In Sunday’s 5-4 loss to the Cardinals, newly acquired relief pitcher Kevin Gausman did something Reds pitchers have only done four times in history. The right-hander faced three batters in the ninth inning and struck out all of them. That’s not the crazy part; pitchers do that all the time. Gausman made it special by doing it on nine pitches — three to each batter, all strikes. An immaculate inning.
Here’s a list of the only other Reds pitchers to achieve the feat:
- Drew Storen: April 18, 2017 vs. Orioles
- Carlos Contreras: July 11, 2014 vs. Pirates
- Rob Dibble: June 4, 1989 vs. Padres
- Pedro Borbon: June 23, 1979 vs. Giants
It was the 99th immaculate inning in baseball history and the second time Gausman has done it. The only other two-timers: Lefty Grove, Sandy Koufax, Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, Chris Sale, and Max Scherzer. Gausman is not quite on the same level as the other pitchers in that group, but his name will be associated with four Hall of Famers and two future ones forever.
How did Gausman pull it off again? Let’s go pitch by pitch.
In his first at-bat, Gausman relied on a steady diet of splitters to retire Yairo Muñoz. Not many pitchers throw a split-finger anymore, but Gausman arguably has the best one in the game today. It has registered a swing and miss 21.8% of the time he’s thrown it in his career. When batters have swung, they’ve missed at a 42.4% clip. The pitch averages 83 mph, a significant change in speeds from his 93-mph fastball. Its horizontal movement makes it impressive. Of the 31 qualified pitchers who’ve thrown one this year, only Padres reliever Luis Perdomo gets more ride out of their splitter than Gausman compared to the average pitcher.
- 80.9 mph splitter, foul ball
- 7.2 inches of horizontal movement, 43.2 inches of vertical movement (plus gravity)
Gausman started with a splitter in the middle of the zone that Muñoz fouled down the third-base line. Gausman and catcher Tucker Barnhart may have been trying to play on the batter’s aggressiveness here. Muñoz has swung at a ridiculous 60.7% of the pitches he’s seen this year and was clearly expecting fastball here. He was way out in front of the pitch as a result. This was the only hittable pitch Gausman made in the inning, and Muñoz couldn’t make him pay for it.
- 83.3 mph splitter, swinging strike
- 13.2 inches of horizontal movement, 36 inches of vertical movement (plus gravity)
Gausman came back with another splitter on the second pitch. Muñoz couldn’t wait on it and was way out in front. He would’ve done little damage with the pitch had he connected. This was a perfectly located splitter with a ton of movement.
- 85.3 mph splitter, swinging strike
- 12.0 inches of horizontal movement, 38.4 inches of vertical movement (plus gravity)
Gausman had the battle won by this point. Muñoz was on his heels and swung through a splitter nowhere close to the strike zone. Gausman threw a waste pitch in the dirt that was never close to being a strike, but Muñoz obliged anyway with an ugly swing. This was a textbook example of how to attack an overly aggressive hitter at the plate.
Against a much more patient hitter in Dexter Fowler (11.3 BB%, 25.5 O-Swing%, 44.0 Swing%), Gausman had to mix in some fastballs in this at-bat. A splitter-heavy approach was less likely to find success.
- 95.3 mph four-seam fastball, called strike
- 8.4 inches of horizontal movement, 16.8 inches of vertical movement (plus gravity)
Gausman starts off Fowler with a well-located four-seamer right at the knees on the inner third of the plate. He misses his spot by quite a bit — Barnhart sets up on the outside corner — but Fowler wasn’t doing much with this pitch.
- 95.9 mph four-seam fastball, swinging strike
- 12.0 inches of horizontal movement, 14.4 inches of vertical movement (plus gravity)
Gausman raises Fowler’s eye level with another four-seam fastball, this one up in the zone. Fowler has a fairly large hole in his swing on pitches up in the strike zone, carrying a high whiff rate and a low exit velocity when he does make contact. Fowler is well behind on the pitch.
- 86.3 mph splitter, swinging strike
- 13.2 inches of horizontal movement, 33.1 inches of vertical movement (plus gravity)
Gausman has Fowler right where he wants him: on the defensive. Although he doesn’t chase many pitches, Fowler couldn’t lay off here. Gausman throws a pitch that looks like another fastball, but it isn’t. It’s splitter out of the zone, and Fowler takes the bait.
Gausman used the same pitch mix against Tommy Edman as he did against Fowler, but his changes up his locations to tempt another aggressive hitter (4.1 BB%, 33.0 O-Swing%).
- 95.0 mph four-seam fastball, swinging strike
- 9.6 inches of horizontal movement, 14.4 inches of vertical movement (plus gravity)
Gausman goes right at Edman with a fastball up in the zone. Edman had been 3-for-4 with a home run to that point and puts a big swing on the pitch. Although Gausman doesn’t have a particularly high spin rate on the fastball, Edman swings underneath the pitch.
- 96.3 mph four-seam fastball, foul ball
- 9.6 inches of horizontal movement, 15.6 inches of vertical movement
After seeing the big swing Edman took on the first pitch, Gausman comes back with an even higher fastball. Edman manages to put the bat on the ball, fouling it off to the third base side.
- 85.9 mph splitter, swinging strike
- 10.8 inches of horizontal movement, 40.8 inches of vertical movement (plus gravity)
This is Gausman’s best pitch of the day. Out of his hand, it looks like yet another high fastball before falling off the table and taking a sharp righthand turn. Edman is way out in front of the pitch and falls to a knee on the swing.
The Full Inning
Here are all nine pitches — enjoy:
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) August 19, 2019
[For more of Matt’s pitching analysis, check out Reds Content Plus.]