On May 6, 1998, Chicago Cubs rookie Kerry Wood ties a major league record by striking out 20 batters in a 2-0, 1 hit shutout of the Houston Astros. Wood’s performance sets a new National League record for a nine-inning game, while tying Roger Clemens’ mark for most K’s in a nine-inning game. Roger Clemens of the Boston Red Sox had 20 strike outs twice, against the Seattle Mariners in 1986, and against the Detroit Tigers in 1996. The 20 year-old Texan breaks the National League record of 19 strikeouts in a nine-inning game shared by Steve Carlton, David Cone, and Tom Seaver and Rookie mark of 18 set by Bill Gullickson.

Brad Ausmus, who was catching for the Astros that day, also happened to be with the Tigers in 1996 when Clemens had his second 20-K game, and he said it was evident early on that Wood could do something special that day. “I remember thinking in the dugout, ‘Clemens struck out 20. I’m afraid this guy might strike out 27,’” Ausmus said in 2018.

Although Wood’s career achievements don’t match those of the other pitchers on this list, the right-hander’s masterpiece against the Astros is considered by some to be the most dominant pitching performance ever. In fact, his Game Score of 105 (using the Bill James formula) is the highest in MLB history for a nine-inning start.

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Chicago Cubs 2, Houston Astros 0

SABR Article

Game Played on Wednesday, May 6, 1998 (D) at Wrigley Field

HOU N 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 - 0 1 1 
CHI N 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 x - 2 8 0
BOX+PBP
WP: Wood (3-2)
LP: Reynolds (2-3)

Play by Play

ASTROS 1ST: Biggio struck out; Bell struck out; Bagwell was
called out on strikes; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB.  Astros 0, Cubs 0.

CUBS 1ST: Brown struck out; Morandini struck out; Sosa struck
out; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB.  Astros 0, Cubs 0.

ASTROS 2ND: Howell struck out; Alou struck out; Clark flied to
center; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB.  Astros 0, Cubs 0.

CUBS 2ND: Grace doubled to left [Grace to third (error by
Clark)]; Rodriguez out on a sacrifice fly to center [Grace
scored (unearned)]; Blauser grounded out (third to first);
Martinez walked; Orie struck out; 1 R (0 ER), 1 H, 1 E, 1 LOB. 
Astros 0, Cubs 1.

ASTROS 3RD: Gutierrez singled to third; Ausmus struck out;
Reynolds out on a sacrifice bunt (first to second) [Gutierrez to
second]; Wood balked [Gutierrez to third]; Biggio grounded out
(shortstop to first); 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 1 LOB.  Astros 0, Cubs 1.

CUBS 3RD: Wood was called out on strikes; On a bunt Brown
singled to third; Morandini struck out; Sosa singled to second
[Brown to third]; Grace walked [Sosa to second]; Rodriguez was
called out on strikes; 0 R, 2 H, 0 E, 3 LOB.  Astros 0, Cubs 1.

ASTROS 4TH: Bell flied to right; Bagwell was called out on
strikes; Howell was called out on strikes; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB.
 Astros 0, Cubs 1.

CUBS 4TH: Blauser doubled to left; Martinez flied to right; Orie
was called out on strikes; Wood grounded out (first to pitcher);
0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 1 LOB.  Astros 0, Cubs 1.

ASTROS 5TH: Alou was called out on strikes; Clark was called out
on strikes; Gutierrez was called out on strikes; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E,
0 LOB.  Astros 0, Cubs 1.

CUBS 5TH: Brown singled to center; Morandini grounded into a
double play (pitcher to shortstop to first) [Brown out at
second]; Sosa struck out; 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 0 LOB.  Astros 0, Cubs
1.

ASTROS 6TH: Ausmus grounded out (second to first); Reynolds was
called out on strikes; Biggio was hit by a pitch; Bell popped to
first; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 1 LOB.  Astros 0, Cubs 1.

CUBS 6TH: Grace grounded out (second to first); Rodriguez struck
out; Blauser singled to center; Martinez lined to third; 0 R, 1
H, 0 E, 1 LOB.  Astros 0, Cubs 1.

ASTROS 7TH: Bagwell struck out; Howell struck out; Alou struck
out; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB.  Astros 0, Cubs 1.

CUBS 7TH: Orie grounded out (third to first); Wood popped to
second; Brown grounded out (second to first); 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0
LOB.  Astros 0, Cubs 1.

ASTROS 8TH: HERNANDEZ REPLACED RODRIGUEZ (PLAYING LF); Clark
struck out; Gutierrez struck out; Ausmus was called out on
strikes; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB.  Astros 0, Cubs 1.

CUBS 8TH: Morandini singled to right; Sosa flied to right; Grace
singled to right [Morandini to third]; Hernandez forced Grace
(third to second) [Morandini scored]; Hernandez was caught
stealing second (catcher to second); 1 R, 2 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. 
Astros 0, Cubs 2.

ASTROS 9TH: SPIERS BATTED FOR REYNOLDS; Spiers struck out;
Biggio grounded out (shortstop to first); Bell struck out; 0 R,
0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB.  Astros 0, Cubs 2.

Final Totals      R   H   E  LOB
 Astros           0   1   1    2
 Cubs             2   8   0    6