Though it may not feel like it, the immaculate inning is significantly more rare than the no-hitter, but they’ve become far more common as strikeout rates have risen over the last decade and hitters become more swing happy.
In the history of Major League Baseball there have been 317 no-hitters, there had only been 122 immaculate innings as of Thursday morning. By Thursday night though, there were 123 immaculate innings in the record book, and Chicago Cubs starter Hayden Wesneski’s name was firmly etched next to the likes of Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax, Lefty Grove and a host of others.
Coming into the bottom of the fifth, the Cubs had a one-run lead off the back of Christopher Morel’s second inning double. With two outs Chicago had put two runners on and Morel brought them both home with a liner that rolled to the corner in the left field.
The Pirates got one back in the third when Bryan Reynolds singled out to bring home Jason Delay from second. In that moment, Wesneski was mortal. Barely half an hour later, he was one with the baseball gods.
Wesneski threw nine straight strikes to Pittsburgh Pirate hitters Jack Suwinski, Zack Collins and Delay. Not one pitch was out of the strike zone. The 24-year-old righty commanded his slider like a seasoned pro, painting the corners like a French Impressionist.
The fifth player in 2022, and the 123rd immaculate inning, came from rookie Hayden Wesneski, acquired by Chicago at the deadline for a mere reliever. It seems like the Cubs’ decision to sell high is already paying dividends.
Scroll to Continue
As much as that may have felt like the climactic moments of the game, four innings still remained, and in the seventh, Chicago drove the all-important insurance run home on an RBI single from Michael Hermosillo to make it a 3-1 game.
Leading off the seventh, Pirate-hitter Kevin Newman homered to bring the game back within one run at 3-2, but it wouldn’t be enough. Wesneski got one more out on a hard liner, but was then lifted for Brandon Hughes who loaded the bases before manager David Ross called for fireman Mark Leiter Jr.
Leiter Jr. struck out Rodolfo Castro to end the frame and Wesneski’s line at 6.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6K. Even forgetting the one thing everyone will remember Thursday night for, it was still an impressive start for the rookie looking to force his way into the Cubs’ 2023 Opening Day rotation.
In the eighth and ninth, Leiter Jr. held the Pirates scoreless, though not without some ninth inning heart palpitations. Allowing two runners on with two out, Ke’Bryan Hayes and Reynolds stole second and third to move the winning run into scoring position. But ever calm, Leiter Jr. ended the game on Castro’s flyout for a 3-2 victory, emphasizing Wesneski’s moment.
More From SI’s Inside The Cubs
- Could Mike Trout Request a Trade to the Chicago Cubs?
- Did David Robertson Net the Cubs a Future Star in Ben Brown?
- Hoerner is the Cubs Shortstop of the Future
- Cubs Could Give Canario a Shot in September
- Could the Cubs Land Trea Turner in the Offseason?
- Chicago Cubs Have a New Top Prospect in Their Rankings
- Is This Top Cubs Prospect Destined for the Mound at Wrigley?
- Steele Offers Glimpse Into Future of Cubs Rotation
- Do the Chicago Cubs Have the National League’s Best Bullpen?
- Can Christopher Morel be a Long-Term Solution in Center Field?
Make sure to follow Inside the Cubs on Twitter!