Pitching duels, the Reds, and a birthday


You’d be forgiven if you had no idea what happened in St. Petersburg last week.  In fact, a late-August Royals/Rays matchup was barely enough to attract ten thousand “Rays fans” to the park, despite their team being in the middle of a furious charge to chase down the division-rival Yankees.

When Luke Hochevar faced off against David Price on Tuesday night, it was a tale of two careers as the number 1 overall picks from consecutive drafts in 2006 and 2007 have traveled largely different paths.  Price has become one of the AL’s elite pitchers and is currently tied for the Major League lead with 16 wins, while Hochevar has struggled to post an ERA under 5 over the course of a season.

You wouldn’t have known it Tuesday, though, as each lived up to his draft status.  In a game that was scoreless through 9, each hurler was nothing short of pristine.  Price turned in an eight-inning, three-hit, no-run, eight-strikeout, no-walk performance.  Not to be outdone, Hochevar also went eight scoreless, giving up just 1 hit while striking out 10.  A classic, if not somewhat surprising, pitchers’ duel between former #1 picks.

Except, “classic” doesn’t really tell the whole story.

The Elias Sports Bureau has determined that a game like this has happened only one other time in the Major Leagues since 1900 – a game in which both starters worked at least eight innings without giving up a run, allowing three hits or fewer, and striking out at least eight.

Only one other time!?!

My first reaction was disbelief.  How often does a broadcast or highlight show make some grandiose statement regarding the length of time since a certain accomplishment has been achieved.  Many times, the time span is laughably short (a pet peeve of mine, in fact).  Not here though, and I was truly impressed.  In a time when no-hitters and perfect games are being thrown like never before, I honestly couldn’t believe that two pitchers had only done this one other time in over 100 years.

In fact, two Reds games of the last decade immediately came to mind.  One was Travis Wood’s almost perfect game against the Phillies in 2010.  Checking Baseball-Reference, it turns out that Wood held up his end of the deal, but the Phillies’ Roy Halladay just had to give up 5 hits and ruin everything (in terms of this made up accomplishment at least… sadly, he did not ruin his team’s quest to win the game, considering they did, in 11 innings).

The other game I had in mind was more an idea of a game.  Basically, I knew that Aaron Harang and Chris Carpenter had thrown a couple of gems against each other throughout the years, and I was pretty sure that on one occasion, Harang had bested Carpenter in a 1-0 classic.

So off I set, scouring Harang’s game log in search of a potentially mythical game.  Starting in 2008 and working backwards, I began to get discouraged, as four years of game logs produced no results.  I had not remembered that this performance occurred all the way back in 2004, and was in fact Harang’s first career complete game.  Though it of course did not satisfy all the necessary criteria referenced above (Elias is never wrong), it was still an excellent battle between two very good pitchers.

And in fact, the game occurred on August 26th, 2004, exactly eight years ago today.  Seeing as I turned 21 that day, I decided to celebrate this special day of the year here on BRM by reminiscing about a mid-2000s classic by the Harangutan.

The box score from August 26th, 2004, courtesy of mlb.com:

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