The first time Red Sox Roger Clemens struck out 20 batters
Last night Scherzer joined Roger Clemens, Kerry Wood, and Randy Johnson in the exclusive club of pitchers who have struck out at least 20 batters in a game. But the Red Sox pitcher did it first.
Max Scherzer faced his former team the Detroit Tigers in what was supposed to be one of the best pitching matchups of the season, with Jordan Zimmerman taking the mound for the American League team. Scherzer ended up striking 20 batters with 119 pitches with 96 counting as strikes, joining the élite club of pitchers who have struck out 20 batters in a single game. However, way before Scherzer did it a Red Sox pitcher struck out 20 batters in a 9-inning game.
Drafted in 1983 by the Red Sox, Roger Clemens quickly managed his way through the majors making his début in Boston just a year later. His 1986 season was filled with accomplishments such as winning 24 games, leading the Red Sox to a World Series and earning the American League MVP and Cy Young Awards
The first highlight of his stellar season was on April 29th, when the 23-year old righty took the mound in front of 13,414 fans at Fenway Park against the Seattle Mariners. The attendance was low thanks to a Celtics playoff game, but little did everyone know that Clemens was going to be the star of the night.
The Mariners were able to put only ten balls in play, with Clemens setting the tone early in the game by striking out the first three batters. The righty was perfect through the first three innings and later joined Nolan Ryan and Ron Davis as the only AL pitchers (at the time) to retire eight batters in a row. Four swinging and four called.
By the end of the 8th inning, Clemens set a Red Sox record of 18 strikeouts in a single game. History came in the ninth, when he struck out two more to finish the game and set a new Major League record of strikeouts in a nine-inning game.
“The Ks just kept coming”, Clemens said, “but I just wanted to keep it close. I really didn’t know I had a chance at it until Al Nipper said I had a chance towards the end. Then the fans were behind me and I knew I had a shot.”
Clemens did it again ten years later against the Detroit Tigers, becoming the only pitcher in Major League history to have two 20 strikeouts games.
Recording 20 strikeouts in a single game is stranger than a no-hitter or even a perfect game, and the fact that Roger Clemens became the first pitcher to do it in a 9th inning game at such a young age set the tone for the rest of his career. Whether we like Clemens or not, he was one of the best pitchers in the game for two decades with records such as this.