UPDATE WEDNESDAY: Dave Cameron of USS Mariner takes me to task (gently) for my list, and instructs me to check out this ranking of Mariners’ pitching performances from Baseball Reference’s Play Index. As Dave points out, the Play Index is a formula created by Bill James to evaluate individual games by pitchers. Washburn gets an 88, which ranks 32nd in Mariners’ history. This system gives heavy weight to strikeouts, so not surprisingly Randy Johnson dominates — 11 of the top 15 ranked games are by the Big Unit. Number one on the list is the Erik Hanson game that I highlight at the end of this post. No. 2 is Johnson’s 1-hitter against the Angels. Four games in my top 10 were also ranked in the top 10 by Play Index, if you count the Hanson game, which I didn’t originally include but later cited as a Top 10 performance.
Dave’s right — I wouldn’t rank strikeouts quite so highly as James does (but who am I to argue with Bill James?). And I have to question a system that ranks Chris Bosio’s no-hitter — in which the only baserunners he allowed were two walks to start the game, followed by 27 straight outs — as the 24th-best pitching performance in club history. But I respect Dave greatly, so I’ll look at it more closely, and put it out there for everyone to consider.
*See update at end, adding Erik Hanson’s game against Oakland, 1990
By any standards, last night’s masterpiece by Jarrod Washburn ranks as one of the greatest pitching performances in Mariners history.
In fact, I’d put it in the top 10, and possibly the top five. As you know, Washburn faced just 28 batters, allowing a fourth-inning single to Nick Markakis and no other baserunners — 28 batters faced.
According to research provided by the Mariners’ baseball information department, it was the sixth time in club history that a Mariners’ pitcher has faced 28 or fewer batters in a complete-game performance.
Three of those games really stand out, starting with Brian Holman’s outing against Oakland on April 20, 1990, one of the most famous games in Mariners’ history. Holman retired the first 26 batters, only to have Ken Phelps ruin the perfect game with a two-out home run, pinch-hitting for Mike Gallego. Holman then struck out Rickey Henderson (a big thanks to the wonderful website retrosheet.org for the play-by-play help) to complete the one-hitter and a 6-1 Seattle win. Holman didn’t even get the shutout, but that certainly ranks as one of the top five games in Seattle history.
The other one-hitter that stands out is Mike Moore’s 11-0 win over Milwaukee on Sept. 17, 1988. That was the only game in Seattle history in which a pitcher faced the minimum 27 batters. Moore fired a two-hitter and didn’t walk any, striking out eight. Both hits were erased by double plays. Jeffrey Leonard had a one-out single in the second, but Greg Brock hit into a double play. And Rob Deer led off the fifth with a single, Leonard struck out, and Brock hit into another DP. And that was it off Moore. Keep in mind he was facing a lineup with two future Hall of Famers — Paul Molitor and Robin Yount — and a possible third Hall of Famer, Gary Sheffield. I’d put that in the top five as well.
Certainly, you’d have to include Chris Bosio’s no-hitter against Boston on April 22, 1993 — probably at the top of the list. I had forgotten the circumstances of that game — a 7-0 Mariners’ win at the Kingdome — until I looked it up. Amazing. Bosio walked the first two batters he faced — Ernest Riles and Carlos Quintana. And then Bosio pitched, in essence, a perfect game, getting the next 27 outs in order. Mike Greenwell hit into a double play, and Andre Dawson struck out to end the first, and Bosio went 24 up, 24 down the rest of the way — ending, of course, with Omar Vizquel’s famous bare-hand play on Riles’ grounder.
The two other games in which a Mariners’ pitcher faced 28 batters:
No doubt the Beattie game belongs on the top 10 list. And you’d have to throw in Randy Johnson’s no-hitter on June 2, 1990 against Detroit, even though he walked six. A no-hitter is a no-hitter. I’d also throw in for consideration Johnson’s five-hit shutout (with three walks) over the White Sox on Aug. 8, in which he struck out 19 in a 5-0 Seattle win.
Johnson also threw three one-hit shutouts, and all of them stand out. On Aug. 14, 1991 he beat a very tough A’s lineup (Rickey Henderson, Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Dave Henderson, Terry Steinbach) 4-0, striking out 12 and walking three. On May 16, 1993, he beat a not-as-tough A’s lineup 7-0, striking out 14 and walking three. And on July 16, 1998, he beat the Twins 3-0, striking out 11 and walking three.
The recent game that stands out to me, perhaps because I was there in Fenway Park that night, was Felix Hernandez’s 3-0 one-hitter over the Red Sox on April 11, 2007. The big story coming into the game was Daisuke Matsuzaka’s Boston debut, but Hernandez seized the spotlight. He walked two, struck out six and took a no-hitter into the eighth before J.D. Drew led off with a single for the only Red Sox hit.
Washburn’s performance last night certainly belongs in this pantheon of great Mariners’ pitching performances. I’ll go:
1) Chris Bosio’s no-hitter;
2) Brian Holman’s nearly perfect game;
3) Randy Johnson’s no-hitter;
4) Mike Moore’s 27-batter game;
5) Randy Johnson’s 19-K game (Big Unit actually had another 19-strikeout game that year against Oakland, but lost on Mark McGwire’s mammoth homer — considered the longest ball ever hit at the Kingdome).
6) Felix Hernandez’s one-hitter;
7) Jarrod Washburn’s one-hitter;
8) Jim Beattie’s one-hitter;
9) Dave Fleming’s one-hitter;
10) Randy Johnson’s one-hitter against Oakland in 1991
What do you think?
*Thanks to Scottyding for calling my attention to Erik Hanson’s game against the mighty A’s on Aug. 1, 1990. Wow! Facing a team that would breeze into the World Series (only to get swept by the Reds), Hanson pitched a one-hit shutout, with no walks, for nine innings. The only hit: A one-out single by Carney Lansford in the fourth. Lansford moved up to second on a wild pitch, and took third on Jose Canseco’s ground out, but Dave Henderson struck out.
Other than that, Hanson was flawless through nine, striking out 11. One problem: Dave Stewart — the single greatest competitor on the mound I ever witnessed — also shut out the Mariners, so the game went into the 10th. Hanson gave up a one-out single to Dave Henderson, but Mark McGwire hit into a double play.
To recap, that’s one batter over the minimum for 10 innings for Hanson. Unfortunately for him, Mike Schooler took over on the mound in the bottom of the 11th and gave up three straight one-out hits, with Doug Jennings singling home pinch-runner Lance Blankenship (those names are some real blasts from the past) to give Oakland a 1-0 win. Stewart went all 11 innings, a five-hitter, for the victory. I know the next question: He threw 129 pitches — seven more than Hanson. Those were different times. Not many managers would allow their starter to go 11 innings nowadays.
At any rate, this performance has to go on the top 10 somewhere.