López fans first 9, sets MLB record in win

Right-hander makes history on anniversary of his father's passing

July 11th, 2021

MIAMI -- Marlins right-hander Pablo López noticed the strikeout counter above the home bullpen ticking up on Sunday afternoon, but he didn’t know he had made Modern Era history (since 1900) until he returned to the clubhouse following his six-inning outing.

López set a Major League record with nine strikeouts to open Miami’s 7-4 win over Atlanta at loanDepot park in the first-half finale. The performance came on the one-year anniversary of his father, Danny, passing away from a heart attack.

“I woke up today very emotional -- a lot of mixed feelings, a lot of sad moments here and there, but when the game starts, once you get in between those lines, it's all about executing,” said López, who also pitched seven scoreless innings of one-hit ball the day before Father’s Day. “I know he was somewhere watching, and I know that he's been there with me ever since he passed away a year ago. I just try to make him proud, making sure that I'm still doing the things he taught me, the way he taught me, and just trying to do the right thing the right way.”

The 25-year-old López surpassed Germán Márquez (2018), Jacob deGrom (2014) and Jim Deshaies (1986), who each fanned the first eight hitters, for the record. Mickey Welch collected nine straight in 1884 for the New York Gothams. The Marlins’ previous mark was five by Scott Olsen on June 28, 2007, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The franchise’s overall consecutive strikeout record is also nine, set by Ricky Nolasco on Sept. 30, 2009.

López struck out the side -- Ehire Adrianza, Freddie Freeman and Ozzie Albies -- swinging on 13 pitches in the first. Austin Riley, Orlando Arcia and Dansby Swanson all fanned swinging in the second on 10 pitches. Guillermo Heredia struck out looking, Kevan Smith swinging and Ian Anderson looking to cap a 12-pitch third. Four of López's K’s came on the four-seamer and five on his changeup.

“It was awesome,” Anderson said. “He’s quite a pitcher. The pitching in this division is pretty ridiculous. It seems like every day, we’re facing a guy that has the ability to do that. He had a good day." 

López fell one shy of the Modern Era record for overall consecutive strikeouts -- shared by Tom Seaver and Aaron Nola, the latter having achieved the feat earlier this season -- when Adrianza grounded out to first to lead off the fourth. Freeman then broke up the perfect game with a double, and Albies followed with an RBI single. Arcia later produced a two-out RBI single.

Manager Don Mattingly said he had a feeling López was going to take the mound on a mission. Sunday also marked the first time he was facing the Braves since being ejected after his first-pitch sinker hit Ronald Acuña Jr. on July 2. López entered the series finale with a 5.85 ERA and a 1.531 WHIP in 11 career starts against Atlanta.

López, who surrendered a Swanson solo homer in the sixth, settled for matching his career high for strikeouts in a game, as he didn’t record another over his final three frames. He did, however, throw 65 of his 83 pitches for strikes -- the best mark of his career (78%). Changing speeds, being on the attack and hitting his location made for the record-setting combination. López planned on keeping a baseball and his City Connect Series stirrups from the start.

“I felt like they were starting to get to him, he was missing spots,” Mattingly said about pulling him with a relatively low pitch count. “I really think part of that was those long innings. Usually, you're [back] out there quicker than that. Seemed like every [inning on offense] was extremely long. Good for us scoring runs, but not necessarily always good for a pitcher having to sit longer between innings.”

The Marlins (39-50), fifth in the National League East, head into the All-Star break nine games back of the Mets with 73 to go. Though most pundits picked Miami to finish last, the club believes otherwise because of its rotation -- led by the big three of All-Star rookie Trevor Rogers (2.31 ERA), López (3.03) and Sandy Alcantara (3.09). 

“I think we feel like we've got pitching that's going to keep us in a lot of games, and we're starting to show some offense,” Mattingly said. “We still lack that consistency. You take three out of four from the Dodgers and hate the fact that Atlanta comes in and gets you for two out of three. The thing that gives us hope is we know that pitching keeps us in every night. If we can be consistent with the rest of our games, I think we're going to be in a good spot. We play the Mets a ton, we play everybody in our division a lot more. We're in a spot to be able to control things a little bit.”