Twenty years ago, an iconic game took place in Cubs history, one that will never be forgotten. Kerry Wood’s twenty strikeout game against the Astros. It’s been 20 years since Wood struck out 20 back in 1998.
Then 20-year old rookie in just his fifth start, Kerry Wood would make a name for himself with a historic performance. Wood pitched arguably the best pitching performance in baseball history with a nine-inning shutout of the Astros allowing just one hit and striking out twenty, becoming just the 2nd player at the time with 20 strikeouts. There have been just four twenty-strikeout games in baseball history to this date, but just Kerry Wood and Roger Clemens once have pitched a complete game shutout. That’s why this game was one for the ages.
Achieving 20 strikeouts in a game is as rare as it gets, and Kerry Wood did it in style. It started out with Wood striking out the side in the first against Houston’s big three– Biggio, Bell, and Bagwell. Wood struck out two more batters in the second inning with five punchouts through two. He was on his game early and everyone saw something special coming.
With three more strikeouts over the next two innings, Kerry Wood had struck out eight through the first four innings. Wood struck out the side again in the fifth inning, up to eleven strikeouts and wasn’t done yet.
Wood notched four more strikeouts over the next two innings, up to fifteen through seven innings pitched, still with something to prove. With just the eighth and ninth left, Kerry Wood put his name in the record books. Wood retired all 6 batters faced, striking out five of them. Enough for an iconic twenty strikeouts as the Cubs won 2-0. Rookie Kerry Wood had accomplished a 20 strikeout, complete game shutout of the Houston Astros.
Wood’s 20 strikeouts still holds up as a tie for the most ever. Three pitchers to ever play the game have struck out twenty in a single game. Kerry Wood, Roger Clemens, and Max Scherzer in 2016 accomplished the mark but not with a complete game shutout. Still, Wood’s performance was one for ages and will never be repeated.
Congratulations Kerry on your 20th anniversary of the best pitching performance in Cubs and MLB history!