Striking out the side on nine pitches. It's a neat thing, and over the history of the game, has been recorded much less often than a no-hitter: only 77 times, compared to almost three hundred no-hitters. However, this is in part because of an absence of sufficient pitch-by-pitch records in the early days, and it's something which has also spiked in recent years. Almost half the total - 38 - of all immaculate innings have taken place since 1997. The Diamondbacks have certainly had their share, having performed the feat three times - that's more often than far-longer established franchises, such as the Red Sox, White Sox or Cardinals. We've also never been the victims of one.
Here are the three occasions on which a Diamondbacks pitcher has been immaculate.
Randy Johnson, August 23, 2001 vs. Pirates
The Big Unit did it? This is my unsurprised face. In the sixth inning of a scoreless game, Randy started off by getting opposing pitcher Tony McKnight to stare at three straight pitches. Leadoff man Gary Matthews did manage to foul off the first pitch he saw, but then took the next pair to become the second victim. And shortstop Jack Wilson looked at strike one, then swung and missed at two and three. Final tally: nine pitches, six called strikes, two swinging, one foul. But it didn't actually get him the win, as the Pirates scored four runs the next time up to bat off Johnson, and went on to win 5-1 - future Mark Grace lookalike, Mike Fetters, got the save for them.
Byung-Hyun Kim, May 11, 2002 vs. Phillies
We forget what a K-rate Kim in his prime could post: his 2000 figure of 14.14 per nine IP remains the single-season mark for any D-backs pitcher with 30+ innings, and among those with 300 career innings for us, Johnson is the only man with a better strikeout pace. This eighth inning was the first of a three-frame stint, which saw him go on to blow a save in the ninth, but pick up the win in the tenth. Quite an impressive roster of victims too: Scott Rolen, Mike Lieberthal, and Pat Burrell. They did a little better than Johnson's victims, managing to make contact on two of the nine pitches thrown by Kim; the others were four called strikes and three swinging strikes.
Wade Miley, October 1, 2012 vs. Rockies
What's impressive here is that Miley became only the third rookie in baseball history with an immaculate inning, following in the footsteps of Nolan Ryan in 1968 and the wonderfully-named Sloppy Thurston, who became the first and only White Sox pitcher to do it, back in 1923. He was also the only one of the Arizona pitchers to generate more swinging strikes (four) than called ones (three), with remaining two pitches being foul. as he took down Jonathan Herrera, Drew Pomeranz and Josh Rutledge. While we were 1-0 up at the time in the third, it went for nothing, as Colorado eventually won 7-5 in 13 innings. But we'll always have this video....
It hasn't happened since, though as we'll see Jeremy Hellickson, of all people, came within one pitch of managing it. I did some digging around to find the closest any Diamondback pitcher came, and found 128 cases of a three-pitch strikeout with the bases empty in 2015. The following had two such, thrown by the same pitcher in the same inning i.e. two-thirds of an immaculate innings, without any base-runners allowed in the frame.
- May 3. 11th inning vs. LAD, Enrique Burgos - seven-pitch groundout followed by a pair of three-pitch strikeouts.
- June 27. 2nd vs. Padres, Jeremy Hellickson - three-pitch strikeout, four-pitch strikeout, three-pitch strikeout, with a first-pitch ball to Alexi Amarista the only flaw.
- July 19. 6th vs. Giants, Randall Delgado - three-pitch strikeout, five-pitch lineout, three-pitch strikeout
- July 31. 7th vs. Astros, Addison Reed - three-pitch strikeout, two-pitch popout, three-pitch strikeout
- August 2, 8th vs. Astros, Oliver Perez - three-pitch strikeout, five-pitch popout, three-pitch strikeout