added: "At the end of the day, I still feel really good. I was able to leave my workouts feeling accomplished and feel like I was doing the right thing to stay healthy. It was just a series of unfortunate events, but I'm working hard to get back on the mound."

His injury was one of several suffered by Mets players this season. The team's disabled list includes outfielders Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto, third baseman David Wright and starting pitchers Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz.

Getting Syndergaard back, even in a limited role, to finish this year gives the Mets a glimmer of hope for 2018 in what has been an otherwise forgettable 65-87 season. 

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Brad Ausmus Won’t Return as Tigers Manager After 2017

The Detroit Tigers announced Friday that they will let manager Brad Ausmus' contract expire following the conclusion of the 2017 season. 

The Tigers exercised Ausmus' 2017 club option last October after initially signing him to a three-year deal in November 2013, per Baseball Prospectus, but the franchise decided to move in a different direction after flirting with the American League Central cellar all season. 

"As we transition the ballclub in a new direction, I feel it's best we have a new approach and a fresh start with the manager position," general manager Al Avila said in a statement. "Brad has done an admirable job under, at times, difficult circumstances, especially this season, and we appreciate his professionalism and dedication to the Tigers the past four years. Our search for a new manager is underway."

 

This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available.

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Rhys Hoskins Fastest in MLB History to 45 Career RBI

Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins popped a two-run double off Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Josh Fields in the bottom of the fifth inning Thursday, marking his 44th and 45th runs batted in.

Hoskins has only required 41 games to total 45 career RBI, the fewest of any player in MLB history, per ESPN Stats & Info. Joe DiMaggio was the closest in 1936, needing just 43 contests to accomplish the feat while Ted Williams was third-quickest to the mark with 44.

The 24-year-old has hit 18 home runs, providing some theatrics to the early portions of his career. If the 6'4", 225-pounder had played a larger portion of the season, he could be in contention for the NL Rookie of the Year award.

Hoskins was selected by the Phillies in the fifth round of the 2014 MLB draft and has hit for both average and power as he continued to climb up the minor league ranks. Prior to his promotion, Hoskins hit .284 with 29 home runs, 91 RBI and four stolen bases in 115 games at Triple-A.

Although the Phillies (61-92) are one game from having the worst record in MLB this season, Hoskins and a number of other promising young talents are providing a light at the end of the tunnel for the team's fanbase, which hasn't had much to cheer about in recent seasons.

Hoskins and company return to the diamond Friday evening to open a four-game road series against the Atlanta Braves.

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Didi Gregorius Breaks Derek Jeter’s Home Run Record for Yankees Shortstop

New York Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius went 1-for-4 with a home run during Wednesday's 11-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins. The round-tripper was his 25th of the year, passing Derek Jeter for the most in a season by a Yankees shortstop, per Sportsnet Stats.

Gregorius has emerged as a power threat at the position over the past two seasons. Since 2016, he's recorded 45 home runs in 281 games.

He hasn't been as active on the basepaths as in other seasons, however. He totaled 12 stolen bases from 2015 through 2016 but has managed to swipe just two bags throughout 128 games this season.

That said, the 27-year-old is still having the best year of his career. Gregorius already has career highs in home runs and RBI (84) and is on pace to set career bests in batting average (.291) and OPS (.820).

Gregorius will attempt to build on his great season when the Yankees face off against the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday. Marco Estrada, who is 9-8 with a 4.84 ERA and 1.36 WHIP, is set to take the mound for the host Jays.

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Today’s Best Headphones and Earbuds That You Can Get At a Discount

You would almost always find headphones that are on sale on Amazon. Here are a few.

Avantree Over-the-Ear Headphones

This is the Avantree Over-the-Ear Headphones that boasts a superior Hi-Fi Sound. Its excellent sound reproduction is almost comparable to the high-priced headphones in the market. What’s more is that it offers multipoint functionality, meaning you can connect up to 2 phones at once. You never have to miss a call again. Get it for only $41 today.

TaoTronics Sports Headphones

Next up is this TaoTronics Sports Headphones with 360-degree adaptable earhooks. They offer uber comfortable earbuds with a secure fit while you are active. They’re sweatproof and waterproof and they can withstand the rain and sweat. It’s also equipped with a noise-canceling mic. They’re only $23 today.

The Anker Soundbuds Curve Headphones is another workout headset that’s waterproof. It goes for up to 12.5 hours of constant playing and can deal with rain and sweat. It also has a CVC noise cancellation technology for clearer phone calls.

Tucker Barnhart, Reds Agree to 4-Year Contract Extension

The Cincinnati Reds announced Friday that they agreed to a four-year contract extension with catcher Tucker Barnhart through 2021 with a club option for 2022.

Reds general manager Dick Williams said the following about keeping Barnhart in the fold:

The 26-year-old is hitting .272 with six home runs and 42 RBI this season.

While Barnhart has been a solid contributor for the Reds at the plate, his greatest impact on the game is made defensively.

According to Fangraphs, Barnhart is first among catchers in Major League Baseball with 22 Defensive Runs Saved. The next closest backstop is Martin Maldonado of the Los Angeles Angels with nine.

After setting career highs last season in games played (115), batting average (.257), home runs (seven) and RBI (51), Barnhart has continued to improve in all aspects of his game and further established himself as Cincinnati's regular catcher.

Barnhart appears to be a runaway choice for the Gold Glove at catcher in the National League, and may even be in the running for the Platinum Glove as the best all-around fielder in the entire NL.

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Chicago Cubs vs. Milwaukee Brewers: Odds, Analysis, MLB Betting Pick

The Milwaukee Brewers (81-72) will try to take a positive step toward the top of the National League Central when they host the Chicago Cubs (85-67) on Friday in the second of four games at Miller Park as small home underdogs.

The Brewers blew a late 3-2 lead in the series opener on Thursday, falling 5-3 in 10 innings, but they have still won three of the past four meetings.

              

Betting line: The Cubs opened as -128 favorites (wager $128 to win $100 the total is at nine runs, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark. (Line updates and matchup report)

MLB betting pick, via OddsShark computer: 4.8-2.9, Cubs (MLB picks on every game)

               

Why the Cubs can pay on the MLB lines

Chicago has stayed in control of the NL Central for most of the second half of the season by playing consistently well, something the team did not do in the first half.

The Cubs have not lost more than three in a row since the MLB All-Star break, and their starting pitching has performed much better lately to keep them atop the division.

Veteran righty John Lackey (11-11, 4.62 ERA) has been one of the pitchers who has stepped up during that stretch, with Chicago going 10-2 in his last 12 starts.

                 

Why the Brewers can pay on the MLB lines

Milwaukee has been able to stay within striking distance of first place due to solid starting pitching as well, and rookie Brandon Woodruff (2-2, 3.28) has been a pleasant surprise.

The 24-year-old has made just six starts this season, but he has been a key cog in the rotation over the last two months.

Woodruff earned his second win last time out on the road against the Miami Marlins, allowing three runs and eight hits in seven innings of a 10-3 victory with no walks and five strikeouts.

In fact, in the three games the Brewers have lost in which he has started, they have totaled only two combined runs.

                 

Smart betting pick

Lackey has not been nearly as good on the road this year, going 7-6 with a 5.38 ERA. He is also just 4-8 with a 4.95 ERA at night and 1-2 versus Milwaukee this season with a 3.79 ERA. Woodruff has never faced the Cubs, which should work in his favor here.

While the World Series champions have more experience in these kinds of situations, this is a more favorable matchup for the home team. Take the Brewers to pull off the small upset and bounce back with a big victory.

                  

MLB betting trends

Chicago is 8-1 in its last nine games.

The total has gone under in four of Chicago's last six games on the road.

The total has gone under in six of Milwaukee's last seven games at home.

                     

All MLB odds and betting trends courtesy of Bleacher Report’s official odds partner, OddsShark. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line-movement updates and the OddsShark YouTube page for picks and analysis, or download the free odds tracker app.

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Chicago Cubs: 5 Players Stepping Up Big in Clutch Playoff-Race Pressure

At 85-67 entering play Friday, the Chicago Cubs hold a 4.5-game lead over the upstart Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central. Considering they have 10 games left to play, it's a safe bet they will win the division.

Still, the MLB champions are fighting for momentum. They have won eight of their last 10 and elevated their run differential to a solid plus-102, but they will almost surely be the weakest division winner in the Senior Circuit by record, behind the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals.

As such, the Cubbies need players to come up clutch in the playoff-race crucible. They busted the ancient curse of the billy goat last year, but winning a second consecutive Commissioner's Trophy is nearly as daunting. 

Here are five Cubs players who are doing their part to get Chicago back on the October stage and rain more confetti on the North Side.

Begin Slideshow

Terry Collins Reportedly Expected to Retire After Season

New York Mets manager Terry Collins has not publicly decided on his future, but this could be his last season in baseball.

According to Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News, team sources expect Collins to retire at the end of the season.

The 68-year-old is in the final year of his contract with the Mets.

Collins has hinted that 2017 could be his final year since last fall.

"I've always said a lot of it will be dictated by how I'm feeling," he said last October, per ESPN's Adam Rubin. This was a tough year."

That came after a season where the Mets reached the playoffs with an 87-75 record. It's tough to imagine his mood improved in 2017 with New York's 65-87 record entering Thursday. The year has been bogged down with injuries throughout the roster, which in part has led to one of the worst records in baseball.

While he led the team to the National League pennant in 2015 and is one of only two Mets managers to reach the playoffs in back-to-back seasons (Bobby Valentine, 1999-2000), he has just a 546-578 record in seven years with the franchise.

After a disappointing season, it would be difficult for the front office to justify a new contract for Collins.

Ackert noted the team would want someone more analytical in the new manager, listing Bob Geren, Chip Hale and Dick Scott as possibilities. All three have spent time on the Mets staff within the last few seasons.

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Reds to Install Additional Safety Netting Beyond Dugouts

The Cincinnati Reds announced plans Thursday to install protective netting extending past the dugouts at Great American Ball Park beginning in the 2018 season.

"The Reds' ongoing commitment to providing the best ballpark experience includes maintaining the safety and security of our fans," the team said in a statement.

Cincinnati is doing so to protect fans from balls that could go into the stands at a high rate of speed and cause injury.

The Reds are doing so to protect fans from balls that could go into the stands at a high rate of speed and cause injury. MLB has placed increasing pressure on teams to expand its protective netting in recent years, though it is yet to make it a requirement for all 30 teams.

"I think you're going to see continued evolution by the clubs—extended netting that's designed to fit with each individual stadium," MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in July, per Christian Red of the New York Daily News. "We continually are talking to the individual clubs about what they should be doing in each of their stadiums. I think the reluctance to do it on a league-wide basis only relates to the difficulty of having a single rule that fits 30 stadiums that obviously are not designed the same way."

MLB recommends teams install 70 feet of netting, from behind home plate to the beginning of both dugouts. The issue returned to the forefront earlier this week when a young girl was hospitalized after being hit in the face by a line drive by New York Yankees third baseman Todd Frazier.

Yankees infielder Chase Headley was among the players who called for increased netting at Yankee Stadium.

"It's something [the players] been complaining about for years, not having that covered," Headley told reporters. "It's scary. We're praying for the kid and hope for the best, but there's nothing you can do when it's coming at you that fast. I don't think the average person understands how fast those things are coming. To have to see that, for me, it's sickening."

Manfred said MLB will "redouble" its efforts to persuade teams to install netting after the incident in New York.

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Mike Moustakas Breaks Kansas City Royals Single-Season Home Run Record

Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas collected his 37th home run of the season in the sixth inning of Wednesday's contest off of Toronto Blue Jays reliever Carlos Ramirez. The round-tripper pushed him past Steve Balboni for the most single-season homers in franchise history, per Sportsnet Stats.

Prior to 2017, Moustakas hadn't hit more than 22 home runs in a season. With a small power surge, he has an opportunity to reach 40 homers over the final 11 contests of the campaign.

The Royals appeared to be in wild-card contention after a hot streak in the middle of the season, but they have since slid back below the .500 mark (74-77) and sit 3.5 games back of the Minnesota Twins with numerous teams ahead of them in the conversation.

Moustakas' best campaign as a professional earned him his second All-Star nomination, and he could top 90 RBI in a season for the first time in his career with a strong finish.

The 29-year-old third baseman and his teammates return to the diamond Thursday evening for the finale of a three-game set against the Blue Jays before they embark on a trip to the Windy City to face the Chicago White Sox as part of the team's 11-game road trip.

With hitter-friendly environments like the Rogers Centre, Guaranteed Rate Field and a one-game trip to Yankees Stadium on deck, Moustakas has the elements in front of him to become the first player in Royals history to reach the 40-homer milestone.

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Chris Sale Nears Boston Red Sox’s Single-Season 10-Strikeout Game Record

Boston Red Sox ace hurler Chris Sale tossed eight shutout innings Tuesday, collecting 13 strikeouts while allowing just four hits en route to the club's 9-0 blowout victory over the Baltimore Orioles.

Tuesday was the first time since Aug. 29 that Sale had recorded double-digit strikeouts but also the 18th different occasion he's done so during the 2017 season. Should he post another such outing before the season closes, he would tie Pedro Martinez's 19 during the 1999 season for the most in team history, per ESPN Stats & Info.

Sale has dominated hitters this season, mowing down a MLB-high 300 batters via the strikeout. Martinez was also the last American League pitcher to reach the plateau, doing so during the 199 season, per Baseball Reference.

Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw was the last to top 300 yards, finishing with 301 strikeouts during the 2015 season. The Big Unit (Randy Johnson) recorded at least 329 strikeouts in five consecutive seasons between 1998-2002, joining Nolan Ryan as the only two players to be on the list six times.

After a down month of August (4.38 ERA over six starts), Sale has rebounded with a 2.63 ERA in September to net a 2-1 record and boost his overall season mark to 17-7.

Sale should start two more contests for the Red Sox the rest of the way, giving him an opportunity to both catch and pass Pedro Martinez for Boston's all-time record. His next scheduled start comes Tuesday against the Toronto Blue Jays, who he struck out 11 times in his last start against the team.

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