Editor’s note: This original version of this story ran on June 27, 2018. As part of ESPN’s Strikeout Saturday on March 28, 2020, David Schoenfield updated his evaluations, particularly of who’s most likely to beat each team’s best-ever pitching performance.
On May 4, 2018 Gerrit Cole pitched one of the best games you will ever see. He fired a 16-strikeout shutout against the Diamondbacks, allowing just one hit and one walk. As a remarkable side note, Cole didn’t strike out any batters in the first or ninth innings, so 16 of the 21 outs from the second through the eighth were strikeouts. His final two pitches were 99 mph. Cole called it “probably my best” start of his career. Umm, no “probably” needed there.
I wondered: Was this the best start in Astros history? Cole’s Game Score was 100, a rare achievement. There have been just 15 such games in outings of nine innings or fewer since 1908, so while Cole’s game didn’t receive the notoriety of a no-hitter or perfect game, it was more impressive in many ways, less reliant on the fortune of where a ball was hit and more dependent on his pure dominance.