Slowey beat the Royals on Wednesday, allowing just one run over seven innings en route to his 12th win.
His calling card this season has been superb control. In last year's 66-inning rookie campaign, Slowey walked just 1.5 batters per nine innings, an elite mark. This year, he's been even better, walking just 1.2 per nine. Add in a strikeout rate that's close to seven batters per nine innings, and Slowey is displaying some of the best command in the major leagues.
Slowey was roughed up a bit in July, allowing 15 earned runs in four starts that month (although one of the starts was a six-hit shutout of a White Sox team that had tagged him for a season-worst eight runs in June.). He's mostly thrived apart from that stretch, though. In August, Slowey pitched 37 innings, recording 37 strikeouts and only two walks! His June K/BB ratio was nearly as impressive at 30 strikeouts against three walks.
The only issue with Slowey's skill profile is his home run rate. He's a flyballer who pitches to contact -- in the mold of Woody Williams or Jarrod Washburn -- so at times the home runs give him trouble. Slowey's control is so good, however, that the home runs rarely come with men on base and therefore don't hurt him as much.
The skills Slowey has displayed thus far in his young career are fully supported by his minor league track record. In four minor league seasons, Slowey walked just 1.27 batters per nine innings, and posted a strikeout rate of 8.85 batters per nine.
What's more, Slowey's groundball rate has crept up from 29 percent last year to 36 percent this season. With already-elite command at age 24, marked improvement in control, strikeout rate and groundball rate from his first to his second season, plus a minor league record that supports his skills, Kevin Slowey should be a household name in mixed leagues next season.
Armando Galarraga was roughed up by Oakland for his second consecutive poor outing. Galarraga lasted just four innings, allowing five earned runs on eight hits and a walk. He was bombed for six earned runs in his last outing at Minnesota, where he walked a career-high six batters. Tigers manager Jim Leyland suggested after the game that Galarraga was starting to "burn out," or wearing down under the strain of the long season. The 26-year-old's usefulness in mixed leagues might be at an end. ... The Angels became the first team to clinch a playoff spot as they topped Andy Pettitte and the Yankees 4-2. Mark Teixeira and Chone Figgins both missed the contest with nagging injuries. Francisco Rodriguez finished for his 56th save, leaving him one shy of Bobby Thigpen's major league record. ... Raul Ibanez and Ichiro Suzuki turned in four-hit performances as Seattle outslugged the Rangers 8-7. The Mariners used a starter-by-committee approach, with Cesar Jimenez tossing three scoreless innings to begin the game. Adrian Beltre will be out of action for a few days; he's seeing a hand specialist about his injured thumb. Rangers designated hitter Milton Bradley sat out as well after leaving Tuesday's game with back pain. ... Carlos Pena's three-run home run gave the Rays a 4-1 lead over the Red Sox in the top of the 14th inning, and Jason Hammel finished the 4-2 win by retiring three straight batters after Tampa closer Troy Percival exited the game due to back tightness with the bases loaded and nobody out. Outstanding performances by Josh Beckett and Andy Sonnanstine had sent the game to extra innings tied at 1-1. Percival is not expected to miss any additional time. ... Kelly Shoppach homered twice Wednesday, giving the Indians catcher seven longballs in his past 17 games. Left-hander Scott Lewis was the star of the show, though, allowing just three hits over eight scoreless innings to win his major league debut. ... The Blue Jays' winning streak ended at 10 games as Chicago left-hander Mark Buehrle bested Roy Halladay in a 6-5 White Sox win. Halladay struck out eight in six innings, but allowed five runs. Buehrle pitched 7 1/3 innings of one-run ball, and the Sox held on despite closer Bobby Jenks serving up three ninth-inning runs. ... CC Sabathia allowed three runs in eight innings against the Reds and almost lost his first game as a National Leaguer, but Mike Cameron bailed him out with a game-winning hit in the eighth inning. Closer Salomon Torres finished the 4-3 win for his 27th save. Slumping Milwaukee right fielder Corey Hart, who is just 7-for-36 in September, received a day of rest Wednesday. ... The struggling Diamondbacks rallied to take a ninth-inning lead off Giants closer Brian Wilson, but Brandon Lyon couldn't finish off the save, allowing a walkoff triple to Eugenio Velez. ... Ryan Howard hit his major-league leading 42nd home run, but it wasn't enough to overcome a strong outing by Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco. Brett Myers took the loss, striking out nine in 7 1/3 innings of four-run ball. ... Ian Stewart hit his 10th home run in just 217 at-bats Wednesday off the Braves' Blaine Boyer. Stewart has been slumping in September (4-for-23) after crushing the ball throughout July and August. The Rockies have probably seen enough from the 23-year-old to make Garrett Atkins available this offseason. Kelly Johnson homered twice for the Braves. The Atlanta second baseman has been on fire in September (18-for-37) after three increasingly dreadful months. ... The Mets won 13-10, but Nationals shortstop Cristian Guzman blasted two home runs, giving him three in two games. Guzman has amazingly recorded eleven multi-hit games in his last 13 starts. He hit .338 in August, and is following that up with an obscene .419 BA/.471 OBP/.839 SLG line so far in September. ... Houston shortstop Miguel Tejada hit a sixth-inning grand slam to break open a tie game and back starter Brian Moehler and the red-hot Astros to a win over the Pirates. Pittsburgh left-hander Tom Gorzelanny departed in the third inning with a finger injury. ... Cubs left-hander Ted Lilly tossed eight innings of one-run ball versus the Cardinals, dropping St. Louis behind Houston in the National League wild card race. ... Manny Ramirez homered twice to lead Los Angeles over the Padres. Ramirez is batting a robust .396 since joining the Dodgers at the trade deadline.
Chipper Jones, Braves
His team may be long out of the race, but Chipper is back to his old tricks from earlier in the season. He went 3-for-4 with his first homer of the month. He has three straight multi-hit games and is hitting a robust .423 in September.
Jason Bay, Red Sox
While Bay has been sharp for most of his tenure with the Red Sox so far, Wednesday was a night to forget as he went 0-for-7 with three strikeouts and seven runners left on base in the 14-inning marathon with the Rays.
Red Sox outfielder J.D. Drew, out since Aug. 18 with a strained back, will return this weekend. ... The rival Rays could also get a big piece of their offense back this weekend. Third baseman Evan Longoria could return in a few days from a broken wrist that's now cost him more than a month. ... Royals third baseman Alex Gordon is expected to return from a torn hip flexor Saturday. ... Giants outfielder Fred Lewis will have season-ending foot surgery Friday. ... Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal faced closer Takashi Saito in a simulated game Wednesday. The club hopes to have both players available for the playoffs.
"Adding [Mark] Teixeira was obviously a positive change, but one positive change doesn't guarantee anything at all. The Angels have won the West with him, and they would have won the West without him. They wouldn't be as well set up for the postseason without him, though. So for that reason alone he was worth getting. The Angels are pretty good. In the playoffs, they'll be just as good as anybody else except the Red Sox. But even with Teixeira in the lineup for the last seven weeks, the Angels are 10th in the league in slugging percentage and 11th in on-base percentage. Even with Teixeira in the lineup, they've got one great hitter [him] and one very good one [Vladimir Guerrero]. "
-- Rob Neyer Blog
"The Red Sox are a good team, but they are not a great team. They're a great team at Fenway. They are very average when you get them out of that ballpark and that environment. That environment intimidates a lot of people. Teams and, at times, some young umpires can get rattled."
-- Rick Sutcliffe Baseball Tonight Clubhouse
"[Kevin] Gregg and [Takashi] Saito probably are not close to 100 percent healthy, and although their teams are in different places of contention and have different bullpen strengths, I doubt either right-hander will be picking up saves. "
-- Eric Karabell Relief Efforts
• The Dodgers activated Brad Penny from the disabled list. He'll work out of the bullpen.
• Sean Gallagher returned to the A's rotation after missing three weeks with shoulder fatigue. He threw four no-hit innings in his return versus the Tigers but walked six batters.
• In a Triple-A playoff matchup of top pitching prospects, the Rays' Mitch Talbot and Yankees' Ian Kennedy each held the opposition scoreless until the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees won 1-0 in the 13th inning by scoring the game's only run off the Durham Bulls' Ben Hendrickson. Talbot tossed eight innings of three-hit ball, while Kennedy only lasted five, allowing six hits and four walks. Both right-handers will compete for rotation spots with their respective big-league clubs next year.