Kid K tops Cubs' all-time best-pitched games

January 18th, 2021

CHICAGO -- History goes hand in hand with the Cubs, whose beginnings can be traced back to the 19th century. And within all that history has been a wealth of arms, setting records and winning awards and earning plaques in the Hall of Fame.

With more than 21,000 games and counting in Cubs history, identifying the five greatest single-game pitching performance is a tall task. What follows is hardly a definitive list, but rather a ranking of five monumental outings with the understanding that plenty of others could have made the cut.

It goes without saying that a list is strong when ' 10-inning duel with to begin the 1971 season is absent. Apologies are in order for other stars of one-day brilliance -- names like , , and , and further back to , Ed Reulbach and Larry Corcoran, among others.

With all that in mind, here are our picks for the Top 5 single-game pitching performances in Cubs history, including the postseason:

1. Kid K racks up 20
Date: May 6, 1998

It was the day that Kerry Wood became Kid K. Making only the fifth appearance of his Major League career, a 21-year-old spun one of the great pitching performances in baseball history against a talented Houston lineup. The hard-throwing Texan piled up 20 strikeouts, joining as only the second pitcher (third instance) to reach that mark in a nine-inning game. In a 2-0 victory, Wood ended with one seeing-eye single allowed, one hit batsman and no walks in a 122-pitch masterpiece.

"It's the most dominant game I've ever seen in person," said former Astro , who struck out in all three of his plate appearances that day.

The 20 Strikeout Club has since been joined by (2001) and (2016), but Wood’s gem still stands tallest in one regard. The 105 Game Score he fashioned that afternoon against an Astros order featuring Hall of Famers and Bagwell is the highest for a nine-inning game. Next is the 104 logged by Scherzer in his 17-strikeout no-hitter against the Mets in 2015.

2. Arrieta's August ending
Date: Aug. 30, 2015

Arrieta's push for the '15 National League Cy Young Award really took off that August, when the right-hander won all six of his starts and posted a 0.43 ERA in the process. You have to go back to 1974 to find the previous pitcher to have at least six wins and a better ERA in a single month ( went 7-0 with a 0.30 ERA that September).

Related

In his final outing of August, Arrieta provided an exclamation point. On the road against the first-place Dodgers, the Cubs ace piled up 12 strikeouts in a no-hitter that was one error and a walk shy of a perfect game. Arrieta's 98 Game Score is the highest among no-no's in Cubs history and second in franchise records for a nine-inning contest.

"He has that kind of stuff nightly -- it's really crazy," former Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Arrieta that night. "The ball looks like a Wiffle ball from the side."

3. Arrieta's Wild shutout
Date: Oct. 7, 2015

Arrieta took the mound in front of the largest-ever crowd at PNC Park, which had its fans clad in black for an intimidating "black out" for the NL Wild Card Game. The raucous crowd chanted Arrieta's name in an effort to rattle him, but nothing was able to shake the eventual Cy Young winner. The 4-0 win announced Chicago's arrival, and came one year before the Cubs won it all.

"Jake is a different cat, man," Maddon said after that historic win.

Arrieta struck out 11 and walked none in a shutout victory. Oh, he was also hit by a pitch, stole a base and shrugged off a bench-clearing incident. The ace became the first pitcher in playoff history to spin a shutout while striking out at least 10 with zero walks, and the first Cubs pitcher to toss a shutout in the playoffs since 1945 (Claude Passeau in Game 3 of the World Series).

4. Champions, Overall
Date: Oct. 14, 1908

With apologies to , whose brilliant performance against the Dodgers in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series propelled the Cubs to the '16 World Series, Orval Overall gets the nod for this list. It was Overall who clinched the 1908 World Series triumph over Detroit before that whole 108-year drought issue.

In Game 5 of the World Series, Overall tossed a three-hit shutout with 10 strikeouts and four walks in a 2-0 victory that sealed the championship. Overall also struck out four batters in the first (thanks to runner reaching via wild pitch). His 87 Game Score ranks second to only Arrieta (88 in the '15 NL Wild Card Game) all-time for a Cubs' playoff performance.

5. Big Z's neutral-site no-no
Date: Sept. 14, 2008

There have been 16 no-hitters on record for the Cubs. Ken Holtzman's 1969 no-no is unique for its lack of strikeouts (see: zero). nearly spun a perfect game in 1972. Arrieta tossed one in '15, and another in '16. beat 1-in-9,600 odds to complete his no-hitter in '20 in Milwaukee.

To finish off this list, however, we turn to , who became the first pitcher in MLB history to throw a no-no at a neutral site when he quieted the Astros at Miller Park in '08. Hurricane Ike forced the game to Milwaukee, where Big Z struck out 10, walked one and turned in a 96 Game Score in a 5-0 win.