Thursday, August 8, 2013

“The Big Unit” Notches A 19 strikeout Game

On Aug. 8, 1997 Seattle Mariners ace pitcher Randy Johnson strikes out 19 Chicago White Sox.

Johnson’s feat of 19 strikeouts in a single game, was equal to five other players accomplishments including in 1884 when two players did it; Providence Grays Charlie Sweeney and Chicago Browns Hugh Daily. In 1969 St. Louis Cardinals Steve Carlton reached 19 in a single game and in 1970 New York Mets Tom Seaver reached the same feat. Nolan Ryan reached 19 strikeouts four times with the California Angels between 1972 and 1977 and in 1991 New York Mets David Cone reached the feat.

However the 19 strikeout game that Johnson tied would not be the most strikeouts in a single game as in 1986 Boston Red Sox pitcher Roger Clemens would strike out 20 batters. Clemens would also do it again in 1996, becoming the only player to strike out 20 batters in a single game and twice, with the same team, the Boston Red Sox.

A year after Johnson’s 19-strikeout game, in 1998, the Chicago Cubs Kerry Wood tied Clemens record with 20 strikeouts of the Houston Astros.

Clemens and Woods hold the MLB record of strikeouts in a nine-inning game, but in September of 1962 Washington Senators starter Tom Cheney struck out 21 batters, but the game went 16 innings, in which Cheney took the mound for every one.

In 2001 Johnson would match Clemens and Woods feat of 20 strikeouts in a single game against the Cincinnati Reds.

With the current set up of starting pitchers only going six or seven innings and having a pitch count limit them further on top of being relieved by pitchers in the bull pen it is hard to imagine a pitcher being able to get 20 strike outs in a game to tie the record.

The 19 strikeout game was one of many career highlights for Johnson, as he was a 10-time All-Star, a five-time Cy Young winner, including four consecutive from 1999-2002.

In 2001 he led the Arizona Diamondbacks to a World Series Championship and was named the World Series MVP.

Nicknamed “The Big Unit” Johnson would accumulate a record of 303 wins and 166 losses in his 22 year career that featured playing time with the Montreal Expos, Seattle Mariners, Houston Astros, Arizona Diamondbacks, New York Yankees and the San Francisco Giants.

Johnson’s highest single season total for wins came in 2002 when he won 24 games. He won over 20 games three times in career.

Johnson would finish his career with 4,875 strikeouts and 3.29 ERA. The strikeouts were Johnson’s calling card. He is one of only three pitchers to strike out 20 batters in a game, which he did so on May 8, 2001 against the Cincinnati Reds.

He led the league in strikeouts nine times from 1992-1995, 1999-2002 and 2004. His highest single season total came in 2001 when he struck out 372 batters.

He also led the league in ERA four times, 1995, 1999, 2001 and 2002 with his lowest single season ERA coming in 2002 with a 2.32 mark.

The 6’11 pitcher from Livermore, Calif. was dominate over his career, tallying the most strikeouts for a left handed pitcher of all-time and the second most strikeouts ever just behind Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan who had 5,714 in his career.

Johnson defeated every single major-league team in his career at least once and pitched an immaculate inning once, using nine pitches to strike out three batters to end an inning. At the time of the feat Johnson was only pitcher number 30 to do so in MLB history.

Johnson does hold several records including being the oldest pitcher to pitch a perfect game, and most strikeouts for a lefty. He also holds the record for most strikeouts in a single relief appearance with 16 against the San Diego Padres on July 18, 2001.

Johnson was named the Sports Illustrated MLB All-Decade Team in 2009, and was named to the Seattle Mariners Hall of Fame following his retirement in 2009.