On May 11, 2016 Max Scherzer tied an MLB record by fanning twenty batters in nine innings – joining Roger Clemens, Kerry Wood and Randy Johnson as the only pitchers to accomplish that feat. The topic has been “trending “ all over the traditional and social media. BBRT would like to add what is, hopefully, a little unique perspective to that “conversation” – followed by a brief look at each 20-strikeout outing, as well as a couple of hurlers who have done that accomplishment at least one better. A few factoids.
- Roger Clemens is the only pitcher to reach 20 strikeouts in nine-innings twice – and he did it ten seasons apart.
- Despite the ten-year span between Roger Clemens’ nine-inning 20-whiff performances, he is neither the oldest, nor the youngest, pitcher to accomplish the feat. The youngest is the Cubs’ Kerry Wood (who did it in his rookie season at age 20). The oldest is the Diamondbacks’ Randy Johnson, who fanned 20 in nine-innings at age 37.
- The most pitches in a 20-strikeout performance is 151 (by Clemens in 1996), the fewest is 119 by Scherzer.
- Scherzer is the first pitcher to fan 20 hitters in nine innings without fanning every member of the opposing starting lineup at least once.
- Randy Johnson is the only pitcher to notch 20 strikeouts in an MLB game – and not throw a complete game.
- No pitcher to notch twenty strikeouts in nine-innings has ever given up a walk in the contest. That’s right: 45 innings, 100 strikeouts, zero walks.
- Scherzer gave up the most hits (6), most runs (2) and most home runs (2) ever in a nine-inning, 20-strikeout performance.
Here’s a bit of detail on MLB’s nine-inning, twenty-strikeout performances.
April 29, 1986 – Roger Clemens, Red Sox, topped the Mariners 3-1 in Boston. Clemens gave up three, hits, zero walks, while fanning twenty. The only run for Seattle scored on a home run by Mariners’ DH Gorman Thomas in the seventh inning. Clemens threw 138 pitches, 97 for strikes. He struck out all nine members of the Mariners’ starting lineup at least once; LF Phil Bradley four times. Clemens was 23-years-old at the time. He went on to win 24 games (leading the AL), the AL Cy Young Award and the AL MVP. Clemens finished the season second in the AL in strikeouts with 238 in 254 innings.
September 18, 1996, Roger Clemens, Red Sox, topped the Tigers 4-0 in Detroit. He gave up five hits, zero walks, no runs. Clemens struck out all the members of the Tigers’ starting lineup at least once; SS Travis Fryman four times. Clemens threw 151 pitches, 101 strikes. That season, Clemens finished 10-13, 3.63, but led the AL in strikeouts with 257 in 242 2/3 innings. Clemens was 34-years-old.
May 6, 1998, Kerry Wood, Cubs, beat the Astros 2-0 in Chicago. Wood gave up just one hit, zero walks. He threw 122 pitches, 84 strikes. Wood struck out every member of the starting lineup at least once; 1B Jeff Bagwell, 3B Jake Howell and CF Moises Alou three times each. Wood was a 20-year-old rookie at the time. He went on to a 13-6 season, with 233 strikeouts in 166 2/3 innings. Wood was the 1998 NL Rookie of the Year.
May 6, 2001. Randy Johnson, Diamondbacks, whiffed 20 in nine innings as the D-backs topped the Reds 4-3 in eleven innings (in Arizona). Johnson was relieved in the 10th (by Byung-Hyun-Kim) with the score tied 1-1. Johnson gave up three hits, one run, zero walks. The lone run off Johnson scored in the fifth inning on a single by 3B Aaron Boone, a stolen base and a single by CF Ruben Rivera. Johnson threw 124 pitches, 92 for strikes, in his nine innings. Johnson struck out every member of the starting lineup at least once; SS Barry Larkin and RF Alex Ochoa three times each. He went on to a 21-6 season, leading the league with 372 strikeouts in 249 2/3 innings and won the NL Cy Young Award. He was 37-years-old at the time.
May 11, 2016, Max Scherzer of the Nationals topped the Tigers 3-2 in Washington. He gave up six hits and two runs, with zero walks. Both runs scored on home runs – by SS Jose Iglesias in the third inning and RF J.D. Martinez in the ninth. Scherzer struck out everyone in the Detroit starting line up at least once EXCEPT DH Victor Martinez, who collected three hits (all singles) in four at bats. Scherzer threw 119 pitches, 96 strikes. Scherzer is 31-years-old.
DOING ONE OR MORE BETTER.
Tom Cheney struck out a record 21 hitters in a single (extra inning) major league game – a 16-inning contest between the Washington Senators and Baltimore Orioles (in Baltimore) on September 12, 1962. For the full story, click here.
The record for strikeouts in a professional game at any level stands at 27 – Ron Necciai (netch-eye). For that story, click here.
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