Top 5 pitching performances in O's history

January 18th, 2021

The five no-hitters thrown in Orioles history have run the spectrum, tossed by Hall of Famers and combined-staff efforts alike. But dominance is a tricky thing, not measured solely in historical significance. Which is why when parsing the records for the top individual pitching performances in O’s history, only two of those no-nos can objectively contend with a handful of other less-remembered outings.

Then again, these lists are made to inspire debate. So, debate away while taking a trip down memory lane. Here are the top five individual pitching performances in O’s history.

1) : Aug. 15, 1979
12 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 12 K, 41 batters faced, 99 game score

In addition to five no-hitters, there have been two 15-strikeout shutouts and one 16-inning masterpiece (twirled by Jerry Walker in 1959) thrown in Orioles history. But the best combination of dominance and endurance came from Flanagan during his American League Cy Young Award-winning season in 1979.

After allowing a leadoff homer to White Sox second baseman Jim Morrison and a first-inning single to Alan Bannister, Flanagan retired 21 of the next 22 hitters. The Orioles drew even on Rick Dempsey’s sacrifice fly in the fifth, then watched as Flanagan dominated for another seven frames, outdueling Chicago lefty Ken Kravec in the process. Kravec completed 10 innings, but Flanagan finished 12, finally earning the win when Eddie Murray executed a walk-off steal of home.

2) : July 7, 2007
9 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 15 K, 27 batters faced, 109 pitches, 98 game score

The Orioles sold high on Bedard after his dominant 2007 season and cashed in, turning the occasionally electric but injury prone lefty into Adam Jones and Chris Tillman in one of the best trades in franchise history. Bedard’s best night was a big reason why that trade happened. It also earns the recognition of being the most dominant nine-inning start in Baltimore history.

Silencing the Rangers in a 3-0 win at the notoriously hitter-friendly Ballpark in Arlington, Bedard matched a club record with 15 strikeouts and issued no walks. He allowed two singles, but he faced the minimum of 27 batters, capping the evening by striking out the side in the ninth. Bedard went on to lead the AL in hits allowed (seven) and strikeouts (10.9) per nine innings that season.

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3) : Aug. 1, 2000
9 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 15 K, 32 batters faced, 125 pitches, 98 game score

Mussina matched Bedard’s 98 game score with his 15-strikeout one-hitter against the Twins in a 10-0 win during the Hall of Fame right-hander's final season in Baltimore. But he faced five more batters and needed 16 more pitches than Bedard, as Mussina pitched with a sizable lead for much of the night.

It was, in many ways, a quintessential performance for the famously nicknamed “Mr. Almost,” whose consistent excellence was overshadowed at times by the number of historical near-misses he experienced during his career. On this night, Mussina didn’t allow his first hit until the seventh inning.

4) Jerry Walker: Sept. 11, 1959
16 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 4 K, 55 batters faced, 111 game score

Arm trouble kept Walker from having the playing career of some of the other names on this list (he would go on to have a long post-playing career as an executive for the Tigers, Cardinals and Reds), but he’s responsible for one of the more herculean pitching efforts in Orioles history. Walker was a 20-year-old rookie All-Star in ’59, part of the “Kiddy Corps” cadre of young pitchers who led the O’s to their first winning season. Down the stretch that year, Paul Richards asked Walker to do something no manager would today.

Strapped for arms in the second game of a meaningless late-season doubleheader, Walker completed a 16-inning shutout in a 1-0 win against the White Sox, tied for the third longest thrown by a pitcher in modern baseball history. Walker struck out four, walked three and faced 55 batters, locked in a duel with Barry Latman for nine innings and then reliever Gerry Staley for the final six-plus. Walker was finally awarded one of the hardest-fought wins in baseball history when Brooks Robinson connected for a walk-off single off Staley in the 16th. Walker's 111 game score is the highest in O's history.

5) Moe Drabowsky: Oct. 5, 1966
6 2/3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 11 K

The most celebrated relief appearance in Orioles history remains one of the best remembered in the history of the Fall Classic. The O’s were an up-and-coming team, but they were underdogs against the mighty Dodgers heading into the 1966 World Series. And things didn’t look great when Dave McNally couldn’t get out of the third inning of Game 1.

But that was when the Orioles summoned Drabowsky, who was in the process of reinventing himself as a reliever but still more known as a failed starter and clubhouse practical joker. Drabowsky held the Dodgers to one hit and two walks while striking out 11 in 6 2/3 scoreless innings of relief, holding the line as Baltimore captured a 5-2 win. The O’s went on to sweep the series and claim their first championship.

Honorable mentions

Hoyt Wilhelm, Sept. 20, 1958
9 IP, 0 H, 2 BB, 8 K, 28 batters faced, 93 game score

Tom Phoebus, April 27, 1968
9 IP, 0 H, 3 BB, 9 K, 29 batters faced, 93 game score

Of the O's five no-hitters, three clearly fall short of other individual performances for consideration on this list: two combined efforts and Jim Palmer’s six-walk no-no in 1969. The other two, thrown a decade apart by Wilhelm and Phoebus, are almost too similar to separate. So let’s give a little love to them both.

Primarily a knuckleballing reliever for most of his 21-year career, Wilhelm was making his ninth career start (and third for the Orioles) when he outdueled Don Larsen to complete the first no-hitter in O's history. His eight-strikeout shutout of the Yankees took only 1 hour and 48 minutes, and it required Wilhelm to face only one batter over the minimum. It would be nearly 10 years before another Orioles pitcher spun a no-no (Phoebus).

Phoebus cruised in his nine-strikeout no-no against the defending World Series champion Red Sox in 1968. Pitching with a severe flu, Phoebus faced two batters over the minimum and retired 25 of Boston's final 26 hitters. He also singled twice and drove in a run to help his own cause.