The boxscore can't be right. That's your immediate reaction when surveying Mark Montgomery's debut with the Charleston RiverDogs.
A closer from Bruton High and Longwood University, Montgomery pitched one inning last Friday against the Rome Braves. He yielded two hits and one run and struck out …
Sure, Montgomery, an 11th-round draft choice of the New York Yankees last month, fanned 48 in 30.1 innings for Longwood this spring. But five? In one inning? If true, is that a record?
Well, Montgomery did fan five, and it certainly appears to match a record.
The circumstances are as you'd suspect. Two of the Braves whom Montgomery struck out reached base when strike three was also a wild pitch.
Now a batter reaching first after striking out on a ball in the dirt is not that unusual. But two in one inning? In an inning when the pitcher strikes out the side?
We're talking Eddie Gaedel unusual.
"I really wasn't thinking about it," Montgomery said Wednesday from the RiverDogs' South Carolina base. "I was just glad we got the win. But afterward, it was kind of neat."
Montgomery entered the game with Charleston leading 10-7, only to allow a triple and single, narrowing the margin to 10-8. The next two Braves struck out looking, followed by the two who reached on wild pitches.
The bases were loaded. A single ties the game; anything in the gaps and Montgomery loses.
Montgomery froze Rome's Robby Hefflinger with a slider for strike three and his record fifth punch out.
No Major League pitcher has ever struck out five in an inning. At least not officially.
The Houston Astros' Joe Niekro did it in a 1976 exhibition game against the Minnesota Twins in the Louisiana Superdome. But Niekro was a knuckleballer throwing to a reserve catcher in Cliff Johnson. Madness was predictable.
Montgomery is the antithesis of a knuckleballer. He showed as much in his brief, pre-draft stay with the Peninsula Pilots, striking out five in two innings with fastballs and sliders.
He's done the same since signing with the Yankees.
In four appearances with Staten Island of the New York-Penn League, Montgomery struck out 10 in four innings. For his first professional save, he struck out the side against the Aberdeen (Md.) IronBirds, this before 6,610 at Ripken Stadium, named for you-know-who.
Since his promotion to Charleston of the South Atlantic League, Montgomery's fanned six in two innings. That's 16 Ks in 10 innings as a pro. Not a bad start.
And lest you think the two wild pitches Montgomery uncorked Friday evidence of a control problem: He's walked only two in those 10 innings.
According to the RiverDogs' media relations office, the last South Atlantic pitcher to strike out five in an inning was Jason Lakman of the Hickory Crawdads in 1997. Lakman never reached the bigs, played in the Canadian Baseball League in 2003 and concluded his career with the independent St. George (Utah) Roadrunners in 2008.
Two other documented cases of five strikeouts in an inning: Mike Schultz of the Lancaster JetHawks (Class A California League) in 2004, and Garrett Bauer of the Rockford RiverHawks (independent Frontier League) in 2008.
Odds are you don't know them. Bauer did not pitch in the majors, and Schultz had a brief 2007 stay with the Arizona Diamondbacks before heading to Japan, where he's playing his fourth season for the Hiroshima Toya Carp.
And while five strikeouts in an inning do not the next Mariano Rivera make, Montgomery did follow up his bizarre outing with a conventional, three-up, three-down save Sunday.
"Doing pretty well right now," he said.
To say the least.
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