For game number 16 we look at the night Randy Johnson fanned 16 batters.
If not for a chastening NLDS loss to the Padres, 1998 might have been the Astros annus mirabilis. A very good team in the first half, they caught fire in the second. The team was firing on all cylinders and Randy Johnson was the piece to push them over the edge. They won 102 games that year, a franchise record.
I wonder if Drayton McLane and Gerry Hunsicker acquired him with the idea of signing him to a long-term contract. I would assume so. Even at 35 it would have been a sound investment. He went on to win four straight Cy Youngs in Arizona. As we all know the Astros sent Freddy Garcia, Carlos Guillen and John Halama to the Mariners for Johnson. No need to revisit that trade.
If you want to have a look at all 16 of Johnson stirkeouts, then the video can be viewed here as part of the 50 years of Astros history baseball clips. With his low action Johnson continued to clip both sides of the plate with his fastball, mixing in a devastating slider to complete a shutout of the Pirates with what looked like ease.
Other observations: those Pirates uniforms look awful. I also enjoyed Johson's celebration at the end, pumping his fists and then raising both hands to his head. Bill Brown still sounds the same. Brad Ausmus looks about half the Big Unit's height.
Do you know where Johnson's 16 strikeouts place him in Astros history? Find out after the jump.
Originally I put out a challenge on Twitter to Astros fans to guess which Astro held the record for most strikeouts in a game. I actually assumed that Johnson may even have held the record, but on reflection, watching the footage it did not mention a record, so he mustn't have broken it.
Some suggestions for the record-holder included Shane Reynolds (14), J.R. Richard, Scott Elarton (10), and Larry Dierker (14).
Don Wilson holds the record for most strikeouts by an Astro in a game with 18 on July 14 1968 and is also one of three men, along with Johnson and Nolan Ryan to record 16. Mike Cuellar, Mike Scott and Wilson also had 15, a feat J.R. Richard accomplished on three separate occasions (one was his major league debut in 1971).
Johnson's 12 starts were unbelievable, much like C.C. Sabathia's brief stint with the Milwaukee Brewers back in 2008. A 1.28 ERA and 116 strikeouts in 84 1/3 innings, allowing 12 earned runs in 11 starts, including four complete-game shutouts. Now what a force he would have been in the Astros rotation for another five years. If only.