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Brothers tosses season's fifth immaculate inning

Rockies relief pitcher strikes out the side on nine pitches against Giants

Rockies reliever Rex Brothers made history in the eighth inning Saturday when he became the first pitcher in franchise history to record an immaculate inning -- three strikeouts on a minimum nine pitches.

Brothers took the mound with his club trailing the Giants by one run and promptly struck out Michael Morse, Brandon Crawford and Gregor Blanco on three pitches each. Morse and Crawford went down looking at 92- and 91-mph fastballs, respectively, before Blanco swung and missed at a slider for strike three.

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Along with becoming the first Rockies pitcher to accomplish the feat, Brothers became the fifth pitcher across the Majors this season to toss an immaculate frame. Despite only being mid-June, that already matches the all-time record for most immaculate innings in a single season.

Brothers knew he had turned in a dominant inning, but he didn't realize just how perfect he was until it was pointed out to him by fellow reliever LaTroy Hawkins, who spun an immaculate inning of his own for the Cubs back in 2004.

"I came off the field and started thinking about the inning: 'That went pretty well, I guess,'" Brothers said. "Not much thought came into my mind about it, but Mr. LaTroy Hawkins, he let me know when I got to the dugout."

As it turns out, Hawkins had to wait much longer to realize what he had accomplished. Hawkins, who struck out three straight Marlins hitters on just nine pitches, didn't even know the magnitude of what he had done until almost a decade later.

"It was Sept. 11, 2004, against the Marlins," said Hawkins, who knows the game by heart nowadays. "I didn't know I'd done it until 2012."

Brothers' perfect inning Saturday set the stage for a Rockies' ninth-inning rally and a 5-4 victory, meaning Brothers' immaculate inning also resulted in him picking up his third win of the season.

"I guess I could say I just concentrated on making pitches," Brothers said. "I think that's why it didn't enter my mind earlier. My only goal was to grind the whole inning."

The first immaculate inning ever recorded came in 1889, when John Clarkson of the Boston Beaneaters blanked the Philadelphia Quakers in the third inning. Since then, only four pitchers have accomplished the feat more than once. Sandy Koufax did so in three consecutive seasons from 1962-64, while Lefty Grove, Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson each have a pair of immaculate frames to their credit. 

The overall MLB record for immaculate innings in one season was set in 1998, when Orel Hershiser (Dodgers), Johnson (Astros), Jesus Sanchez (Marlins), Mike Mussina (Orioles) and Jimmy Key (Orioles) all turned the trick.

Tampa Bay's Brad Boxberger tossed the first such inning this year back on May 8 against the Royals and was soon joined by Phillies starter Cole Hamels, who did so while beating the Reds on May 17. Earlier this month, Cleveland's Justin Masterson needed just nine pitches to strike out three Red Sox on June 2, and the Angels' Garrett Richards followed suit just two days later against Houston.

Brothers joined the quartet Saturday, tossing the 76th immaculate inning in big league history. The five immaculate innings in 2014 already exceed the combined totals from the past two seasons, during which there were only two such frames each year.

"It's good to see him throwing well, showing signs of being the Rex we all know. That was a huge performance from him today," said Rockies manager Walt Weiss, who couldn't recall if he'd ever seen such an inning in person prior to Saturday. "I'm not sure. I think someone said there have only been 76 or something in history, so I probably haven't."

Paul Casella is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @paul_casella.

Colorado Rockies, Rex Brothers