On April 29, 1986, Roger Clemens of the Boston Red Sox sets a major league record by striking out 20 batters in a 3-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners. The 23-year-old Clemens surpasses the record of 19 strikeouts shared by Hall of Famers Steve Carlton, Nolan Ryan, and Tom Seaver.
In 111 years of major league baseball, Clemens is the first pitcher to strike out 20 batters in a nine- inning game. He walked none. The Mariners put only 10 balls in play. Seattle pulled only two balls all night. He threw 138 pitches, 97 for strikes. Clemens saved the best for last. In the ninth, Clemens struck out Spike Owen swinging, then fanned Phil Bradley on three pitches for the magic No. 20. Ken Phelps grounded to short to end it.
Dwight Evans’ three-run, two-out, seventh-inning homer supplied the punch for the victory, but this was not a night to talk about hitters. Before Evan’s homerun, the Red Sox were losing 1-0, Gorman Thomas had homered for the Mariners lone run.
The 20 Strikeouts were aided by Don Baylor, the Red Sox first baseman. Baylor (playing first while Bill Buckner DH’d) drop a Thomas popup in foul territory. Baylor’s blunder served history well. Thomas was called out by Vic Voltaggio on a 3-2 pitch as Clemens closed the door on the fourth.
Clemens coming back from Surgery which cost him all of 1985 would say, “It’s been a long road back,” sad Clemens. “It feels good to go out and win like that . . . I was challenging guys.”