While it doesn’t feel like it, the spotless inning is far less common than the no-hitter, but it’s become far more common as strikeout rates have risen over the past decade and hitters have become more swing-happy.
In Major League Baseball history, there have been 317 no-hitters, but as of Thursday morning there have been just 122 clean innings. However, as of Thursday night, 123 clean innings were in the record book and Chicago Cubs starter Hayden Wesneski’s name was engraved firmly alongside the likes of Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax, Lefty Grove and many others.
By the end of the fifth, the Cubs had a one-run lead after Christopher Morel’s second inning double. With two outs, Chicago had two runners up and Morel brought them both home with a liner that rolled into the corner in left field.
The Pirates reclaimed one in third place when Bryan Reynolds singled out to bring home Jason Delay from second place. At that moment Vesnesky 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 a pitch was outside the strike zone. The 24-year-old right-hander mastered his slider like a seasoned pro, painting the corners like a French impressionist.
The fifth player of 2022 and the 123rd clean inning came from rookie Hayden Wesneski, who was acquired from Chicago on deadline day for a mere assist. It seems the Cubs’ decision to sell big is already paying off.
Scroll to Next
As much as that might have felt like the highlights of the game, there were four innings left, and in the seventh, Chicago drove home the all-important insurance run with an RBI single from Michael Hermosillo to level it to a 3-1 game make.
Pirate hitter Kevin Newman ushered in seventh place to bring the game back 3-2 within a run, but it wouldn’t be enough. Wesneski hauled out another on a hardliner but was then raised for Brandon Hughes, who loaded the bases before manager David Ross called fireman Mark Leiter Jr.
Leiter Jr. beat Rodolfo Castro to end the frame and Vesnesky’s line at 6.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 km. Even forgetting the one thing everyone will remember about Thursday night, it was still an impressive start for the rookie looking to force his way into the Cubs’ opening day 2023 rotation.
In the eighth and ninth, Leiter Jr. kept the Pirates scoreless, though not without a heart pounding in the ninth inning. Ke’Bryan Hayes and Reynolds allowed two runners with two outs and stole second and third places to take the winning run into points position. However, Leiter Jr. always remained calm and finished the game in a 3-2 win after Castro’s flyout, emphasizing Vesnesky’s moment.
More from SI’s Inside The Cubs
- Could Mike Trout Request a Trade With the Chicago Cubs?
- Has David Robertson captured the Cubs future star in Ben Brown?
- Hoerner is the Cubs shortstop of the future
- Cubs could give Canario a shot in September
- Could the Cubs Trea Turner end up in the offseason?
- Chicago Cubs have a new top prospect in their rankings
- Is this Top Cubs Prospect destined for the Mound in Wrigley?
- Steele offers a glimpse into the future of the boys’ rotation
- Do the Chicago Cubs have the best bullpen in the National League?
- Can Christopher Morel be a long-term solution in midfield?
Be sure to follow Inside the Cubs Twitter!