17 years ago today: Cubs' Kerry Wood's 20-strikeout game


17 years ago today: Cubs' Kerry Wood's 20-strikeout game

By Sarah Langs

17 years ago today, Kerry Wood made history at Wrigley Field. On May 6, 1998 in a day game against the Houston Astros, Wood struck out 20 batters en route to a shutout. 

The 20 strikeouts were the most ever in a nine-inning game. Roger Clemens set the record on April 29, 1986, and sent 20 down again on September 18, 1996. Randy Johnson joined Clemens and Wood as the only pitchers to accomplish the feat on May 8, 2001. Technically, Johnson’s game wasn’t a nine-inning game, but Johnson pitched nine innings before yielding to the bullpen when the game went to extras.

At the time, Wood was a 21-year-old rookie. For comparison, Addison Russell is 21 right now, and was a four-year-old on that May day.

The game was just Wood’s fifth career start. That’s not to say that Cubs fans shouldn’t have seen the strikeout dominance coming, though. In his first four career starts — in April, just prior to the May 6 game — Wood struck out seven batters twice and nine batters once.

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It was a strikeout-heavy year for Wood, who struck out 233 in 26 starts in 1998. He only once notched more punchouts than that mark — 266 in 2003 when he led the league in the category.

Wood allowed only one hit — a Ricky Gutierrez single to lead off the top of the third inning.

It was the first of five career shutouts for Wood. One of those other shutouts, on May 25, 2001 against the Brewers, was the only other time Wood gave up one hit over nine innings.

Wood would go on to win the NL Rookie of the Year award.

What was the scene at Wrigley like that Wednesday 17 years ago? The paid attendance was 15,758 and the game-time temperature was 71 degrees.

Craig Biggio led off for the Astros and future Cub Moises Alou hit fifth. Current Tigers manager Brad Ausmus was behind the plate for Houston.

The Houston pitcher was Shane Reynolds, who turned in an impressive start as well. He was no joke at the end of Wood’s pitching line. Reynolds recorded 10 strikeouts on the day and gave up two runs, one earned. Reynolds would finish the year with a 3.51 ERA, .11 higher than Wood’s 3.40.

For the Cubs, Sammy Sosa hit third and Mark Grace hit cleanup. The two RBI were recorded by Henry Rodriguez and Jose Hernandez.

Wood’s 12.58 K per nine innings that year was surpassed only twice since. Pedro Martinez’s 13.20 mark in 1999 and Johnson’s 13.41 in 2001.

Elsewhere around the league that day, seven current major league managers were in action as players, with three others on active rosters but getting the day off. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, Twins' Paul Molitor, Astros' AJ Hinch, White Sox Robin Ventura, Rockies' Walt Weiss, Brewers' Craig Counsell and Cardinals' Mike Matheny played, while Marlins' Mike Redmond, Yankees' Joe Girardi and Nationals' Matt Williams sat the benches. Current GMs Ruben Amaro, Phillies, and Jerry Dipoto, Angels, played, too.

Jose Canseco hit a homer that day as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. Other notable dingers came from Jim Thome (CLE), Chuck Knoblauch (NYY), Tim Raines (NYY), Larry Jones (ATL), Barry Bonds (SF), Gary Sheffield (FLA), Bobby Bonilla (FLA) and Tony Gwynn (SDP).

David Ortiz was still a Minnesota Twin. Alex Rodriguez went 0-5 as the Mariners’ shortstop, hitting in front of Ken Griffey, Jr. Future Cub Greg Maddux pitched seven scoreless for the Braves.

Jed Hoyer says Cubs plan to add depth before the trade deadline

Jed Hoyer says Cubs plan to add depth before the trade deadline

With the second half of the season about to kick off Thursday afternoon, the Cubs front office is in the final stretch of roster building as the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline looms.

Cubs General Manager Jed Hoyer spoke with NBC Sports Chicago's very own David Kaplan today on his ESPN 1000 radio show answering plenty of questions on what the Cubs' gameplan is before the trade deadline. 

There has already been a flurry of moves over the past few days, with two of the more enticing trade pieces being moved in new Dodger shortstop Manny Machado and former Padres reliever Brad Hand, who was traded to the Indians Thursday morning.

But when asked about going after big-name talent at the deadline, Hoyer explained while the team may "engage" in those conversations, the focus for him and the Cubs was on adding depth to the roster. 

"Obviously, we'll be involved in those [trade] discussions, but I do feel like adding depth is something we are going to do," Hoyer said. "We're going to be in on every discussion, but at the same time, I do believe we have the pieces internally to be a heck of a team." 

The name that has garnered attention recently has been Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom, who is currently having the best season of his career at age 30, but Hoyer made no indication the Cubs would once again facilitate another blockbuster deal.

And even with Tyler Chatwood struggling to locate in the strike zone this season, Hoyer made it clear the front office hasn't lost faith in their second biggest investment of the off-season. 

"We're confident [Chatwood] will have a better second half, we're going to have a really big, long pennant race," Hoyer said. "It's going to be really challenging second half and we're going to need all the pitching we can possibly get and I think Tyler is going to be a big part of that." 

In terms of team needs, the Cubs are a club with few holes on their roster but could stand to add more pitching in both the bullpen and rotation with everyone but Jon Lester having frustrating moments in the first half of the season.

Making moves similar to the Mike Montgomery trade in 2016 are what Hoyer relishes, telling Kaplan those are the moves the Cubs "pride themselves on." 

But when it comes to Cubs improving on their already impressive first half of baseball, Jed Hoyer continued to back the players who are currently on the roster.

And while it may not be the move that creates the social media buzz fans crave this time of year, Hoyer knows he can get more from his current roster in the second half. 

"There's no doubt that the best way we can get better is by having guys we already have [play] better than they have to date." 


Yadier Molina sees something familiar in Cubs: 'They remind me of what we were back in the day'

Yadier Molina sees something familiar in Cubs: 'They remind me of what we were back in the day'

Yadier Molina has been playing the Cubs for a decade and a half.

For 15 years, Molina has been one of the faces of the St. Louis Cardinals, making nine All-Star Games, winning eight Gold Gloves, playing in nine postseasons and winning a pair of World Series championships. And for much of that time, his Cardinals had the upper hand in the rivalry between the two National League Central foes.

But that's changed in recent years. The Cubs have ascended to the Cardinals' old spot as a perennial contender, and it was their defeat of the Cardinals in the NLDS back in 2015 that really seemed to usher in the current era of World Series expectations on the North Side.

If you watch any rivalry long enough, you'll see the balance of power shift back and forth. Molina has been watching this rivalry for a long time.

"They've got good chemistry, they've got good talent there, they play together," Molina said Tuesday in Washington, D.C., before suiting up alongside Willson Contreras and Javy Baez on the NL All-Star team. "So yeah, they remind me of what we were back in the day with the Cardinals."

High praise considering all that Molina and those old Cardinals teams accomplished.

It wasn't too long ago that the Cardinals were a dominant force in this division and in this rivalry. Between 2009 and 2015, the Cubs lost double-digit games to the Cardinals in all but one season. The Cardinals won a World Series title during that seven-year span (2011), ending all but one of those campaigns with a postseason appearance. The Cubs, meanwhile, had five straight fifth-place finishes and missed the playoffs in all but the last.

But since the end of the 2015 regular season, the Cubs are 30-20 against their biggest rivals, a record that includes that 3-1 series win in the 2015 NLDS.

And now it's the Cubs who have seemingly built a winning machine. Like the Cardinals dominated the division with a core cast of characters that included Molina as well as Albert Pujols, Adam Wainwright and Matt Holliday, the Cubs now have that reliable core featuring Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Baez, Contreras and so many others. They're expected to be at the top of the Central standings and compete for championships, just like the Cardinals were for much of a decade.

The Cardinals, of course, have quite recently been thrown into a state of atypical tumult with manager Mike Matheny fired in the middle of the season and a couple off-the-field controversies grabbing national headlines. That's not to say they're exactly out of contention, though, as they begin the second half with an above-.500 record, 7.5 games back of the division-leading Cubs and only four games back for the second NL wild card spot.

But when you compare the drama-drenched Cardinals with the Cubs — who while no one would describe as firing on all cylinders have managed to stay not far behind their 2016 pace — there's a noticeable gap, a gap that's somewhat crazy to think about for those who can remember the Cardinals' past dominance in this rivalry.

Though the Cardinals have actually won more head-to-head matchups this season (five of the eight), the five-game set to begin the second half — the first of eight games between the two teams over the next two weekends — would figure to favor the Cubs, who won 12 of 15 to close out the first half.

"It's important for us to go out there and try to win the series. Right now, we need that as a club," Molina said. "It's going to be tough. The Cubs, they're playing good baseball right now, they've got chemistry there. It's going to be tough, but our concentration is on trying to win the series."