Revisit Kerry Wood's 20-K game

April 16th, 2020

CHICAGO -- Plenty of Cubs fans can still see the final pitch in their mind's eye. The breaking ball diving out of the strike zone. Derek Bell swinging in vain. Kerry Wood spinning around on the mound, giving a subdued fist pump as the Wrigley Field crowd goes wild.

That pitch on May 6, 1998, completed Wood's historic 20-strikeout showing against an impressive Houston Astros lineup. It was arguably one of the greatest pitching performance not only in Cubs history, but in the history of baseball itself.

Fans can now relive Wood's incredible afternoon in the video above.

"I don't think I threw any strikes warming up. I was all over the place," Wood said in an oral history of the game on last year. "Balls were all over the place. I think I actually shut it down early and flipped the ball to [pitching coach] Phil Regan and said, "We're done. I'm loose. It's only going to get worse. It's time to start save my bullets."

Maybe Wood could not tell where the ball was going in his pregame bullpen session, but it was Houston's hitters who seemed to have no idea what was coming over the next nine innings.

The top of the Astros' lineup featured a pair of Hall of Famers in leadoff man Craig Biggio and No. 3 hitter Jeff Bagwell. Sandwiched between them in the second slot was Bell, who entered that afternoon batting .403 with a 1.095 OPS over his first 30 games of the 1998 season to that point.

Wood -- 20 years old and pitching in just his fifth career game in the Majors -- struck out the first three batters in order, providing some foreshadowing of what was to come. Astros starter Shane Reynolds also struck out the side in the first en route to an eight-inning start with half as many strikeouts as Wood (10).

Over 122 pitches, Wood amassed 84 strikes, finishing with no walks, one hit batter and one questionable infield hit. In the top of the third, Ricky Gutierrez chopped a breaking ball to the left side, where third baseman Kevin Orie ranged to his left. The ball nicked Orie's glove, skipped into the outfield grass and was deemed a single.

"Had I dove, and committed to the dive sooner, I absolutely could have stopped the ball," Orie said last year. "Whether or not I could have gotten up and thrown him out, I'm not sure. You would hope so, but I had this feeling at the last second that I needed to reach out and grab it and try to get him at first. That little hesitation and reach just cost me a little bit of ground."

Wood cruised from there, ending with a 105 Game Score that remains the highest in history for a nine-inning performance. Wood is part of an exclusive club of pitchers to notch 20 strikeouts in nine innings, along with Roger Clemens (Sept. 18, 1996, and April 29, 1986), Randy Johnson (May 8, 2001) and Max Scherzer (May 11, 2016).

"I was [strikeout] No. 21 standing on deck if they didn't catch the ball when Derek struck out," Bagwell said. "It's the most dominant game I've ever seen in person."