HOUSTON -- Despite all the great strikeout pitchers the Astros have had through the years -- J.R. Richard, Nolan Ryan, Mike Scott, Roger Clemens, Billy Wagner and Roy Oswalt, to name a few -- they've never had a staff achieve what it did in sweeping the Orioles.
The Astros set an MLB record by striking out 52 batters in a three-game series, capped by Thursday's 15-strikeout performance in a 4-2 win over the Orioles at Minute Maid Park that gave Houston its first three-game winning streak of the season.
The Astros are the first Major League team on record, going back to 1913, to strike out at least 15 batters in three consecutive games. The previous record for most total strikeouts in a three-game series was 47, set by the Nationals earlier this season against the Twins.
No team has struck out 14-plus batters in each game of a three-game set, but six teams have had 13-plus strikeouts in each game of a three-game series (the 2015 Nats at Phillies, '15 Yankees at Mariners, '13 Tigers vs. Twins, '13 Rangers at Astros, '03 Dodgers vs. Rockies and '02 Yankees vs. Twins).
"It's not surprising to me, but maybe the consistency of the strikeouts was very unique this series," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "That's not an easy team to strike out. They're very potent, in the middle of the pack [in strikeouts], but we really did attack them early with strikes and put them away later."
Starter Lance McCullers struck out 10 batters in five innings, and Michael Feliz whiffed four in only two innings. Will Harris struck out one in the eighth, and reliever Ken Giles -- working the ninth because Luke Gregerson was unavailable -- closed it out, though he didn't have a strikeout. He worked every game in the series.
"I was just trying to get outs out there," Giles said. "That's a tough one going out there for a third consecutive day, and I just wanted to get the guys to put the ball in play and get the outs for me. That's all that I was trying to do, and luckily I got those three outs."
The Astros struck out 19 batters in Tuesday's series opener, including 16 by the bullpen, and added 18 in Wednesday's win. Of the 52 strikeouts in the series, 29 were by relief pitchers. Feliz has at least three strikeouts in eight of his first 15 Major League appearances, joining John Strohmayer (1970) as the only pitchers since 1913 to accomplish that.
"You see all the strikeouts in this ballpark," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "With the change in lighting it's been tough. What did they have tonight, 13? They had 10 or 11 the other night. They get new LED lighting? It's definitely a different look for the hitters. I'll tip our hat to the pitchers, though."