Thursday, April 18, 2013

While You Were Sleeping Last Night, Baseball History Almost Happened

Those who went to bed last night at a reasonable hour, in addition to those that do not live in the Seattle or Detroit broadcast markets and who do not have an subscription, missed out on one of the most impressive pitching duals in modern memory. Felix Hernandez and Max Scherzer squared off in a game that lasted 4.5 hours, 14 innings and saw 415 pitches thrown in total by both sides.

What is most impressive about this game was not its length, however, but the quality of the pitching therein. This game came very close to breaking the major league strikeout record of 43 punchouts in a single game, a record established on July 9, 1971 in a game between the Angels and Athletics that lasted 20 innings. Only one other major league game has ever seen 40 strikeouts in it, and that was a 15 inning game between the Giants and Padres back on June 19, 2011.

By the end of the 13th inning, the Tigers and Mariners had collectively racked up 40 punch outs between them. No strikeouts were to be had in the 14th inning, as the Tigers promptly scored a run on a string of ball-in-play outs, while the Mariners went down quietly in the bottom half of the inning.

Of the game’s 40 strikeouts, 24 of those came from the starting pitchers, who posted the following impressive lines: 

As you can see, both starters of record pitched brilliantly; neither earned the win. I am pretty certain that the broadcasters mentioned that the most combined strikeouts by two starting pitchers in an outing was 27, dating back to a game that Randy Johnson started. I missed the date of that game, but if anyone knows it, please post it in the comments.
Although both pitchers had stellar outings, you have to tip your cap to Felix Hernandez. While Scherzer did what an excellent pitcher is expected to do, shutting down the Mariners’ paltry offense, Felix did what you want your ace to do – he shut down one of the most potent offenses in baseball. The Tigers’ team wOBA is .334 (sixth best in baseball), and it features a truly fearsome top of the batting order consisting of back-to-back MVP-caliber threats Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder bookended by Austin Jackson, Torii Hunter, Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta. The Mariners limited Cabrera and Fielder to a combined 1-for-12 night with a combined 7 strikeouts, critical given the scattered opportunities to drive in runs those two had throughout the game. Prince Fielder struck out 5 times in his 6 plate appearances last night. 

Keeping along the theme of strikeouts, here is another interesting note about last nights game. Every starting lineup hitter had at least one strikeout on the night with one exception – Victor Martinez, who carried Detroit’s offense on his back last night. Martinez almost hit two home runs in the game, both resulting in at-the-wall flyouts. Martinez also scored the Tigers’ first run after reaching on a hard hit infield ball that was ruled an error. Martinez later reached in the 14th inning, at which point he was pinch run for by Don Kelly, who subsequently scored the go-ahead run for the Tigers. 

Last night was a great game to watch, and it was an absolute nail biter to bet on. I doubt we will see another 40 strikeout game any time soon, yet this game will go likely go down in obscurity in the annals of baseball history (that is, until Chris Jaffe writes about its dayversary).

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