Results tagged ‘ From the Pages of Vine Line ’

From the Pages of Vine Line: Q&A with RHP Justin Grimm

Grimm

(Photo by Stephen Green)

Cubs reliever Justin Grimm was solid in limited action after coming over from Texas in July’s Matt Garza deal. In nine innings with the North Siders, the 25-year-old right-hander finished with a 2.00 ERA. Vine Line caught up with the newcomer to discuss his transition to Chicago, the differences between starting and relieving, and his newfound opportunity to get in on the action offensively. For all this information and more, check out the November issue of Vine Line.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS  When I first came here back in April when [the Rangers] visited, the ivy wasn’t on the wall yet, and I was like, “Wow, this place looks kind of gloomy, you know?” But when I got here [as a Cub], I think my first day was a gameday, and the ivy was on the wall, and we had a good crowd. It was awesome.

FAN SUPPORT  I knew the [Cubs] were one of the top franchises. I heard the fans were awesome, win or lose, which is always good. You like to see fans do that, because I don’t know if it was that way in Texas.

TRADE TALK  One of the things I found hard is I came [to the Cubs] just trying to impress new people. And when you’re trying to impress other people, you don’t do what you’re capable of doing at first. Then you finally get settled in, but it takes a little bit.

STARTING OVER  I think the [transition to the] bullpen is going well, honestly. It’s different—more mentally. Obviously, there’s a physical component you have to get used to, but I feel like that’s the easier part. It’s more the mental transition of going from starter to bullpen, being locked in for six, seven, eight, nine innings every fifth day and knowing when you need to be ready, to coming to the ballfield ready to go every day.

DIFFERENT STROKES  I feel like I throw more fastballs out of the bullpen, attacking them with fastballs and trying to get early swings and early outs. When you’re starting, you’re trying to do that too, but you have a little bit of a different game plan. The starter is setting up the plan so when the bullpen comes in, they’ll be ready to go and be successful.

AL VS. NL  The only difference I’ve seen is that you may have first and second with one out early in the game, and then the pitcher comes up. They lay down a bunt or they’re swinging or whatever it is, but it’s a free out. Well, I don’t want to say a free out, because I’ve seen a lot of these pitchers hit. But [in the AL], you have a DH. You have a pretty powerful hitter in that spot instead of a pitcher. I’m not saying pitchers can’t hit, but it’s a little different when you’ve got a hitter practicing every day compared to a pitcher.

SWING COACH  I think [my swing] is all right. It needs some work for sure. I haven’t really swung since high school. I came into my first Triple-A at-bat and hit a single to right field. I had no clue what I was doing. But I think if I stay short with my swing, I’ve got a chance.

CAREER COUNSELOR  My high school coach—he’s the one who came to me and said, “I think one day you’ll have a chance to play professional baseball.” After I got hurt my junior year, we spent one day together, and we just talked. He was like, “You know, you can come out of this even better.” From there on, I just took it and started working really hard and developed a strong work ethic.

From the Pages of Vine Line: Wel on his way

(AP Photo/Micah Tapman)Reds @ Cubs May 4,  2013

(AP Photo/Micah Tapman)

Welington Castillo was a force both offensively and defensively for the Cubs this season. Despite the club’s poor record, his emergence as a Gold Glove-caliber backstop provided some hope for the Northsiders. His stellar ability behind the plate is something he’s worked hard at over the years and he’s gotten some help along the way. The following appears in the October issue of Vine Line.

When Welington Castillo arrived in the big leagues, he knew he needed to work on his defense. Now, thanks to a few adjustments and a lot of hard work, he could legitimately be a Gold Glover.

The Cubs brass has always thought highly of catcher Welington Castillo. Early on, the 26-year-old prospect-turned-starter showed the organization he had the ability to hit and the raw tools to develop into a strong defensive backstop. But there was something holding him back from truly reaching his potential behind the plate.

Prior to the 2012 season, the Cubs hired staff assistant Mike Borzello, a former minor league player and longtime bullpen catcher for the Yankees and Dodgers, to work with the organization’s catchers. His two years were a big factor in Castillo’s career trajectory changing for the better (manager Dale Sveum and the entire coaching staff were relieved of their duties on Sept. 30. It’s currently unknown if Borzello will return with a new manager).

“He’s been a blessing for me,” Castillo said. “He’s been helping me a lot. We go out to work on little things that sometimes I don’t feel comfortable with. He’s been really good to me. He’s been around a lot of good players, he knows what he’s doing, and I’m blessed to be around him.”

During his time with the Dodgers, Borzello helped turn Russell Martin (now with the Pirates) into one of the best defensive catchers in the game. He also spent nearly a dozen years with the Yankees, where he helped improve Jorge Posada’s defense enough to keep him behind the plate and allow New York to utilize his plus offensive skills in a position often occupied by easy outs.

Borzello said he looked at video of Cubs catchers throughout the system when he was hired, but focused particularly on Castillo because of how highly he was viewed throughout the organization. The coach immediately noticed some inefficiency in Castillo’s defensive approach.

“He was having trouble receiving certain pitches, especially to his left,” said Borzello prior to the season’s conclusion. “It was something that kind of alarmed me, and I thought we needed to make some changes. I approached him on it and thought we could change his setup. He was open to it and immediately admitted to some of what he thought were the weaknesses in his game, and they were similar to what I thought I had seen already. With him being open to it, we changed his setup, and we changed the way he holds his glove.”

The modifications required Castillo to alter the placement of his feet, which allowed him to receive pitches to his left easier, frame pitches better (leading to umpires calling more strikes for his pitchers), and create a more efficient exchange of the ball from glove to hand when attempting to throw out would-be base stealers.

Both Borzello and Castillo admitted it was a pretty major overhaul of his catching mechanics, but it was necessary to help the player reach his potential. While the changes may not be obvious to the average fan, they were quite impactful for a guy attempting to make the transition from top prospect to everyday major league catcher.

“He was open to it, we made these changes, and he seemed very comfortable with it,” Borzello said. “It took a little while to where it was second nature, but we got there. It’s like changing your swing. You’re comfortable a certain way, but you’re not getting the results you want. You’re not possibly maximizing your abilities, and I thought we could get more out of him with this change. And it worked.”

It would be hard to argue that point. Now, according to most defensive metrics, Castillo has not only become a legitimate major league catcher, he might also be deserving of 2013 Gold Glove consideration. Using Baseball Info Solutions’ Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) metric, Castillo has had the best defensive season for a catcher in the major leagues. As of mid-September, his 17 DRS was two better than Pittsburgh’s Russell Martin and six better than his defensive idol, St. Louis’ Yadier Molina.

Borzello emphasized that all the credit for the improvement goes to Castillo, who not only was open to the adjustments, but also worked on implementing the changes every day over the past two Spring Trainings as well as during the regular season.

Undoubtedly, Castillo still has room to grow. Throughout the year, pitchers like former Cub Matt Garza and current staff leader Jeff Samardzija have gone out of their way to praise veteran catcher Dioner Navarro, who served as Castillo’s backup this year. But it’s not something Castillo takes as a negative. He knows as he gets more playing time, he’ll continue to build a rapport with each pitcher on his staff.

“I think you never stop learning from this game,” Castillo said. “Something that made me better is just playing time. It makes you know and improve what you can do. You learn from game calling, knowing the situation. It’s hard, but the more you get to know [the pitchers], the more confidence you develop in your relationship. Then the pitcher knows what you’re doing behind the plate. You build a relationship, and you really know who’s on the mound.”

Borzello echoed Castillo’s sentiments that playing time is the key to becoming a complete, all-around catcher. He watched Navarro go through some of the same growing pains as a young player.

“You can’t rush the process,” Borzello said. “When Navarro came up with the Yankees, I was there as well, and his evolution over time has happened by trial and error. You learn from your mistakes, and you learn by dealing with different pitchers, different pitching coaches and just watching the game. Playing the game, you become a little more seasoned. It’s something you don’t just show up and know how to do. You don’t know how to run a Major League Baseball game behind the plate until you’ve experienced a number of games.

“Every staff is different, and every pitcher has different things about them you need to know. You need to know which guys need a pat on the back and who needs to be pushed. You can yell at some, and you have to hug others. You’re not only a catcher; you’re a psychologist. You have to befriend these guys, and they need to know you’re in their corner.”

Learning the ins and outs of an entire staff—especially a staff that has experienced as much turnover as the Cubs’—takes time, but Castillo already appears to be figuring things out.

“Sometimes it’s tough when you’re catching this and that from so many different guys,” said Samardzija, who just completed his second year in the rotation. “I like to do this, and other guys like to do different things. It’s hard to keep all those things straight. I think Wely has done a great job of separating what each starter likes to do, and obviously the bullpen is a whole other beast in itself. You’ve got to be able to control both ends for nine innings. He’s been durable for us, he’s been consistent, and he obviously cuts the running game down. All those things give you confidence when he’s in the lineup.”

Borzello pointed out that really getting to know opponents well isn’t an easy thing to do in the minors. In the lower levels, catchers don’t have access to the video and statistical breakdowns that are readily available to every big league club.

“Here, we have a plan that we’re trying to execute against on each hitter, and it’s [Castillo’s] job to know what that plan is going in,” Borzello said. “He does his work, he studies, he watches video, he cares, he puts in a lot of time. That’s something he’s improved on over the last two seasons.”

Castillo admitted he didn’t know where he’d be right now without Borzello’s guidance. From the overhaul in his mechanics to just pointing out the subtleties of the game while they’re sitting together in the dugout, Borzello has proven to be a major catalyst in Castillo’s development.

“He’s my teacher,” Castillo said. “I listen to him a lot. I ask him a lot of questions. We sit together and watch the game, and he’ll ask me about different game situations.”

This student-teacher relationship has clearly paid dividends. Former manager Dale Sveum is keenly aware Castillo is taking the necessary steps to become the elite catcher Borzello believes he can someday become.

“The things that have improved with Wely are the game management, the preparation, the pitch calling, and knowing the weaknesses of the hitters as well as anybody,” Sveum said prior to his dismissal. “He’s done a great job of that. Obviously his throwing and blocking are as good as anybody in the league. There’s no question about that.”

It was only a year ago Sveum was spouting off a laundry list of items Castillo needed to improve in regards to his defense. The fact that Sveum rightfully believes Castillo is among baseball’s best with the glove just goes to show how much the young backstop has accomplished in such a short time.

On the offensive end, the Sveum said he’d like to see Castillo come to the plate with a more consistent idea of what he wants to do. While the catcher’s power has yet to develop—he was slugging only .365 through mid-September—he has shown a dramatic improvement in his ability to get on base.

Through his first 49 games of 2013, Castillo posted a disappointing .294 on-base percentage with a measly 3.2 percent walk rate. In the next 57 games, he had a robust .401 OBP, improving his season OBP to a very respectable .351 with a strong 8.2 percent walk rate.

Borzello said when he came to the Cubs, he was well aware Castillo could hit, but that wasn’t his concern. He wasn’t brought in to make Castillo a batting champ. For most young catchers, the primary focus is on defense. Castillo came to the big leagues raw on that side of the ball, but hard work has helped him rank among the game’s elite behind the plate—so much so that Borzello believes outside of Yadier Molina, the recognized gold standard among catchers, you would be hard-pressed to find a better defensive catcher than Castillo.

“You are a coach on the field,” Borzello said. “You’re the one who makes trips to the mound to handle a guy and settle him down. Tell him, ‘This is what we need to do right here. Execute this pitch, and we’ll be fine.’ Whatever it is, every situation is different, and Wely is learning that. I think he’s well on his way to getting to where we need him to be when this team turns it around and becomes a contender.”

One of the most popular topics among sportswriters and fans for the last few years has been discussing which current Cubs belong as part of the team’s core. It’s quickly becoming clear that Castillo is doing the necessary work to have his name mentioned in that group and to hold a major role with the successful Cubs teams of the future.

—Sahadev Sharma

From the Pages of Vine Line: Remembering 1998 – Playoff hosts

Fifteen years ago, the 1998 Cubs squad became the must-see event of the summer, as viewers around the country tuned in to WGN to see Sammy Sosa, Kerry Wood and the cardiac Cubs stage one of the most dramatic seasons in Chicago baseball history. Day after day, it seemed like the team was in a dogfight, and every win turned out to be vital, as the Cubs need an extra, 163rd contest to finalize their postseason push and give Chicago fans their first taste of meaningful October baseball in nearly a decade.

To commemorate all the ups and downs, Vine Line celebrates our 10 greatest moments from that historic 1998 campaign in the October issue of the magazine. Today marks the final part of the 10-part series.

Wood-98

(Photo by Stephen Green)

10/3/98 – The Postseason

Game 3 of the NLDS marked the end of a thrilling, roller-coaster season for the Cubs. The team returned to Wrigley Field in an 0-2 hole against the Braves in the best-of-five series, but the crowd was in a frenzy as rookie Kerry Wood squared off against future Hall of Famer and former Cub Greg Maddux in the Cubs’ first home playoff game since 1989.

The start was actually Wood’s first since Aug. 31, as he was sidelined with right elbow issues through the back half of the season.

“I rank that above the 20-strikeout game for me as far as that first year of my career,” Wood said. “It was a surreal moment for me to match up with a Hall of Famer. For me to match up, a rookie, a young kid, a 21-year-old kid at the time, matching up with Greg Maddux in the playoffs, [it was amazing].”

Though Wood’s pitch count mounted for the first few innings, he held his own, giving up three hits and one earned run on a passed ball. But as Kid K neared the 100-pitch mark after five innings, manager Jim Riggleman removed his young ace, and the Cubs couldn’t hold on, falling 6-2 to bring an end to the dramatic 1998 campaign.

From the Pages of Vine Line Remembering 1998 – Game 163

Fifteen years ago, the 1998 Cubs squad became the must-see event of the summer, as viewers around the country tuned in to WGN to see Sammy Sosa, Kerry Wood and the cardiac Cubs stage one of the most dramatic seasons in Chicago baseball history. Day after day, it seemed like the team was in a dogfight, and every win turned out to be vital, as the Cubs need an extra, 163rd contest to finalize their postseason push and give Chicago fans their first taste of meaningful October baseball in nearly a decade.

To commemorate all the ups and downs, Vine Line celebrates our 10 greatest moments from that historic 1998 campaign in the October issue of the magazine. Today marks the ninth part of the 10-part series, which we’ll post here on the blog in the coming days.

941-Wild-Card-092898C-win

(Photo by Stephen Green)

9/26/98 – Game 163

The home matchup with the Giants on Sept. 28 was more than just a game. It was a single-elimination, winner-take-all battle royale to determine who would claim the NL Wild Card and move on to face the waiting Braves in the Division Series. There was a nearly unprecedented buzz at Wrigley Field. It had been almost 10 years since postseason excitement had come to the Friendly Confines, and fans were primed for the occasion.

“From the moment [I showed] up at the ballpark late in the afternoon, [there was] just this electricity I had never really seen at Wrigley before,” said Trachsel, that night’s starter. “The excitement of what winning the game would mean for our team and the organization and the city—and the number of people out on the street—I had never really seen that before in my time there.”

Gary Gaetti got the offense going with a two-run bomb in the fifth, and Trachsel departed with a 4-0 lead after surrendering his first hit of the game in the top of the seventh. Though the Giants scored three in the ninth off Kevin Tapani and Terry Mulholland, Rod Beck came in to shut the door for the Cubs, who held on for a 5-3 victory and their first postseason appearance since 1989.

From the Pages of Vine Line: Remembering 1998 – Beck’s 50

Fifteen years ago, the 1998 Cubs squad became the must-see event of the summer, as viewers around the country tuned in to WGN to see Sammy Sosa, Kerry Wood and the cardiac Cubs stage one of the most dramatic seasons in Chicago baseball history. Day after day, it seemed like the team was in a dogfight, and every win turned out to be vital, as the Cubs need an extra, 163rd contest to finalize their postseason push and give Chicago fans their first taste of meaningful October baseball in nearly a decade.

To commemorate all the ups and downs, Vine Line celebrates our 10 greatest moments from that historic 1998 campaign in the October issue of the magazine. Today marks the eighth part of the 10-part series, which we’ll post here on the blog in the coming days.

952-Wild-Card-092898A-Beck-R_CC

(Photo by Stephen Green)

9/26/98 — Rod Beck’s 50-save season

The stocky build. The chops. The mullet. Veteran closer Rod Beck spent only a year and a half on the North Side, but his time with the team was unforgettable.

In 81 appearances in 1998, “Shooter” became just the fifth player in major league history to accumulate 50 saves in a season. And none of them was more dramatic than his 51st, which he picked up in a 5-3 win over San Francisco in the Wild Card play-in game.

Beck, whose fastball rarely made it out of the high-80s, fanned 23.2 percent of the batters he faced and had a 9.1 K/9 ratio.

“It makes you realize it’s not about stuff,” Wood said. “Here I am, a kid who thinks he can throw it by everybody and break off these nasty sliders any time I want, and you hand the ball over to a guy who’s not throwing harder than 88 mph. But he’s just lights out. For me, that was the first little glimpse I got that it’s not about stuff, it’s about [knowing] how to pitch.”

From the Pages of Vine Line: Remembering 1998 – Signing Gaetti

Fifteen years ago, the 1998 Cubs squad became the must-see event of the summer, as viewers around the country tuned in to WGN to see Sammy Sosa, Kerry Wood and the cardiac Cubs stage one of the most dramatic seasons in Chicago baseball history. Day after day, it seemed like the team was in a dogfight, and every win turned out to be vital, as the Cubs need an extra, 163rd contest to finalize their postseason push and give Chicago fans their first taste of meaningful October baseball in nearly a decade.

To commemorate all the ups and downs, Vine Line celebrates our 10 greatest moments from that historic 1998 campaign in the October issue of the magazine. Today marks the sixth part of the 10-part series, which we’ll post here on the blog in the coming days.

940-Wild-Card-092898A-Gaetti

(Photo by Stephen Green)

8/19/98 — Acquiring veteran Gary Gaetti

Veteran infielder Gary Gaetti made two All-Star appearances with Minnesota and amassed more than 2,000 hits in his career, but no one really knew what the 40-year-old had left in the tank when he was released by the Cardinals on Aug. 14, 2008. The answer: quite a bit.

Though the Cubs were initially unsure where they were going to insert Gaetti after they signed him as a free agent five days after he was released, they quickly found an everyday spot for him, and he delivered in a big way. The rejuvenated veteran hit .391/.467/.688 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 25 hits in his first 19 games with the North Siders during a vital second-half stretch.

“I’ve enjoyed it. I really have,” Gaetti told the Chicago Tribune in early September 1998. “It’s always different when you change teams, but coming to Wrigley and seeing how the guys interact in the clubhouse and how they go about their business on the field, it’s like old-time baseball.”

Gaetti recorded many timely hits, including a big two-run double to break an eighth-inning, one-all deadlock against the Astros in the final series of the season. His signature at-bat may be his key two-run home run in Game 163 that sparked the Cubs to a 5-3, playoff-clinching victory.

From the Pages of Vine Line: Remembering 1998 – Sosa’s 20-homer June

Fifteen years ago, the 1998 Cubs squad became the must-see event of the summer, as viewers around the country tuned in to WGN to see Sammy Sosa, Kerry Wood and the cardiac Cubs stage one of the most dramatic seasons in Chicago baseball history. Day after day, it seemed like the team was in a dogfight, and every win turned out to be vital, as the Cubs need an extra, 163rd contest to finalize their postseason push and give Chicago fans their first taste of meaningful October baseball in nearly a decade.

To commemorate all the ups and downs, Vine Line celebrates our 10 greatest moments from that historic 1998 campaign in the October issue of the magazine. Today marks the fifth part of the 10-part series, which we’ll post here on the blog in the coming days.

Sosa

(Photo by Stephen Green)

June, 1998 – Sammy Sosa’s 20-homer month

June was all about Sammy—and that wasn’t just on the North Side. Throughout baseball and all around the country, every time No. 21 stepped to the plate, it was appointment viewing. Sosa clubbed a pair of homers on June 1, one a day from June 5-8, three on June 15, two on June 19 and two more on June 20.

Sosa finished with a major league-record 20 home runs in the month, surpassing Rudy York’s previous record of 18 in a month—set in August 1937—with a blast on June 25.

“All I remember about June was that Sammy seemed to hit a home run every single day. It was just unreal,” said pitcher Steve Trachsel. “It was just going into games wondering, ‘OK, how many is he going to hit today?’”

Diamondbacks lefty Alan Embree was the victim of Sosa’s 20th bomb, which he hit at Wrigley Field on the final night of the month. The moment was so exciting a pair of fans crashed the playing field and waited to congratulate the surprised slugger as he neared third base.

From the Pages of Vine Line: Remembering 1998 – Windy City walk-off

Fifteen years ago, the 1998 Cubs squad became the must-see event of the summer, as viewers around the country tuned in to WGN to see Sammy Sosa, Kerry Wood and the cardiac Cubs stage one of the most dramatic seasons in Chicago baseball history. Day after day, it seemed like the team was in a dogfight, and every win turned out to be vital, as the Cubs need an extra, 163rd contest to finalize their postseason push and give Chicago fans their first taste of meaningful October baseball in nearly a decade.

To commemorate all the ups and downs, Vine Line celebrates our 10 greatest moments from that historic 1998 campaign in the October issue of the magazine. Today marks the fourth part of the 10-part series, which we’ll post here on the blog in the coming days.

Brant-Brown

(Photo by Stephen Green)

6/5/98 – Crosstown Classic walk-off

When most people think of Brant Brown in 1998, they remember the dropped fly ball with two outs in the bottom of the ninth of Game 159 that nearly cost the Cubs their playoff dreams. What many forget is that three months earlier, Brown played the hero in the first-ever regular season Crosstown Classic matchup at Wrigley Field.

In the June 5 affair, the Cubs were trailing 2-0 after the first inning, but bounced back to take a three-run lead by the fifth, thanks to a third-inning three-run double from Henry Rodriguez and a fifth-inning two-run bomb from Sosa. After the Sox tied things up in the top of the sixth, the game became a pitchers’ duel with both bullpens holding the opposition scoreless until the 12th.

Then Brown stepped into the box in the bottom of the frame and took a 1-0 pitch from Tony Castillo over the right-field fence for a dramatic ending to the crosstown showdown.

From the Pages of Vine Line: Remembering 1998 – The winning streaks

Fifteen years ago, the 1998 Cubs squad became the must-see event of the summer, as viewers around the country tuned in to WGN to see Sammy Sosa, Kerry Wood and the cardiac Cubs stage one of the most dramatic seasons in Chicago baseball history. Day after day, it seemed like the team was in a dogfight, and every win turned out to be vital, as the Cubs need an extra, 163rd contest to finalize their postseason push and give Chicago fans their first taste of meaningful October baseball in nearly a decade.

To commemorate all the ups and downs, Vine Line celebrates our 10 greatest moments from that historic 1998 campaign in the October issue of the magazine. Today marks the third part of the 10-part series, which we’ll post here on the blog in the coming days.

959-Wild-Card-092898C-win

(Photo by Stephen Green)

The dramatic winning streaks

All baseball teams go on winning streaks, especially ones that are good enough to make it to October. But these repeated runs were one of the things that made the ’98 team so entertaining.

The Cubs opened the season with an 8-2 stretch that included an April 2 game in which they erased a 6-0 deficit to top the Marlins. The team had a 14-5 stretch from April 30-May 20 that was highlighted by Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout gem and a 14-inning comeback victory on May 8. They then won 10 in a row in early June, sweeping Atlanta, Florida and the White Sox in the process.

They went 19-9 in July and 16-6 from Aug. 22-Sept. 17 to give the team the necessary cushion down the stretch.

“We were kind of streaky,” said former Cubs starter Steve Trachsel. “As far as wins, it seemed to be a different guy every day. It wasn’t always the superstars of the team coming up with the big hits or big plays.”

From the Pages of Vine Line: Remembering 1998 – Kid K’s coming out party

Fifteen years ago, the 1998 Cubs squad became the must-see event of the summer, as viewers around the country tuned in to WGN to see Sammy Sosa, Kerry Wood and the cardiac Cubs stage one of the most dramatic seasons in Chicago baseball history. Day after day, it seemed like the team was in a dogfight, and every win turned out to be vital, as the Cubs need an extra, 163rd contest to finalize their postseason push and give Chicago fans their first taste of meaningful October baseball in nearly a decade.

To commemorate all the ups and downs, Vine Line celebrates our 10 greatest moments from that historic 1998 campaign in the October issue of the magazine. Today marks the second part of the 10-part series, which we’ll post here on the blog in the coming days.

Wood

(Photo by Stephen Green)

5/6/98—Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout game

Kerry Wood may have been inexperienced in 1998, but what he did on May 6 against the mighty Houston Astros can’t be taught. In only his fifth major league start, facing one of the most potent offenses in baseball, Kid K made history by striking out 20 batters. His final line: 9 IP, 1 H, 20 K, 1 HBP, 0 BB.

“Honestly, I’m thinking, ‘I haven’t walked anybody yet,’ because I never pitched a game at all—the whole minor leagues—[in which] I wasn’t told, ‘You’re walking too many guys, you’re walking too many guys, you’re walking too many guys,’” Wood said.

The opposing Astros, who eventually ran away with the NL Central crown, led the NL in runs scored per game and on-base percentage that season, and they were second in batting average. Their powerful lineup boasted a pair of 1998 All-Stars in Craig Biggio and Moises Alou, as well as slugger Jeff Bagwell.

Wood’s 20 strikeouts were the most ever for an NL pitcher, and they tied Roger Clemens’ major league record. The game is now widely considered the most dominant nine-inning performance in baseball history.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,176 other followers