Cleveland pitcher Triston McKenzie came within four outs of pitching the 24th perfect game in MLB history on Sunday. The Brooklyn-born hurler had 11 Ks in 8 innings of masterful work in an 11-0 win over Detroit.
If there’s one thing that sports can’t live without, it’s an old-fashioned Cinderella story. And if Cinderella watched baseball, she’d love Triston McKenzie.
On Monday, McKenzie earned himself a spot in the Cleveland Indians’ history book after his eight consecutive strikeouts against the Chicago White Sox.
After fanning Jose Abreu to close out the third inning, he had consecutive strikeouts through the fourth and fifth inning before striking out Jake Lamb to start the sixth. His eight strikeouts are a franchise record. The performance surpassed Corey Kluber’s seven straight strikeouts against the White Sox in 2014. In total, McKenzie finished the night with 10 K’s.
Triston McKenzie struck out a franchise-record eight consecutive batters today for the @Indians.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) May 31, 2021
While the numbers are impressive, a good Cinderella story isn’t about numbers. It’s about the story behind the story. On paper, McKenzie’s numbers mean that he wasn’t supposed to come out and make history against the White Sox. While he was supposed to be a breakout star for the Indians this season, he has struggled to do so.
He carried a 5.94 ERA with a 1-3 record going into Monday’s game. Allowing walks had been his kryptonite. The former ranked prospect spent the end of May switching between the Triple-A Columbus Clippers and the Indians. After receiving a call-up in late May to replace the injured Zach Plesac, McKenzie came out strong and pitched five scoreless innings with only one hit against the Detroit Tigers. Nevertheless, he got called back down again before getting the call-up for Monday’s game.
— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) May 27, 2021
Despite the Indians’ 8-6 loss on Monday, McKenzie displayed enough poise to gather himself after a trying second inning. He allowed four runs in the second inning before throwing strikeout after strikeout as the game progressed.
Ultimately, McKenzie possessed a key intangible that any great pitcher needs. He was able to gather his composure, learn from his mistakes and bounce back, all over the course of one game. Those are talents he will need to reach his ultimate goal of being the next Dwight Gooden (His Dad’s favorite pitcher).
But should that be shocking? The ability to bounce back and leave the past in the past has to be one of his strongest intangibles. His struggles this season come after his 2020 debut season when he pitched in 8 games and posted an ERA of 3.24.
Entering the current season, he was expected to be a starter for the Indians. He had even clinched an Opening Day rotation spot before things seemingly went south for the young pitcher.
After a seesaw start to the 2021 season #MLBbro pitcher Triston McKenzie was sent down to the minors after his last start. Our @Carrpediem21 tells you about what’s nexts for the Indians pitcher as he heads to Triple A to work out his issues on the mound https://t.co/BcLijTyuBY pic.twitter.com/OpfhCA5o4A
— MLBbro.com (@MLBbrodotcom) May 25, 2021
While a run in the big leagues isn’t complete without a few growing pains, what the world saw from McKenzie on Monday is that he is capable of making the proper adjustments to be an asset for the Indians.
So now the Indians are left with a tough choice, and McKenzie’s mental strength might have to be stronger now than ever before. While McKenzie’s call-up was supposed to be temporary, maybe he is showing that he’s ready to be a major-league starter. It’s possible that the lingering idea of another call to the minors is enough to mentally prepare him for more historic major league outings.