I said Vince Velasquez's game could end up being the best of the season. Wrong! On Thursday, Jaime Garcia of the St. Louis Cardinals spun a one-hit shutout with one walk and 13 strikeouts to match Velasquez's Game Score of 97.
Have we ever seen a day such as this before, with two games this dominant? Let's go to the Baseball-Reference Play Index, which goes back to 1913, for this study. We'll check all starts in which the pitcher recorded a Game Score of 97 or higher and pitched nine innings or fewer.
May 18, 2004
Randy Johnson, Arizona Diamondbacks: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 13 SO (100)
Jason Schmidt, San Francisco Giants: 9 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 13 SO (97)
That was Johnson's perfect game against the Braves. Schmidt threw 144 pitches to beat the Cubs.
May 25, 2001
Hideo Nomo, Boston Red Sox: 9 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 14 SO (99)
Kerry Wood, Chicago Cubs: 9 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 14 SO (97)
Nomo threw two no-hitters, but this was the highest Game Score. He allowed only a fourth-inning double to Toronto's Shannon Stewart. Wood had the best nine-inning Game Score ever, at 105, in his 20-strikeout game in 1998. He beat the Brewers in this one.
That's it. Those are the only two days with two 97+ Game Scores. Let's look at some other fun days:
June 29, 1990
Fernando Valenzuela, Los Angeles Dodgers: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 7 SO (91)
Dave Stewart, Oakland Athletics: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 12 SO (96)
This was the only day with two no-hitters.
Sept. 24, 1971
Clay Kirby, San Diego Padres: 15 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 15 SO (109)
Ken Forsch, Houston Astros: 13 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 8 SO (98)
This was the same game and the first game of a doubleheader. It ended up going 21 innings before the Astros finally scored the winner. Larry Stahl went 0-for-9 for the Padres. No pitcher has topped Kirby's Game Score since.
July 9, 1971
Rudy May, California Angels: 12 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 6 BB, 13 SO (103)
Vida Blue, Oakland Athletics: 11 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 17 SO (100)
Again, these outings are in the same game. The A's would finally win 1-0 in 20 innings. Billy Cowan struck out six times for the Angels. You think we don't have enough offense now? Try the early 1970s. This was Blue's MVP season, in which he had 17 complete games and 184 innings pitched ... in the first half.
Oct. 2, 1965
Rob Gardner, New York Mets: 15 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 7 SO (112)
Chris Short, Philadelphia Phillies: 15 IP, 9 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 18 SO (114)
This was another duel, this time in the second game of a doubleheader. Looks like everyone eventually just gave up, as the game ended after 18 innings in a 0-0 tie. Gardner was a 20-year-old rookie making his fourth career start. The good old days! It was the next-to-last day of the season, and apparently the Phillies were eager to go home, so they swung at a lot of first pitches. Meanwhile, Short told his manager Gene Mauch, "I'm not coming out if that S.O.B. on the other side isn't coming out!"
July 2, 1963
Juan Marichal, San Francisco Giants: 16 IP, 8 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 10 SO (112)
Warren Spahn, Milwaukee Braves: 15.1 IP, 9 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 SO (97)
This was one of the most famous pitching duels in history. Willie Mays finally won it with a home run off Spahn.
August 13, 1954
Al Aber, Detroit Tigers: 15.1 IP, 9 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 8 SO (101)
Jack Harshman, Chicago White Sox: 16 IP, 9 H, 0 R, 7 BB, 12 SO (109)
Wondering how many pitches Harshman threw?
Anyway, there are more of these duels as we go back in time, topped by this one:
May 1, 1920
Leon Cadore, Brooklyn Robins: 26 IP, 15 H, 1 R, 5 BB, 7 SO (140)
Joe Oeschger, Boston Braves: 26 IP, 9 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 7 SO (153)
This game was finally called due to darkness. They don't make 'em like they used to!
Last but not least, I'd thought I'd check to see if we've ever had three Games Scores of 90+ on the same day. Here's the most recent occurrence:
August 3, 1973
Bill Singer, California Angels: 11 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 13 SO (97)
Rick Reuschel, Chicago Cubs: 9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 11 SO (97)
Don Wilson, Houston Astros: 10 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 9 SO (90)
Going back further, in 1968 -- the Year of the Pitcher -- we found Aug. 19 had four 90+ games: Bobby Bolin, Bob Gibson, Jim Hardin and Jerry Koosman.