This Week in Cubs History: Kid K’s 20-Strikeout Game
In this, the debut edition of “This Week in Cubs History,” we turn the clock back 10 years to 1998. This Sunday, May 6, will mark the 20th anniversary of Kerry Wood’s dominant pitching performance against the Houston Astros.
On that cloudy May afternoon, the 20-year-old rookie pitcher stared down future Hall of Famer Craig Biggio to open his fifth career major league start. After just five pitches, Wood struck Biggio out swinging. That trend would continue over the next four hitters to face Wood.
In the top of the 3rd, Astros’ shortstop Ricky Gutierrez — who would go on to play for the Cubs two seasons later — found a hole between shortstop and third for the only hit by an Astro all afternoon. After that, Wood was dealing. Every batter he faced struck out at least once. Hall of Fame first baseman Jeff Bagwell struck out in each of his three plate appearances.
Wood became only the second player in MLB history to strike out 20 hitters in nine innings and he finished the afternoon with a complete game shutout. He faced 29 hitters in all, retiring all but nine of them on strikes. The only other player who had matched this accomplishment at that point was Roger Clemens, who struck out 20 hitters over nine innings twice.
Clemens struck out 20 Mariners in 1986 and then whiffed as many Tigers in 1996. Nationals righty Max Scherzer is the only pitcher to do it since, striking out 20 Tigers in 2016. Interestingly enough, Rocket and Kid K are the only ones who ended up with shutouts.
Kerry Wood forever enshrined himself in Cubs history that day. He went on to win NL Rookie of the Year in 1998, finishing the season with a 13-6 record, a 3.4 ERA, and 233 strikeouts.