It's difficult to believe, but even with a history as deep and rich as that of the New York Yankees, there's an achievement — granted, it's rare — their pitchers had only managed to accomplish one time before Thursday night. For perspective, that's two times less than Chuck Finley all by himself, and the same number of times Tim Wakefield and 55 other pitchers had done it. Heck, a Chicago Cubs pitcher named Jason Berken did it himself on Thursday afternoon.
That achievement, of course, is a pitcher recording four strikeouts in a single inning, and now they can finally say it's happened twice after Phil Hughes struck out four straight batters in the fourth inning of their 10-7 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.
Hughes' first victim in the inning was J.P. Arencibia, whom he finished off in three pitches with a slider away. After a quick visit from the training staff and Joe Girardi, Hughes got Adeiny Hechavarria swinging on a high fastball that catcher Russell Martin couldn't handle. Martin was charged with a passed ball after it rolled all the way to screen, allowing Hechavarria to reach and Hughes to pursue a little history.
Now working from the stretch, Hughes would fan Anthony Gose on four pitches with a swing-and-miss curveball low and in. He then completed the impressive inning by catching Brett Lawrie looking on another dandy curveball. Four up, four strikeouts. And he did it all in an economical 17 pitches.
Now, if you can believe this, the only other Yankee to strike out four in an inning was A.J. Burnett, who also did it one time with the Miami Marlins back on July 5, 2002. His four-strikeout inning with the Yankees happened on June 24, 2011 when he struck out Chris Iannetta, Carlos Gonzalez, Chris Nelson and Todd Helton of the Colorado Rockies consecutively, with Nelson reaching on a wild pitch.
When I think of all the great names and Hall of Famers who have donned Yankees pinstripes over the years, it's a little surprising this hasn't happened more frequently, and even more surprising Burnett was the first. But maybe that's just me not truly understanding or appreciating how unique the feat is (only 62 times on record) or even how rare the opportunity to do it is.
Regardless, it's a cool accomplishment for Hughes personally. And despite the fact he didn't have his very best stuff during the outing — allowing four earned runs and walking three over five innings — he did strike out nine overall, he did earn win No. 16, and more importantly than all of that, he did help the Yankees move a full game up on the Baltimore Orioles in the American League East.
That all adds up to one very interesting and successful night on the hill at Yankee Stadium.
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