Friday, June 15, 2012

Flashback Fridays

On the heels of Matt Cain's perfect game against the Houston Astros, today we look back at another great game thrown against Houston. The date was May 6th, 1998. My Astros were taking on the Chicago Cubs and some rookie I'd never heard of. Kerry Wood? Wood entered the game with a record of 2-2 and an ERA of 5.89. Nothing special, so I didn't pay the game much mind thinking it likely that my guys (who would win 102 games in 1998), would make short work of the Cubbies behind the arm of our opening day starter, Shane Reynolds. I mean, this was one of the best Astro teams we ever had: Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Moises Alou, Derek Bell... In the end, if not for Kevin Brown and the San Diego Padres, Houston likely would've been headed on their first ever trip to the World Series, but that's another story.
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On this May day, Wood faced a lineup of Craig Biggio, Derek Bell, Jeff Bagwell, Jack Howell, Moises Alou, Dave Clark, Ricky Gutierrez, Brad Ausmus and Shane Reynolds. Little did the 15,758 fans in attendance know they were about to witness something historic. Wood struck out the first 5 Astros he faced setting the tone in what would be a long day for Houston hitters. Only a Ricky Gutierrez infield single to lead off the third, and a hit batsman (Craig Biggio) with two outs in the sixth kept Wood from perfection. Wood would strike out the side in the 7th and 8th and finished the game off by fanning Derek Bell in the 9th to tie the major league record of 20 strikeouts in a single game and capping off a 1-hit shutout and a 2-0 win. Wood's final line: 9 innings, 1 hit, 0 runs, 0 walks, 20 strikeouts. Wood allowed only 2 balls to get hit out of the infield (both flyouts) and threw 84 of his 122 pitches for strikes in the win, and struck out every Astro to set foot in the batter's box. It is thought to be one of the greatest games EVER pitched. The Astros 3, 4 and 5 hitters (Bagwell, Howell and Alou) combined to go 0 for 9 with 9 strikeouts. Not a bad day for a rookie.

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While much of Wood's career would be marred by injuries, few will ever forget just how good he was before his arm started acting up. Wood retired on May 18th of this year after fittingly striking out the only batter he faced (Dayán Viciedo of the Chicago White Sox).

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