Burnes matches record with 10 straight K's

Righty compiles career-high 15 strikeouts in 'dominant' outing

August 12th, 2021

CHICAGO -- Corbin Burnes did exactly what a pitcher is supposed to do after being spotted a seven-run lead before he throws a single pitch.

He filled the zone with strikes.

Burnes matched an AL/NL record by striking out 10 consecutive Cubs during one particularly dominant stretch of a 15-strikeout, eight-inning masterpiece Wednesday at Wrigley Field, where he joined Tom Seaver and Aaron Nola in MLB’s record books and the Brewers breezed to a 10-0 win.

Seaver, pitching for the Mets, struck out 10 straight Padres on April 22, 1970, for a record that stood more than 51 years. That is until this season, where it’s already been matched twice. Nola, pitching against Seaver’s former team, whiffed 10 straight Mets on June 25; now Burnes has joined him, getting 10 consecutive strikeouts -- all swinging -- from the start of the second inning through the first out of the fifth on a hot and humid night on Chicago’s North Side.

After Burnes put down Cubs first baseman Frank Schwindel on three straight swinging strikes to open the fifth inning, Chicago third baseman Matt Duffy denied Burnes’ sole possession of an all-time record when he punched a first-pitch fastball to right field for a single.

On the mound, Burnes was unaware of his brush with history. 

“When I came in, [Brewers equipment manager Jason] Shawger said something. I said, ‘What did we do? Why are we taking the ball out of the game? What’s going on?’” Burnes said. “I had no clue.”

Burnes was focused on pushing the Brewers to a season-high 23 games over .500, and to an eight-game lead in the National League Central over the second-place Reds after Cincinnati fell in extra innings Wednesday.

So that’s what Burnes did.

“After we put up seven in the first, it makes it very easy to go out there and throw it over the plate,” he said.

The Brewers granted their 26-year-old right-hander the green light to pound strikes by pounding Cubs starter Jake Arrieta to the tune of seven runs on eight hits during an 11-batter top of the first. Arrieta threw 37 pitches in the first inning; Burnes needed only four.

"Throw strike one and finish it afterward,” catcher Omar Narváez said. “That's how simple it was calling the game today.”

Burnes’ first 14 pitches of the night were strikes. The first Cubs hitter to see Ball 2 was Rafael Ortega leading off the fourth inning. In the sixth, Ortega became the only Cubs hitter to see Ball 3 against Burnes.

The strikeout streak was pitching at its finest. Four of the 10 strikeouts came on cutters, the pitch that has transformed Burnes from one of the National League’s most hittable pitchers in 2019, before he created that offering in the Brewers’ pitching lab out of the natural movement on what had been a four-seam fastball. Three of the strikeouts were on sliders. Two were on curveballs. One was a changeup. Of the 10 strikeout victims, four never saw a ball during their at-bat.

And Burnes didn’t stop after Duffy snapped the streak. Burnes matched his career high with strikeout No. 13 in the sixth inning, then set a career high with his 14th strikeout in the seventh -- he became the first Brewers pitcher with that many K’s since Mike Fiers at Wrigley Field on Aug. 14, 2014. When Burnes got strikeout No. 15 with his 99th and final pitch in the eighth, he had the second-most strikeouts in 53 years of franchise history, trailing only Ben Sheets’ 18 strikeouts on a memorably sunny Sunday in Milwaukee in May 2004.

Brewers manager Craig Counsell was the Brewers’ shortstop that afternoon behind Sheets.

“I don't remember anything about that,” Counsell said. “Somebody made me aware of it in the fifth or sixth inning with the strikeout total rising. They're both great performances, I can tell you that.”

Down in Louisiana, Sheets was aware of what Burnes was doing Tuesday. The Brewers' director of team travel told Burnes he got an in-game text from the four-time All-Star.

“He was getting a little worried about the record,” Burnes said with a smile. “It’s cool that he was checking in and watching it.”

Burnes’ final line: Eight innings, four hits (two of which stayed on the infield), no walks, 15 strikeouts. Of his 99 pitches, 74 were strikes. Baseball-Reference has data going back to 1901 and there are only 54 performances of 15 or more strikeouts with no walks, including Burnes and the Mets’ Jacob deGrom this season.

Burnes was the first opponent to strike out 15 Cubs since Chicago’s World Series curse was still a thing. Chris Sale whiffed 15 while pitching for the White Sox on Aug. 16, 2015.

Even before Narváez hit a two-run home run in a long top of the ninth inning that brought Burnes’ spot in the batting order to the plate, Counsell had determined that lefty Hoby Milner would cover the bottom of the ninth. Burnes had done more than enough to reset the bullpen coming off a doubleheader sweep of the Cubs on Tuesday.

It’s not the first time that Burnes has made strikeout history this season. He started the year with 58 strikeouts before issuing his first walk, breaking Adam Wainwright’s modern AL/NL mark for a starter and Kenley Jansen’s modern record for any pitcher.

Of course, Burnes also made Brewers history. The previous club record of seven consecutive strikeouts within a single game was set by right-hander Steve Woodard at Wrigley Field on Sept. 17, 1999. Woodard, though, gave up four runs (three earned) in five innings and the Brewers lost to the Cubs in 10 innings.

For Burnes, there was no such letdown. 

“It was dominant,” Counsell said. “The first four innings were as good as anybody has pitched in a game. Like, not just this year, but for a long time. It was fun to watch.”