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Rookie right-hander Freddy Peralta seems to make history every time he steps on the mound for the Milwaukee Brewers barely weeks into his major league career.
Fittingly enough Frank Gore Jersey , too, since he’s about to face a Cincinnati Reds pitching staff — mainly, reliever Michael Lorenzen — that is doing some pretty historic things themselves. Only with their bats and not their arms.
The 22-year-old Peralta is 3-0 with a 1.59 ERA in his first four major league starts, including two in which he has struck out 10 or more and allowed only one hit. He’s the first pitcher in baseball’s live-ball ERA to do that, and the first Brewers pitcher to have two such games in a career.
How good has Peralta been? He has permitted more than two hits in only one of the four starts. In 22 2/3 innings, he has allowed only seven hits and struck out 35.
Peralta is the first major league pitcher since at least 1908 to give up three hits or fewer and strike out at least five in each of his first four career games.
“His stuff looks electric from center field, and you can see that in the swings and takes and called strikeouts,” Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich told reporters after Peralta pitched seven shutout innings of one-hit ball to beat the Kansas City Royals 5-1 on Tuesday. “He’s been great every time he goes out there, and hopefully that continues.”
Peralta is doing it without an overpowering fastball, like so many other young pitchers are today. He’s throwing his four-seam fastball at an average velocity of 91.2 mph, or about what an average starter threw 15 years or so ago.
“He’s got a high spin rate and the ball just kind of jumps at you, even though it’s 92 mph,” Royals manager Ned Yost said.
If the last-place Reds can get to Peralta on Sunday at Great American Ball Park — and no team has yet — they would split a four-game series in which they lost the first two games.
Cincinnati bounced back from a 3-2 deficit Saturday with an eight-run seventh inning powered by a pinch-grand slam from Lorenzen off a Jacobs Barnes fastball and went on to win 12-3 for its 10th victory in 13 games.
“Michael Lorenzen was pretty special,” Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman said.
Pinch-hit grand slams are rare enough. But by a pitcher?
What’s even more remarkable is Lorenzen also homered Friday night during an 8-2 Brewers victory, and he homered in his previous at-bat before that while pinch hitting against the Chicago Cubs on June 24.
“I love playing baseball,” Lorenzen said. “Every day, I look forward to contributing in some form.”
That’s three homers in the last three at-bats for Lorenzen, who’s quickly becoming the National League’s bullpen equivalent of the Angels’ multi-dimensional Shohei Ohtani.
Lorenzen is 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA in 15 games, and he’s 4-for-6 at the plate. He’s the first pitcher with multiple pinch homers in a season since Brooks Kieschnick in 2003 — and he has done it in only a week.
“The guy’s swinging the bat really well, that’s for sure,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “We treat him as a position player. Obviously, we’ve got to make some adjustments … he’s swinging it well.”
Then there’s this: No Reds pitcher had hit a grand slam in 59 years, or since Bob Purkey in 1959, until starter Anthony DeScalfani did it June 23 against the Cubs. Now, Reds pitchers have hit grand slams twice in eight days.
Lorenzen’s homer was more than enough for the Reds to overcome Eric Thames‘ 14th home run against them in the two seasons and his fourth this season — the first three of which were game-winners.
Only two of the Reds’ 15 hits Saturday were for extra bases — Lorenzen’s homer and a Scooter Gennett double — but they were 8-for-16 with runners in scoring position.
Peralta will go up against veteran right-hander Matt Harvey (3-5), who has recently given the Reds a glimpse of his former dominating self with the New York Mets. He has won each of his last two starts, giving up three runs in 12 2/3 innings, after going 0-3 in his previous four starts.
Clayton Kershaw is set to make a surprise return from the disabled list Saturday night, starting for the Los Angeles Dodgers in a marquee matchup against New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom.
Kershaw has been sidelined since June 1 with a lower back strain. The three-time Cy Young Award winner and 2014 NL MVP originally was scheduled to make a rehab start Saturday with Triple-A Oklahoma City at Omaha, but heavy rain in the forecast caused the Dodgers to change plans.
”It’s probably the best thing for him and for us,” manager Dave Roberts said Friday. ”We don’t know how much he’s going to pitch. I don’t want to put a limit on him. Obviously, there is a limitation with Clayton, and I’ll make that decision.”
Roberts said rookie Caleb Ferguson (0-1 Steve Young Jersey , 7.59 ERA) will be ready in reserve. The 21-year-old left-hander had been slated to make his fourth major league start Saturday.
There’s rain in the New York forecast as well, but Roberts said the Dodgers took all that into account.
”From what I understand it’s going to be early and if there’s a delay, we have ample time to get him ready. But obviously, we’re not going to do anything to put him in harm’s way,” Roberts said. ”If there is something where we are shut down, having Caleb behind him, we have that coverage. So we can kind of combat that.”
Before the switch, Roberts had said Kershaw would throw no more than four innings and 60 pitches for Oklahoma City.
The 30-year-old Kershaw is 1-4 with a 2.76 ERA in eight starts this year for the defending NL champions, who have been riddled by injuries.
He was out for nearly a month with left biceps tendinitis before returning May 31 against Philadelphia. He pitched five effective innings in a no-decision against the Phillies, and then went back on the disabled list the next day with the back injury.
The ace left-hander threw a three-inning simulated Monday at Wrigley Field in Chicago and said he felt really good. The next day, Roberts said Kershaw returning against the Mets this weekend was considered, but the team opted for a minor league start to give him ”the best chance for success and health.”
Kershaw, a seven-time All-Star, missed about five weeks last season with a similar back problem.
Roberts acknowledged that Kershaw lobbied to pitch at Citi Field this weekend, rather than in the minors.
”He did play a little weather man, so with weather.com and Clayton, we were pretty abreast with the weather in Omaha,” Roberts said with a chuckle.
”Just the way he’s responded to all the tests and to get him with us, the weather over there in Omaha, we feel comfortable and confident,” the manager added.
Rich Hill will start Sunday for the Dodgers, followed by Kenta Maeda at home Monday against the Cubs.
In other injury-related news, shortstop Chris Taylor was out of the lineup because of a tight left hamstring. Enrique Hernandez started in place of Taylor, who exited Wednesday’s game in Chicago against the Cubs. He was available off the bench – probably just to hit, Roberts said.
”We’ll give him today and we’ll see about tomorrow,” he added.
Backup infielder Chase Utley was reinstated from the 10-day disabled list after missing 19 games with a sprained left thumb. A longtime New York nemesis and villain to Mets fans, Utley was on the bench for the series opener. He was batting .216 with a home run and 14 RBIs this season.
Utley has excelled as a pinch hitter, going 7 for 17 (.412) with five RBIs and two extra-base hits.
Los Angeles opened a roster spot for him by optioning catcher-infielder Kyle Farmer to Oklahoma City on Wednesday.
Rookie right-hander Walker Buehler is scheduled to throw 20 to 30 pitches in a bullpen session Saturday, the next step in his comeback from a right rib microfracture. He could return to the rotation without a minor league rehab assignment, Roberts said.
Rated one of baseball’s top pitching prospects, Buehler is 4-1 with a 2.63 ERA in nine big league starts.