In 1986, Astros pitcher Mike Scott put together one of those seasons that shine just a little more vividly and with just a little more intensity than most others. That year, Scott led the National League in nine categories, including ERA (2.22), innings (275 1/3), hits per nine (5.95) and K's per nine (10.0).
Before his season, the only pitchers to qualify for the ERA title and finish with a K rate at or above 10 and a hit rate below six had been Sam McDowell, Sandy Koufax and Nolan Ryan. It was just a remarkably dominant, enthralling season.
Over their past 29 games (since the start of the second half of the 2012 season), the Tampa Bay Rays have been impersonating Mike Scott almost perfectly. In 271 2/3 innings, the team ERA is 2.29, the team hit rate stands at 6.33 per nine innings, and the team strikeout rate is at 9.1. Interestingly enough, the Rays' awe-inspiring run of pitching has worked out to about the same winning percentage as the one experienced by Scott: in 1986, the right-hander was 18-10, while the 2012 Rays are 18-11.
The Rays won their seventh consecutive game, beating the Mariners, 4-1, on Monday. Tampa Bay's 2.29 team ERA in the second half of the season is tops in the Majors, with the Braves owning the second-best mark at 3.14. The Rays own the best record among the American League's non-division-leading teams.
Tampa Bay closer Fernando Rodney pitched a scoreless ninth inning and picked up his 37th save while lowering his ERA to 0.82. Entering 2012, Rodney's ERA over the past five seasons was 4.42, in 266 2/2 innings.
In New York's 8-2 win over the Rangers on Monday, Nick Swisher reached 200 home runs for his career, hitting a third-inning grand slam. Swisher's slam, which made him the 25th switch-hitter in history to hit at least 200 homers, gave the Yankees nine slams this season. The team record is 10, set in 1987 and matched in 2010 and '11.
In his first game with the Yankees, Derek Lowe threw the final four innings, allowing two hits and no runs, and picked up his first save since Aug. 12, 2001. The four-inning save was the third of Lowe's career (he had two in 1999) and the first for a Yankees pitcher since Alfredo Aceves had one on July 5, 2009.
Eric Stults (7 2/3 innings, five hits, one run) and two relievers combined on a five-hitter, while Chase Headley hit his 19th home run and drove in two runs, as the Padres defeated the Braves, 4-1, on Monday.
Dunn went 3-for-5 (raising his average to .208) with two long balls to take over the AL lead in home runs on Monday.
Dunn, whose 33 homers are one more than Josh Hamilton's total, has 84 hits on the season. That percentage of hits going for home runs (39.29) is the highest in the Majors this season, and it would be the fifth highest in history for a player qualifying for the batting title. In 2001, Barry Bonds' percentage was at 46.79, and in 1998, Mark McGwire's percentage stood at 46.05. McGwire also owns the third- and fourth-highest percentages, with 44.83 in 1999 and 39.39 in '96.
Dunn's solo home run in the ninth gave him 1,000 career RBIs, making him the 273rd player to reach the milestone. He is the 89th player to reach 1,000 RBIs through the season in which he is 32 years old.
Jansen struck out one in a perfect ninth inning to close out a Dodgers 5-4 win over the Pirates on Monday. Jansen debuted in 2010, and since them, he has thrown 134 1/3 innings and struck out 218. His career strikeout rate of 14.61 per nine innings is the third highest in history for a pitcher with at least 100 innings through his first three seasons. Craig Kimbrel (15.48) and Aroldis Chapman (14.66) -- both of whom also debuted in 2010 -- own the two higher rates.
In his first start since throwing a five-hit shutout, Hamels twirled a seven-hit shutout and beat the Marlins, 4-0. Hamels is the second pitcher this season to toss back-to-back shutouts, following Johan Santana on May 26 and June 1. The last pitcher to have three straight in a season was Hamels' teammate Cliff Lee, who allowed a total of 10 hits in his three straight from June 16-28 in 2011.
Chicago defeated Houston, 7-1, with Jeff Samardzija tying a career high with 11 strikeouts and Anthony Rizzo tying a career high with four hits. Rizzo (23 years and five days) is the youngest Cubs first baseman to have a pair of four-hit games in a season since Phil Cavarretta in 1935.
In Toronto's victory over the White Sox on Monday, Delabar struck out four batters in the 10th inning.
Delabar is the 63rd pitcher in history (and fourth this season) to record four K's in an inning. In 2012, he joins Bud Norris (April 24), Ryan Cook (April 27) and Francisco Liriano (June 5). Delabar is the first Blue Jays pitcher to do it.
Delabar became the only one of the 63 to accomplish the feat in the 10th inning or later.
Jeff Francis picked up his fourth win of the season as Colorado collected 15 hits and defeated the Brewers, 9-6, on Monday. Francis, who allowed three runs in 5 1/3 innings, has the second-most wins for a starter on the team. Christian Friedrich leads with five, and collectively, Colorado has 20 wins from its starters this season.
Taking out the team totals from the 1981 strike-shortened season, the '62 Mets own the fewest starters' wins since 1918, with 23. After the Mets (or above the Mets), the 1919 Athletics and '28 Phillies are tied for the second-fewest starters' wins, with 28.
Trout singled, walked twice and stole his 37th base of the season on Monday. Trout, whose 37 steals are the most for a player under 21 years old since Claudell Washington swiped 40 in 1975, has been successful on his last 28 attempts.
The Nats tied a season high with 21 hits, set a season high with 14 runs and Gio Gonzalez became the fifth pitcher this season to win 15 games, as Washington defeated San Francisco, 14-2, on Monday.
Gonzalez's 15 victories through 116 team games give him the second-highest total in Expos/Nationals history. In 1994, Ken Hill had 16 wins.
The Nationals' sixth, seventh and eighth hitters -- Danny Espinosa, Roger Bernadina and Kurt Suzuki -- went a combined 11-for-18 with 10 RBIs.
The 21 hits set a new record for the most by a team at AT&T Park. The previous high of 20 had been set by the Giants against the Marlins on Aug. 14, 2001, and then matched by the Marlins against the Giants on July 23, 2005.
Roger Schlueter is senior researcher for MLB Productions. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.