The division-leading Milwaukee Brewers have been the surprise team of the 2014 Major League season. And the Brew Crew have done it with a solid, five-man rotation that has remained relatively intact most of the year.
Starting pitcher Mike Fiers had not been much a part of that rotation until just a week ago. And he joined a unique list of pitchers with an electric start Thursday afternoon against the Chicago Cubs.
Injuries provide opportunity
Injuries to both Marco Estrada and Matt Garza opened up some space in the Milwaukee rotation. The 29-year-old Fiers made his first start of the season last week against the Washington Nationals with eight innings of three-hit ball. And he followed it up with a 14 strikeout performance in some day of baseball on Thursday. A strikeout total that high is rare enough on its own, but Fiers took only six innings to fan 14 batters - a feat only seven other starting pitchers in the history of baseball have done before.
Most recently, Max Scherzer struck out 14 in 5.2 innings in 2010 against the Oakland A's. The first pitcher to strike out 14 or more in six innings or less was Sam McDowell in 1966 against the Tigers. The rest of the list includes Kelvim Escober, AJ Burnett, Randy Johnson, Kerry Wood and Nolan Ryan - not bad. Scherzer is the only pitcher on the list to have thrown less than six innings and no pitcher has ever struck out more than 14 in six or less.
Fiers was also able to limit his walks, though. The righty from Hollywood, FL. gave away just one free pass. Only Kelvim Escobar walked one from the list above, while Randy Johnson didn't walk any. Every other pitcher gave up at least two bases on balls. Fiers' three hits and one walk combine for the lowest total (4) of any pitcher on this interesting, and impressive, list.
But the pitch count eventually forced Fiers out of the game. He was making just his second start of the season, and Ron Roenicke deemed 106 pitches good enough. Fiers left with his team ahead 5-0 and watched the bullpen preserve his victory.
What's up next
Zach Duke, Will Smith and Jeremy Jeffress each threw an inning to finish Milwaukee's 6-2 win. The victory earned the Brewers a split in the four-game set at Wrigley. It also gave them a 2.5-game lead in the Central with a trip to Dodger Stadium on tap. Jimmy Nelson will get the start against Zack Greinke.