Astros set a record with two clean innings against Rangers


Astros set a record with two clean innings against Rangers

In the seventh inning of a game between the Philadelphia Athletics and the Chicago White Sox on September 27, 1928, Lefty Grove of the Athletics beat Moe Berg, Tommy Thomas and Johnny Mostil using only the minimum nine pitches.

It would be 9,112 days – almost 25 years – before another so-called flawless inning was thrown. Although, courtesy of Billy Hoeft of the Detroit Tigers in 1953, he also faced the White Sox.

If you thought the fortunes were conspiring against the White Sox because of this, consider what happened to the Texas Rangers on Wednesday.

In the second inning of a game between the Houston Astros and the Rangers at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, Astros right-hander Luis Garcia recorded a flawless inning by defeating Nathaniel Lowe, Ezequiel Duran and Brad Miller by just nine pitches. Five innings later, Phil Maton, a right-hander for the Astros, did exactly the same thing – while facing the same three batters. They were the 106th and 107th clean innings in major league history.

The Astros won 9-2 while the Rangers tried to figure out what hit them.

“We obviously knew they were going pretty well,” Miller said of Garcia and Maton. “I wish I had made some better swings and wish they hadn’t.”

Houston catcher Martín Maldonado told reporters he couldn’t recall ever being part of a flawless inning, let alone two in the same game.

“Being a part of that whenever you make history — I’m glad I caught that situation,” he said.

The two flawless innings were a startling event in more ways than one, as it was not only the first time the feat had been accomplished against the same three hitters, but also the first time two such innings had been pitched on the same day, let alone the same one Game.

Against Garcia, the Rangers batters managed to foul five of his nine pitches. Two of the batters swung and missed the third bat while one went down on a foul tip caught by Maldonado. Maton was a little more dominant, with the batters fouling just three pitches, with outs recorded on a foul tip, a called strike, and a swinging strike.

In a fun twist, Garcia briefly kept things going in the third inning by beating Leody Taveras by three courts. That gave him a remarkable four strikeouts in 12 places.

While still rare, the spotless inning, like no-hitters and strikeouts in general, has become far more common thanks to the all-or-nothing approach of modern hitters and pitchers.

Between 1876 and 1921 there were only three recorded instances of a flawless inning. In the 1920s there were five, with Grove being the last. There weren’t any in the 1930s and 1940s, and while there were a handful in each of the next several decades, things took a notable turn at 17 in the 1990s and 14 in the 2000s.

Krugs, it seems, were just getting started. The 2010s saw 37 unblemished innings and the 2020s had nine even though the pandemic reduced the 2020 regular season from 162 games to 60 games and 2022 was only in its third month.

Aside from a major change in strategy by hitters and pitchers, the feat should continue to be a semi-regular event. But for it to happen twice in a game against the same three racquets is just odd enough that it could stand out for decades to come.

“This feels so good. It’s history,” Garcia told reporters. “I’m so happy for myself and for Phil. I don’t know what to say. I’m just happy.”

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