It's one of the most interesting pitching feats in baseball. Maybe one of the most confusing as well. Three strikeouts in one inning is definitely respectable, a pitcher's goal every time they toe the rubber, but FOUR in one inning? Yes, it happens, and more often than you'd think.
So how are four strikeouts in an inning possible? A batter with two strikes on him takes a swing at strike three; however, the catcher does not field the ball cleanly, and instead of tagging the runner out, the runner reaches. The strikeout is recorded, but not the out.
It takes a special battery (catcher / pitcher) to shake off the embarrassment of allowing a runner you just struck out to get on base. Ed Crane was the first pitcher to strikeout four batters in the same inning. Walter Johnson did it first in the American League. Here are the twirlers who defied the odds, and struck out four batters in a single inning.
"A curve ball is not something you can pick up overnight. It took me years to perfect mine." - Hall of Famer (and the first Cardinal to strike out four batters in one inning) Bob Gibson in From Ghetto to Glory: The Story of Bob Gibson (Bob Gibson & Phil Pepe, Responsive Environments Publishers, 1970, Page 56)
American League Pitchers Who Struck Out Four Batters in One Inning
National League Pitchers Who Struck Out Four Batters in One Inning
In the American League, the following pitchers struck out all four batters in consecutive order : Scott Baker , A.J. Burnett , Mike Cuellar , Mike Paxton , Bobby Witt , Kevin Appier , Wilson Alvarez , Chuck Finley , Kazuhiro Sasaki , Justin Masterson , Jeremy Hellickson , Ryan Cook , Steve Delabar , Phil Hughes , Alex Cobb , Nathan Karns , and Craig Kimbrel .
In the National League, the following pitchers struck out all four batters in consecutive order : Ed Crane , Hooks Wiltse , Jim Davis , Pete Richert , Don Drysdale , Bill Bonham , Kirt Ojala , Steve Kline , Octavio Dotel , Jason Berken , Craig Kimbrel , Zack Greinke , and Kenley Jansen .
On September 30, 1885, Bobby Mathews became the first and only pitcher in the American Association to strikeout four batters in an inning. In the 1908 World Series , Orval Overall became the first and only pitcher to accomplish the feat during a Fall Classic . In 2018, German Marquez because the first and only pitcher to accomplish the feat in a tiebreaker game.