What is an Immaculate Inning?
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Imagine the feeling of 9 straight strikes and three straight outs?
One of the coolest baseball terms in the game, the Immaculate Inning is so stunning that it comes out of nowhere. There's no rhyme or reason to it. For instance, the Chicago Cubs had a string of them in the 70s. The Detroit Tigers went back-to-back in the 50's and haven't seen one since. The San Francisco Giants have thrown three, and you'd have thought all three belong to Orel Hershiser, a pitcher with legendary control. But no, he only had the one in 1998 against the Rockies.
The six that belong to the Milwaukee Brewers didn't start until the 1990s, and the Texas Rangers, well they just don't exist in the charts. Perhaps hitters are just more patient in the Lone Star state. Or maybe it's just warm weather, as the Padres just have one.
What constitutes an Immaculate Inning?
An Immaculate Inning is when a pitcher, at any level, throws 9 straight strikes to 3 consecutive batters, resulting in 3 strike outs. This also qualifies the pitcher for having struck out the side.
The cool thing about this unique baseball term is that it can happen at any moment, yet it is stunningly rare. In fact, more No Hitters have been thrown in MLB history than Immaculate Innings, with a total of 316 No-Hitters to 108 Immaculate Innings.
Essentially, no-hitters are 3x more likely to occur, despite a pitcher having to pitch at least 5 innings in an official rain out, 8 innings in a full game where he was on the home team, and 9 innings (in general) to be counted.
Further, whereas plenty of Hall of Fame caliber players (starters) have tossed a no-no, an Immaculate Inning is a wildcard when it comes to talent. They’ve been thrown by every type of pitcher in Baseball History, including journeyman relievers through HOF starters and beyond. Given that though, only world class talent seems to be able to repeat the feat, as most of the people who have thrown multiple Immaculate Innings are in the Hall of Fame.
Major League history contains an inordinate amount of statistics, but this is one of the rarest occurring scenarios.
What circumstances increase the chances of throwing an Immaculate Inning?
This is purely a guess, but we believe that a few key factors help to increase the likelihood of a pitcher throwing an Immaculate Inning. We haven’t consulted the Baseball Almanac or baseballreference.com for the stats, but here’s our hunch.
- The hitting team must be losing 2-6 runs. They need to have the desire to be swinging early and often as they try and grab a run or two to get back in the game. Almost no team in the first or last inning is going 9 straight strikes.
- An umpire must be calling a good, yet not perfect game. The hitting team needs to have confidence in the ump’s strike zone, whereas the ump needs to add an extra inch or two in all dimensions. If you watch a few pitches from the most recent Immaculate Inning, you will see a couple of pitches that could easily have been balls.
- The hitters must have confidence that the pitcher is going to consistently attack the strike zone. They can’t believe that the pitcher will be too wild.
When was the most recent Immaculate Inning?
Funny enough, the most recent Immaculate Inning was pitched by Luis Garcia of the Houston Astros on June 15th, 2022. Why is that funny? It’s funny because Garcia’s teammate, Phil Maton threw one just a few innings earlier. The rosin bag must have been hot that night.
But get this, both pitchers threw their Immaculate Innings against the very same batters in the lineup. The SAME batters (below). Tough night, bros.
- Nathaniel Lowe
- Ezequiel Duran
- Brad Miller
Who pitched the last Immaculate Inning before 6/15/22?
The last Immaculate Inning prior to the June 15th Houston game was thrown by Nestor Cortes of the New York Yankees on April 17th, 2022. Cortes sent Robinson Chirinos, Chris Owings and Kelvin Gutiérrez and packing on nine straight in the 8th.
Immaculate Inning FAQs
How many pitches are thrown in an Immaculate Inning?
9 pitches are thrown in an Immaculate Inning, all for strikes, and all three sets of three strikes resulting in strikeouts of the batter.
It also means the rest of the stat book gets blanked ... no stolen bases, no RBI, no runs scored, no hits, no home runs, etc.
How many times has an Immaculate Inning happened?
As of June 15th, 2022, an Immaculate Inning has occurred 106 times. The inning where the most Immaculate Innings occur in the game is the 9th inning, which is surprising to us.
What's not surprising is the rise in occurence from the first inning, to the second inning and on to the third inning. That makes sense the first time through the lineup. At least, in theory.
|Immaculate Inning||# of times|
Have any Immaculate Innings been thrown in the World Series?
No, an Immaculate Inning has never been thrown in the World Series. In fact, research suggests that there has never been one pitched in the playoffs at all.
Who was the first pitcher to throw an Immaculate Inning?
Many people think that Rube Waddell of the Philadelphia Athletics threw the first recorded Immaculate Inning on July 1st, 1902 in the third inning of the game. And that’s true, but only of Major League Baseball’s American League.
It was actually thirteen years prior when National League pitcher, John Clarkson of the Boston Beaneaters threw one on June 4, 1889, striking out Jim Fogarty, Sam Thompson and Sid Farrar. Needless to say, that was a long time ago.
How many pitchers have thrown two Immaculate Innings in their career?
Only six pitchers have thrown two Immaculate Innings in their career. The list includes the pitchers below. After reviewing the names on the list, it’s clear that exceptional pitching talent, ranging from blazing speed to devastating movement on off-speed pitches, is the key to throwing multiple Immaculate Innings.
- Chris Sale. Sale’s first time was against the Baltimore Orioles in the seventh inning of an early May game at Fenway Park, retiring Hanser Alberto, Dwight Smith Jr. and Steve Wilkerson. His second, a month later, was against Kelvin Gutierrez, Nicky Lopez and Martin Maldonado
- Lefty Grove. Lefty enjoyed the first of his two Immaculate Innings when he went up against the Chicago White Sox on September 27th, 1928. He faced Moe Berg, Tommy Thomas and Johnny Mostil, where all three of which had zero shot of squaring a ball up.
- Max Scherzer. Philadelphia Phillies hitters, Cesar Hernandez, Odubel Herrera and Aaron Altherr were the victims of Max Scherzer’s first time throwing an Immaculate Inning.
- Nolan Ryan. Ryan tossed his in a rare losing effort against the Los Angeles Dodgers as a member of the Mets, taking the mound to the tune of three strikeouts against Claude Osteen, Wes Parker and Zoilo Versalles on April, 19th, 1968.
- Randy Johnson. The Big Unit needed to deliver some of his best work on September, 2nd, 1998 as the opposing pitcher he was facing was none other than Atlanta Braves legend and Hall of Famer, Greg Maddux. Representing three of his 10 strikeouts in the game were Javy Lopez, Andruw Jones and Greg Colbrunn for his first Immaculate Inning.
- Sandy Koufax. Koufax breezed his first Immaculate Inning in the first inning of a Dodgers game in 1962 against the New York Mets, striking out Hall of Famer, Richie Ashburn to lead off the inning, before fanning Rod Kanehl and Felix Mantilla.
How many pitchers have thrown three Immaculate Innings in their career?
Only three pitchers have thrown three Immaculate Innings, with Max Scherzer’s third being the most recent of this group on 9/12/2021.
- Chris Sale
- Max Scherzer
- Sandy Koufax
What teams have pitched the most Immaculate Innings?
Three teams are each tied with nine immaculate innings pitched. Those teams are below. It should come as no surprise that
- Houston Astros
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- New York Yankees
Have any pitchers struck out while hitting in an Immaculate Inning?
Yes, Hall of Famer pitcher, Greg Maddux of the Atlanta Braves was struck out by Jesus Sanchez of the Miami Marlins on three straight in 1998, along with Walt Weiss and Tony Graffanino.
Have any hitters been a part of multiple Immaculate Innings?
Yes, other than Lowe, Duran and Miller of the Astors, two hitters have taken part in two Immaculate Innings thrown against them. And, both of them played for separate teams in each occurrence.
- Carlton Fisk in 1972 (Boston Red Sox) and 1984 (Chicago White Sox)
- Kelvin Guiterrez in 2019 (Kansas City Royals) and 2022 (Baltimore Orioles)
Immaculate Innings thrown by non-existent teams
Two teams, the Beaneaters and the Colt .45s, have had pitchers who have thrown Immaculate Innings.
On April 19th of 1964, Bob Bruce of the Houston Colt .45s struck out Bill White, Charlie James and Ken Boyer of the St. Louis Cardinals in the 8th inning for his first and only Immaculate Inning.
Going back further, on June 4th of 1889, John Clarkson of the Boston Beaneaters struck out Jim Fogarty, Sam Thompson and Sid Farrar of the Philadelphia Phillies in the third inning for his first and only Immaculate Inning. Fun fact, it was the very first one ever thrown in MLB history.
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