Kerry Wood's 20 strikeout game is certainly one of the biggest things that have happened in my liftime watching the Chicago Cubs.
Wood was just 20 years old at the time and this was only his 5th major league start. This game put him on a path to complete the 1998 season as National League Rookie of the Year and help lead the the Cubs to a playoff appearance.
So, how dominant was this performance? Well, Wood faced 29 batters in the game, strking out 20 with only 9 batters putting the ball in play (correction, only 8, Wood hit Craig Biggio with a pitch).
Dave Clark-left-handed batter flies out to center field. Clark played with the Cubs in 1997
Ricky Gutierrez collected the only hit off Wood with an infield single, that if memory serves was a very close play that could've had him called out (imagine if Kerry Wood's 20 strikeout performance were also a no-hitter).
Shane Reynolds, Wood's opposing pitcher, was able to successfully sacrifice bunt Gutierrez to second base. So, he wasn't really trying to get a hit. It should be pointed out that Reynolds pitched a great game against the Cubs going the full 8 innnings (The Cubs did not bat in the ninth inning after already securing a 2-0 victory). Reynolds also struct out 10 Cubs.
Craig Biggio hit a ground ball to shortstop both in the 3rd inning and in the ninth inning.
Derek Bell hit a flyout to short right field. Being a right-handed hitter, he was well behind what was likely a Kerry Wood fastball.
Brad Ausmus, a very difficult batter to strikeout throughout his career, hit a ground ball out to second base.
Craig Biggio got hit by a pitch
Derek Bell popped out in foul territory near the first base line.
Craig Biggio hit his second ground out to shortstop
Kerry Wood struck out at least one batter each inning and also struck out all 10 Astros batters that he faced at least once.
12 of the 20 strikeouts were swing and miss strikeouts while 8 were strikeouts where the Astros batter was caught looking at strike three. Here is a listing below to show each by inning.
1st inning 2 swinging, 1 looking
2nd inning 2 swinging
3rd inning 1 swinging
4th inning 2 looking
5th inning 3 looking
6th inning 1 looking
7th inning 3 swinging
8th inning 2 swinging 1 looking
9th inning 2 swinging
one of the more impressive things about Kerry Wood's performance was that the Astros middle of the order (3/4 and 5 hitters) went a combined 0 for 9 with 9 strikeouts. One of these middle of the order Astros hitters later joined the Cubs and was involved in an incident that leaves him forever noted in big moments in Cubs history. Who was this former Astro hitter that struck out 3 times against Kerry wood in 1998 that later joined the Chicago Cubs?
More Cubs Trivia questions about this game
Who was the Catcher for Kerry Wood's 20 Strikeout Game?
Which Future Cub got the only hit against Kerry Wood?
Who is the future Cub that struct out 3 times in this game?
So, how does Kerry Wood's performance compare to no-hitters pitched since 1998?
The Criteria I used to compare how dominant other games were as follow:
How many strikeouts, how many walks, how many pitches and how good the team was that was defeated. Below are a few games that compare closely to Kerry Wood's performance.
Kerry Wood defeated the Houston Astros 2-0. The Astros finished the season with a 102-60 record and won the National League Central division title.
He gave up one hit.
He struck out 20 batters and had no walks.
He threw 122 pitches.
Eric Milton defeated the Anaheim Angels 7-0. The Angels finished the season with a record of 70-92.
13 strikeouts and 2 BB's (1 caught stealing, 1 double play)
Milton faced the minimum 27 batters
September 11, 1999
Randy Johnson threw a perfect game at the age of 40 against the Atlanta Braves who finished the season 96-66. He won the game 2-0.
May 18 2004 Altanta Braves 2-0 96-66
13 strikeouts and no walks
Justin Verlander defeated the Milwaukee Brewers 4-0. The Brewers finished the 2007 season with an 83-79 record.
June 12 2007
12 strikeouts and 4 walks.
Reports are that Verlander was still throwing 100 mph in the ninth inning.
Jone Lester defeated the Kansas City royals 7-0. The Royals finished the 2008 season with a record of 75-87.
9 strikeouts and 2 walks
May 19, 2008
Jonathan Sanchez defeated the San Diego Padres 8-0. The Padres finished the season with a 75-87.
July 10, 2009
11 strikeouts and no walks
one HBP and a Giant error prevented a perfect game.
Roy Halladay defeated the Florida Marlins 1-0. The Marlins finished the 2010 season with a 80-82 record.
May 29, 2010
11 strikeouts and no walks, perfect game.
Kerry Wood 20 Strikeout Game Video