Sorry for the lapse in TDAH. We took a day off for the All-Star break, or at least that's my story...But, we're coming back with a big game. In those heady, early days of the franchise, Houston beat the Reds 6-1 at Crosley Field. Oh, and Don Wilson set the franchise record for strikeouts in a game with 18.
We've already talked at length about Wilson in this feature. He's the only guy to throw two no-hitters (which we've already covered). As you would expect, that no-hit stuff was in part due to a high strikeout rate, but it wasn't really that high. Wilson's career K rate was 6.6 and his high was in '69, when he struck out 9.4 per nine innings over 34 starts.
He still excelled in this one against a decent Reds team. They weren't the Big Red Machine yet, but they weren't the 2011 Astros either. Wilson still mowed through them with extreme prejudice. He struck out 11 of the 13 batters at least once, with left fielder Alex Johnson being the only starter not to go down on strikes.
Wilson also started out very strong, fanning the side in each of the first three innings. He gave up his only run in the fourth, when he gave up consecutive singles to Johnson and Lee May. Then, on a pretty crazy double steal, Johnson scored stealing home with May advancing to third on a throwing error by John Bateman (of Twitter fame). Wilson got out of it by getting a popup from Tony Perez, a foul out from Vada Pinson and striking out Hal McRae.
That brought his total strikeouts to 10, five off from the record at the time, which Wilson held with Mike Cuellar. Wilson got closer to that number, striking out the side in the fifth and getting one more in the sixth. He tied the record with a strikeout of Vada Pinson to lead off the seventh and set the record at the time with a whiff of Lee Cardenas to end the seventh.
The eight went quickly in a 1-2-3 fashion, but all three outs were on ground balls, so Wilson was still stuck on 16 K's. He led off the ninth by striking out Lee May and ended the game by striking out Johnny Bench (who entered as a pinch hitter) for his 18th strikeout.
The closest anyone came after this game was 16 strikeouts. Nolan Ryan could have tied Wilson in a game from 1987 where he struck out 16 in eight innings, but Ryan was relieved by Dave Smith in that game for the ninth. Randy Johnson was the last pitcher to come close, striking out 16 in a start in 1998.
Here's the graphic replay of the game, thanks to Back to Baseball.