Max Scherzer and Felix Hernandez are both fine pitchers who strike hitters out in gobs. But they had never before been part of something like last night's Tigers-Mariners game. Nor had any other Tiger or Mariner.
Detroit and Seattle played a four-hour, 27-minute, 14-inning affair—depending on one's disposition, it was a "pitchers' duel," or an "awe-inspiring display of offensive futility"—that featured 40 total strikeouts. Yes, really. Detroit's pitchers struck out 19 Mariners; Seattle struck out 21 Tigers. Each starter pitched eight innings and struck out 12. Prince Fielder (seen above after one strikeout) went 0 for six with five strikeouts; Franklin Gutierrez went two for six with four strikeouts. Every Mariners hitter—save Robert Andino, who had but two plate appearances—struck out at least once.
(The game, for the record, could have gone longer, if not for the zeal of Mariners third-base coach Jeff Datz, who—judging from this highlight—endeavored to kill a. Brayan Pena, b. Justin Smoak, and c. this 14-inning baseball game.)
This was only the third game in major league history with at least 40 total strikeouts, but it was shorter than either of the two that preceded it. The Giants and Padres played a game in 2001—Russ Ortiz vs. Adam Eaton—in which each team struck out 20, but that one lasted into the 15th. (And that was key, because four of the 40 strikeouts came in the 15th inning.) Funny thing about that game? Barry Bonds came to the plate seven times and didn't strike out once. Hell, he had only two two-strike counts.
The other 40-strikeout game had 43 of 'em. The Angels and A's played for 20 innings in 1971, and Oakland's pitchers struck out 26 Angels. Vida Blue, who started, struck out 17 in 11 innings; Rollie Fingers, who relieved Blue, struck out seven in seven. The Angels' No. 3 and No. 4 hitters, Tony Conigliaro and Billy Cowan, combined to go zero for 16 with 11 strikeouts. Conigliaro, who was thrown out for arguing a strikeout in the 19th inning, retired the next day.
The Angels-A's box score, though, makes the baseball fan long for simpler times. The 20-inning game took only 38 minutes more than last night's 14-inning showdown. Best of all, the teams used just seven pitchers combined. Three Angels pitched, and four A's did. The Tigers alone used eight pitchers Wednesday night, while the Mariners used six. The teams play again in just over four hours, with Justin Verlander facing Hisashi Iwakuma. We would expect strikeouts.