Blue Jays' Single-A team strikes out 24(?!)

May 15th, 2022

Every nine-inning baseball game is a race to 27 outs. It doesn’t matter how you get them, they all count the same. But the way the Dunedin Blue Jays racked theirs up Saturday night is something we’ve never seen before.

The Blue Jays’ Single-A affiliate did something unprecedented against Tampa, retiring 24 of 27 batters via strikeout in their 1-0 victory at TD Ballpark. Three pitchers combined to accomplish the feat, representing the most strikeouts by a Minor League team since at least 2005. It came a few weeks after the Single-A Clearwater Phillies struck out 22 in their April 23 win -- also against Tampa.

The Major League record for team strikeouts in a nine-inning game is 20, last accomplished by the White Sox over the Tigers on April 28, 2019. It’s happened six other times at the big league level as well.

“It was honestly one of the most unbelievable things I’ve ever seen,” Dunedin pitching coach Drew Hayes told MLB Pipeline. “I started in pro ball in 2010 and I don’t have words for what I watched tonight."

For some perspective on how dominant Dunedin’s pitching was Saturday, let’s present their accomplishment in a slightly different way. They allowed seven batters to reach in the shutout, issuing five walks and allowing two singles. Only three other batters put the ball in play. Blue Jays pitching struck out every hitter in the Tarpons lineup at least once, two twice, two thrice and three four times.

Dunedin managed only seven hits itself, scoring only on Cameron Eden’s solo homer in the fourth. The Blue Jays also weathered their share of scares. Tarpons leadoff hitter Alexander Vargas hit Dunedin starter Nick Frasso’s first pitch “450 feet foul,” Hayes said, missing a tone-setting home run by a small margin. Frasso then struck out Vargas, the next four batters, and eight of 10 while touching 100 mph with his fastball three times. It was an extremely encouraging debut for Frasso, the Jays’ fourth-round pick in the 2020 Draft, who was making his first affiliated start since undergoing elbow surgery last summer. 

“Frasso was just dominant,” Hayes said. “He was just able to overwhelm with stuff.”

Flash forward to the ninth inning, and righty Braden Scott issued consecutive walks after striking out his first hitter, putting the tying run on second with one out. He then struck out Alan Mejia and Connor Cannon to strand it there, and complete the team effort masterpiece. Not to be outdone, righty Dahian Santos, the Jays No. 28 prospect, struck out 10 in four one-hit innings in middle relief.

“It was nine innings of pitchers just being ultra aggressors,” Hayes said. “That was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.”

All told, it was the zenith of an exceptional week for the Dunedin staff, which entered Saturday having racked up 59 strikeouts over its past four games, including 19 in Thursday’s 7-3 win. All against a Tarpons team featuring two of the Yankees’ Top 30 prospects, including No. 3 Jasson Dominguez and No. 17 Vargas.

“Tonight, we got to 20 in the eighth inning and I said: ‘Oh my god, this is kinda crazy,'” Hayes said. “There are really good hitters on the other side, and that makes it all the more impressive for our guys. It speaks to how nasty their stuff was.”

Added Hayes: “This is the standard. This is what we’re trying to do as a pitching department: Strike guys out. That’s where the game is at now. I think it’s a great teaching point for all our pitchers in that aspect."