Wesneski spins immaculate inning in 2nd MLB start

September 23rd, 2022

PITTSBURGH -- uncoiled from his throwing motion, strode off the mound and gave a quick point in the direction of the Cubs' dugout. Next to manager David Ross, Chicago's pitching coaches were celebrating.

The rookie pitcher had just spun a slider beyond the bat of Jason Delay for an impressive strikeout, but this was no ordinary punchout. Wesneski had just put the period on an immaculate inning, needing only nine pitches to record a trio of strikeouts in the fifth during the Cubs' 3-2 win over the Pirates on Thursday night at PNC Park.

"It's crazy," Wesneski said. "You start thinking about it like the seventh, eighth pitch. And then the ninth one, you just kind of let it rip and hope that it happens."

With strikeouts of Jack Suwinski, Zack Collins and Delay, Wesneski became the first Cubs pitcher to register an immaculate inning since LaTroy Hawkins achieved the feat against the Marlins on Sept. 11, 2004. It marks the sixth immaculate inning in the Majors this season.

Other Cubs pitchers on record with such frames include Lynn McGlothen (Aug. 25, 1979), Bruce Sutter (Sept. 8, 1977) and Milt Pappas (Sept. 24, 1971).

"He's been really impressive early on," Cubs manager David Ross said. "Just being able to navigate the lineup and knowing his strengths. I don't know if I've ever been a part of an immaculate inning, so that was pretty cool."

During his rookie year with the D-backs, Cubs pitcher tossed an immaculate inning against the Rockies. After Thursday's game, Miley quipped that he did not throw a strike, "but they swung at all of them." (That’s not entirely true; three of the strikes were called).

"Kid's got good stuff -- that's a fact," said Miley, who gave a shake of his head and added, simply, "Man."

Overall against Pittsburgh, Wesneski turned in 6 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on five hits with six strikeouts and two walks. Through his first 22 innings in the Majors, the rookie -- acquired from the Yankees for reliever Scott Effross at the Trade Deadline -- has 24 strikeouts against four walks with a 2.45 ERA.

Wesneski said he threw an immaculate inning against Stetson during his junior year with Sam Houston State, but it was "nothing like that.” As Wesneski headed off the field after the fifth, he was caught up in the moment and had a question for veteran catcher .

"I go, 'Yan, have you ever caught one of those?'" Wesneski said. "He goes, 'Yeah, I've caught four or five of them.' I was like, 'Come on. Give me some love. At least a little bit of love.' He still thought it was cool. It was still a really cool moment."

"I probably should've let him have it," Gomes joked. "Like, 'Yeah, no, that's my first one!'"

The 35-year-old Gomes has spent more than a decade in the big leagues, has been the go-to catcher for multiple Cy Young Award winners and has earned a reputation for his ability to call a game, read batters and adjust on the fly. He has been a great resource for the 24-year-old Wesneski, who has all of four outings in the Majors.

Before the ninth and final pitch of the inning, for instance, Wesneski appeared to shake off a sign from Gomes multiple times before firing the decisive offering. But things are not always what they seem.

"Yan told me a shake. I didn't shake him," Wesneski said. "He tells me to shake more than I shake him. That's just how it goes. He knows what he's doing. I've been here for what? Two weeks, three weeks? He's been here for 10-12 years. You don't shake him very often. That's not how it works."

Suwinski and Collins were two of the seven left-handed bats (including switch-hitters) in the Pirates' lineup to face Wesneski.

The righty started Suwinski off with a down-and-in four-seam fastball, which was fouled off. The next two pitches were called strikes, the first a changeup up and in and the second a slider over the outer edge of the plate. Collins saw a changeup (called strike down in the zone) and two sliders (one swinging strike and one called).

Facing Delay, Wesneski generated two swinging strikes (on a first-pitch cutter and the 0-2 slider). Between those two pitches was a slider that hung over the middle of the plate -- a pitch Delay watched pop into Gomes' glove for a called strike.

"We were trying to push the pace," Gomes said. "And having an inning like that, you don't really realize what's happening until, really, like a pitch or so into that third batter. I mean, that shows the kind of pitcher that he is. I think he's got a great arsenal.

"To be able to do something like that, I'm sure there's plenty of big-time pitchers that haven't done it."