FanPost

Kimbrel becomes fourth Braves pitcher to strike out four in an inning

In the ninth inning of tonight's game, Craig Kimbrel became the fourth Braves pitcher to strike out four in an inning. He first got Greg Dobbs swinging. Then, on an 0-2 pitch, Donavon Solano swung at a wild pitch and reached first base. John Buck then struck out swinging at a 2-2 pitch, and Gil Velazquez ended the game striking out swinging at a 1-2 pitch.

The last Braves pitcher to strike out four in an inning was Mark Wohlers, in a game against the Cubs on June 7, 1995. In the ninth inning, Wohlers struck out Kevin Roberson, Rick Wilkins, Shawon Dunston (who reached on a wild pitch), and to end the game, pinch hitter Sammy Sosa. Wohlers earned a save for the winning pitcher, John Smoltz. Two other Braves pitchers have struck out four in an inning: Paul Assenmacher (that one surprised me) did it in the fifth inning of a a game against the Cardinals on August 22, 1989, and Phil Niekro did it in the sixth inning of a game against the Pirates on June 29, 1977. That last one I remember seeing on TBS: Niekro struck out Pirates greats Dave Parker and Bill Robinson before giving up a double to Al Oliver. Niekro then struck out Rennie Stennett, but he reached on a passed ball by Braves catcher Biff Pocaroba, with Oliver advancing to third. But then Niekro struck out Omar Moreno to end the inning.

In going through the list of pitchers who have struck out four in an inning, there is a very odd pattern. There were a handful of four-strikeout innings from the early part of the 20th century, but then there are no recorded instances from 1917 through 1955. Was there a rules change that accounts for that? It has become more common since 1995, but nothing like this year: Kimbrel's was the 8th four-strikeout inning in the majors this year, far surpassing any other year. It happened five times in 1999 (including the Angels' Chuck Finley doing it twice); on a quick scan I didn't see any other year with more than three.

This FanPost does not express the views or opinions of Talking Chop.

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