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Diamondbacks History: Strikeouts

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Braves v Diamondbacks X Johnson
Randy Johnson, Diamondbacks strikeout king

Unless you happen to live under a rock, you likely know that Max Scherzer, former Diamondback, struck out 20 Tigers yesterday. (Will he be the future author of a children's book entitled I Can K 20 Tigers Today? No one knows.) He was just the fifth pitcher to do so in 9 innings, and first since Randy Johnson in 2001. (Of course, MLB's crazy record rules keep RJ from getting proper acknowledgement, because the game went extra innings. He still struck out 20 in 9, though, so he should be on the official list.) Interestingly, all previous four instances of a pitcher striking out 20 happened in the fifteen year span from 1986-2001. And then, it took fifteen years for it to happen again. (Well, 15 years, 3 days, to be exact.) In honor of Scherzer's achievement, here are some notable high-strikeout games by Diamondbacks.

Diamondbacks have struck out 10 or more hitters 201 times in the history of the organization, plus four more in the postseason. To no one's surprise, Randy Johnson accomplished the feat more than anyone else; in fact, he struck out at least 10 more than every other player in Diamondbacks history combined, with 105 such games. Current Diamondbacks to accomplish this in a Diamondback uniform are Daniel Hudson, Patrick Corbin, and Rubby De La Rosa; of these players, Corbin has done so five times, Hudson twice, and De La Rosa once. De La Rosa is also the only Diamondback to do so this year, and therefore the most recent Diamondback to accomplish the feat, with his 10 strikeouts against the Cardinals on April 28th. The Diamondbacks just haven't struck out a substantial amount of batters in quite some time; the last pitcher to strike out more than 12 was Randy Johnson in 2008.

It took until September of 1998 for the Diamondbacks to have their first 10 strikeout game. Omar Daal was the first to accomplish the feat, fanning 12 Pirates in 8 innings as he got the win in a 4-3 game. It took only until the next day for it to happen again, as Andy Benes struck out 10 Pirates in a 2-1 win.

After only happening twice in 1998, the addition of Randy Johnson helped it happen 26 times in 1999. Johnson picked up 23 of those starts, Benes 2, and Daal 1. Johnson made 35 starts in 1999. That means that in 66% of his starts, he struck out at least 10. Some notable ten strikeout games from 1999:

  • In just his second start of the year, Randy Johnson becomes the first Diamondback to strike out 15, in an 8-3 win over the Braves at Turner Field.
  • From June 25-July 10, Johnson strikes out 14, 17 (a Diamondbacks record that would not even be equaled until his 20 strikeout game), 12, and 11. This run of four starts included two complete games. However, Johnson took the loss each time. The Diamondbacks scored exactly zero runs across those four starts.
  • Johnson struck out 11 as the Diamondbacks clinched their first ever division title with an 11-3 win in San Francisco. Johnson gave up three runs, all unearned, in the first inning, then cruised the rest of the way.
  • The first postseason 10 strikeout game was posted in Game 1 of the NLDS, with Johnson striking out 11 in a losing effort. Johnson also struck out 11 in Game 1 of the NLCS in 2001 and Game 2 of the World Series, while Curt Schilling holds the postseason record for the Diamondbacks with 12 strikeouts in Game 3 of the NLCS in 2001.

Randy Johnson unofficially joined the 20 strikeout club on May 8, 2001. He allowed three hits and no walks in 9 innings, but gave up one run. Since he received only one run of support, the game went into extra innings, and since the official records of MLB don't understand nuances, the fact that he actually struck out 20 in 9 innings isn't officially tied for the record, but only in a tie for second place behind Tom Cheney's 21 strikeouts in 16 innings for the record for games of any length. Nothing against Cheney, but he had only 13 strikeouts through 9 innings, and had fewer strikeouts for his entire career than Johnson did in the 2001 season alone.

On July 19, 2001, Randy Johnson became the only Diamondback (and one of only 29 in the expansion era) to strike out 10 or more in relief. His 16 strikeouts in 7 relief innings (thanks to it being a game suspended the day before due to a power outage) is the record for most strikeouts in a relief appearance. The only other player ever to strike out even 15 in relief? Walter Johnson, in 11.1 relief innings in July of 1913. Since Johnson struck out 16 in 7 innings, there's a decent chance that if he'd been making his scheduled start that day, instead of a relief appearance, he might have fanned 20 twice in the same season.

Curt Schilling's 17 strikeouts on April 7, 2002 made him the first Diamondback not named Randy Johnson to record 15 or more strikeouts in a game. I've written about this game already once this year and won't go into detail again, but it was one of the greatest outings in Diamondback history. This start remains the only 15+ strikeout game by anyone other than Johnson in Diamondbacks history.

Brandon Webb set the Diamondbacks record for strikeouts in the "pitchers other than Johnson and Schilling" category with 13 strikeouts against the Padres in April of 2007. Webb recorded 10 or more strikeouts 11 times during his career. However, the most notable of those games wasn't this 13 strikeout game. It was, unquestionably, in the first start of his career, when he struck out 10 Mets in the first game of a doubleheader. The starter for the second game? Randy Johnson, who struck out 12, making this the only time in Diamondbacks history where two 10 strikeout games were recorded on the same day.

Finally, here are the Diamondbacks pitchers to strike out 10 batters only once: Brandon McCarthy (April 27, 2014), Brian Anderson (July 28, 2002), Chase Anderson (September 23, 2015), Edwin Jackson (May 17, 2010), Micah Owings (May 20, 2008), Rubby De La Rosa (April 28, 2016), Todd Stottlemyre (June 20, 2000), and Trevor Cahill (June 14, 2013). Amazingly, the above pitchers were only 2-4 in those games, with McCarthy, Owings, Stottlemyre, and Cahill taking losses despite pitching well.

Unlike those hard-luck losses, the worse pitching performance when striking out 10 or more probably belonged to Curt Schilling, who fanned 12 on April 25, 2001 but finished with a game score of 35. Since you start the game with a game score of 50, and since you get 1 point for every strikeout, it's pretty hard to manage having that low a score with that many strikeouts. Giving up 7 runs on 13 hits will do that, though. Still, Schilling picked up the win!

Diamondbacks pitchers have struck out at least 10 Padres more than any other team, with 22 such games. The Rangers and Athletics are tied for the lead among AL teams, with three such games apiece.

Congratulations are in order for Scherzer, who came closer to 21 than any pitcher since Roger Clemens first struck out 20. Both Scherzer and Clemens had 20 with one out to get, but both times the batter grounded out. Hopefully we can see a Diamondback make a run at this record at some point in the not-so-distant future, although I haven't a clue who it could be.