On Monday, sitting in my air conditioned house, I watched the 91 degree heat of Wrigley Field from safety. In a more vulnerable position, though, was Roy Halladay. The venerable ace labored through 4 innings, cutting curveballs through the heat and humidity. And for the first time since May 23, 2010, Halladay failed to complete 6 innings. That was an impressive span of 42 consecutive starts.
6 innings is the minimum for a quality start, and is often the foundation for a manager’s game plan. If a team goes to the bullpen before the 7th, frankly, something went wrong. Bullpens are built around a solid closer and usually a solid set-up man. They cover the 9th and 8th, respectively, and then the 7th is cobbled together by some combination of the starter, right-, and left-handed matchup specialists.
While 6 innings from your starter is a good thing, getting 21 outs is even better. So, I looked for the starter with the longest streak of 7 or more innings in each start. Since the use of the bullpen changed drastically in the 1970s, I only looked at the last 30 years. Here are the leaders:
- Jack Morris (26 games): 5/29/83–9/27/83
- Daryl Kile (24 games): 5/04/97–9/02/97
- Bill Wegman (23 games): 8/08/91–5/29/92
- Mark Gubicza (23 games): 7/21/88–5/06/89
- Ron Guidry (15 games): 7/18/83–9/29/83
- Jack Morris (15 games): 6/22/83–9/01/83
- Charlie Hough (13 games): 5/25/84–7/27/84
- Pat Hentgen (12 games): 7/08/96–9/24/96
- Orel Hershiser (9 games): 8/19/88–9/28/88
- Fernando Valenzuela (8 games): 4/09/81–5/14/81
- Jack Morris (7 games): 5/08/81–6/10/81
- Jack Morris (7 games): 8/03/83–9/01/83
Interestingly, two of the 6-inning streaks occurred over multiple seasons, but none of any of the others did. The only name that appears on multiple lists is Jack Morris, and he is on all three. His streak in 1983 qualified him for all of them, and then he had a separate span of 7 consecutive complete games in 1981. Orel Hershiser’s consecutive scoreless innings streak is embedded in the 1988 period above, and is still a record at 59-1/3 innings.