In five starts this June, Dodgers southpaw Clayton Kershaw threw 34 innings and posted a 2.65 ERA. By most accounts, this would be considered a pretty healthy month, and for all pitchers in the Majors who had at least 34 innings in June, that 2.65 ERA stood as the 17th best.
However, as things stand now, that perfectly solid month is looking like an unsightly blemish.
In April, Kershaw put together a 1.73 ERA, and he followed up with a May during which he sported a 1.97 mark. After that bloated June, Kershaw came back with a 1.34 ERA in July. And after his latest gem Thursday, Kershaw owns a 0.90 ERA in August.
For these four non-June months, the combined ERA stands at an awe-inspiring 1.53, and his combined WHIP for April, May, July and August is an equally mind-boggling 0.809.
Kershaw threw eight scoreless innings against the Marlins on Thursday, coming away a winner in a 6-0 Dodgers victory. With the effort, Kershaw lowered his ERA to 1.72 while improving his record to 13-7.
Kershaw's Major League-leading ERA stands as a number rarely seen since 1969 -- the year the mound was lowered. Since that '69 season, seven qualifying pitchers have finished a year with mark at 1.79 or below. Dwight Gooden's 1.53 ERA in 1985 was the best, and Pedro Martinez was the most recent pitcher to accomplish the feat when he posted a 1.74 ERA in 2000.
Best season ERA since 1969
Since 1920, nine pitchers have finished a season with an ERA below Kershaw's current 1.72. In addition to Gooden in '85, Greg Maddux in '94 and '95, and Nolan Ryan in '81, the others were Bob Gibson (1.12 in '68), Luis Tiant (1.60 in '68), Spud Chandler (1.64 in '43), Dean Chance (1.65 in '64) and Carl Hubbell (1.66 in '33).
Kershaw entered this season having led the Majors in ERA in 2011 and '12, and having led the National League in hits per nine innings and WHIP in each of the past two seasons. If he maintains his MLB leadership in ERA and his league leadership in the other two categories, he will join a small group of pitchers. Since 1901, only two pitchers have lead the big leagues for three consecutive seasons: Lefty Grove (1929-31) and Maddux ('93-95); four have led the NL in WHIP for three straight years: Babe Adams ('19-21), Hubbell ('31-34), Sandy Koufax ('62-65) and Maddux ('93-95); three have led the NL for three years in a row in hits per nine innings: Jeff Tesreau ('12-14), Koufax ('61-65) and Ryan ('81-83)
Kershaw combined on the Dodgers' Major League-leading 17th team shutout of the season, the club's most through 127 games since the 1985 Dodgers had 19.
Pettitte notches No. 254
Andy Pettitte worked six innings of one-run ball and picked up his ninth win (against nine losses), as the Yankees defeated the Blue Jays, 5-3.
Pettitte improved to 254-151 in his career. For all pitchers since 1893 with at least 400 decisions (there are 60 of them), his winning percentage is tied with Eddie Plank's for the ninth highest. Those with higher career marks: Grove, Christy Mathewson, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Pete Alexander, Mike Mussina, Jim Palmer and Kid Nichols.
Pettitte's 254 victories tie him with Red Faber and Jack Morris for 41st most since 1876.
McCutchen posting impressive numbers
Andrew McCutchen had a pair of hits and a pair of walks in the Pirates' 10-5 win over the Giants, moving his slash line for the season to .321/.399/.512. In the NL, he's fourth in batting average, third in on-base percentage, and tied for eighth in slugging percentage.
Since the beginning of the 2012 season, for all players (both leagues) with at least 900 plate appearances, McCutchen is fourth in batting, ranks fifth in on-base percentage, is eighth in slugging and stands sixth in OPS.
McCutchen has reached safely in 105 games -- fourth most in the NL. The top three spots are held by Reds players: Joey Votto (119), Shin-Soo Choo (110) and Jay Bruce (107).
Beltran and Carpenter pace Cardinals
In the Cardinals' 6-2 win over the Braves, Carlos Beltran doubled as part of a two-hit, one-run, one-RBI night. Beltran owns a .378/.418/.635/1.053 line in August -- a stark contrast to the .666 OPS August he posted in 2012. Entering this season, the most recent August in which Beltran finished with an OPS higher than 1.000 was in 2007, when he produced a 1.153 with the Mets.
Matt Carpenter collected his NL-leading 42nd double of the year in the Carls' win. His 42 doubles through 127 team games is the sixth most for a Redbirds player in the modern era. Ducky Medwick had 52 in 1936, and a year later, he had 50. Stan Musial appears twice in the top five, with 46 in '44 and 44 in '53. And in 2003, Albert Pujols had 43.
In that 1936 season, Medwick finished with 64 -- the most in Cardinals history and tied for the second most in baseball history.
Here and there
• In the Reds' 2-1 win over the D-backs, Bruce doubled once in three at-bats and also drew a walk. Since the start of the 2012 season, Bruce has 133 extra-base hits in 1,182 plate appearances -- an extra-base hit percentage of 11.25. Among the 86 players with 1,000 plate appearances in 2012-13 combined, Bruce's extra-base-hit percentage is the third highest, behind the 12.16 by Miguel Cabrera and the 12.42 by Chris Davis.
• Twins catcher Chris Herrmann had an RBI double in the first and another in the eighth, and Minnesota topped Detroit, 7-6. Since the start of the 2006 season, the Twins are fourth in the Majors with their catchers having 130 doubles with men on base. The majority of these are from Joe Mauer, who has 97 to trail only the Braves' Brian McCann and his 109. The teams with more: the D-backs (142), Braves (137) and Indians (135).
• For the second straight game, the Phillies entered the bottom of the ninth down by a run and emerged as victors. In Thursday's win, Michael Young produced the game-tying hit (a two-out single) and then scored the game-winning run on Domonic Brown's single. Over the past 50 seasons, these two comebacks mark the only time Philadelphia has produced game-tying and game-ending hits in the ninth inning in back-to-back games.
• Three Pirates relievers combined for five innings of three-hit, two-run ball, pushing Pittsburgh's bullpen's ERA for the season to 2.81 in 438 1/3 innings. The most recent season in which the Bucs' bullpen finished a year with an ERA this low was 1975, when the relief corps produced a 2.54 mark.
Roger Schlueter is senior researcher for MLB Productions. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.