clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Yankees’ starting rotation is on a historic streak

Across each member of the rotation’s last turn, the Yankees have strung together a stretch as dominant as any since before World War II.

New York Yankees v Texas Rangers Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Beginning with Corey Kluber’s no-no on Thursday, in which he obviously went the full nine without allowing a run, the other four Yankees starters each finished their outings without allowing a run to cross. Jordan Montgomery, Gerrit Cole, and Domingo Germán all made it through seven scoreless, while Jameson Taillon tacked on five more run-free innings to open the Yankees’ most recent contest. Altogether, the Yankees starters have combined for 35 straight innings without a run, tied for the second-longest stretch in franchise history. It’s been a fantastic streak, rivaled only by two other runs across the team’s fabled past.

35 straight scoreless innings: May 21-25, 1947

Despite having averaged a championship in almost every other season since the 1923 edition of the Murderers’ Row, the 1947 Yankees had failed to reach the mountaintop in any of the previous three campaigns. Almost exactly 74 years ago, the Yankees sat at 13-14, just under .500 after the first month of the season. Sitting in sixth place among the American League’s clubs, they looked on track to again miss out on an opportunity to play in the World Series.

At the time, and until 1969, Major League Baseball’s postseason consisted only of a single series between the teams with the best record from the American and National Leagues. Behind a tightly-grouped pack of five clubs, led by the previous two years’ American League pennant winners, the Tigers and Red Sox, the Yankees trailed the league lead by 3.5 games. With almost a fifth of the season in the books, they had to shape up quickly to surpass their favored rivals in the standings.

On May 21, rookie starting pitcher Spec Shea threw a complete game shutout, backed by three RBI from Joe DiMaggio on a pair of knocks, resulting in a 5-0 Yankees victory. While Shea’s career burnt bright from the very start, it didn’t for long, as his 14-5 freshman season was likely the best of his professional career. He was named to the only All-Star Game of his career and finished 14th in MVP voting along with third-place in the Rookie of the Year vote. Perhaps most impressively, Shea led the majors in hits allowed per nine innings in each of his first two big league seasons, before steadily declining as he pitched for eight seasons, and into his mid-30s.

Two days later, the Yankees opened up a four-game set against the Red Sox with six-time All-Star Allie Reynolds on the bump. Reynolds also went the distance, allowing just a pair of hits and four walks in his own complete game shutout performance. Though the Yankee offense didn’t start the scoring until the fifth—when Charlie Keller hit a two-run blast to deep right field off of the Red Sox’s Fritz Dorish—they came on strong, scoring nine runs to the Red Sox zilch before the final out.

In the series’ second game, Spud Chandler threw the team’s third consecutive complete game shutout in a 5-0 Yankee win. At age-39 and in the final season of his impressive career, in which he won an MVP and three World Series, Chandler made his fourth All-Star appearance and won his second American League ERA title.

Bill Bevens, in the fourth and final year of his career, all with the Yankees, pitched his way to another 26 outs without surrendering a run, just shy of the Yankees’ fourth straight complete game shutout. Unfortunately for him, however, after giving up a one-out single to the Red Sox third baseman, Johnny Pesky, he only needed to retire Ted Williams to finish the job. Spoiling the fun, Williams launched a pull-job into right, giving the Red Sox their first two runs of the series and snapping the Yankees’ scoreless innings streak by starting pitching at 35. Still, the Yankees had already scored 17 runs in the previous eight innings, giving them plenty to withstand Williams’ relatively microscopic blast.

After the following batter flew out, despite losing the streak, the Yankees won their fourth game in a row against the American League’s top two teams, moving into a three-way tie for second place. While they only gained a half-game on the league leading Tigers, they took five of their next six against Detroit and eventually finished the season in first, with a 12-game gulf between them and the second place Tigers.

Then, though it took a two-run comeback in a decisive seventh game, the Yankees toppled the Brooklyn Dodgers (in Jackie Robinson’s rookie season) for their 11th championship in franchise history.

40 straight scoreless innings: May 10-16, 1932

The Yankees won their first trio of championships in ‘23, ‘27, and ‘28, but failed to make the Series in each of the following three seasons. Although they always finished amongst the top two or three teams in the American League in those years, they were never closer than 13.5 games away from winning the pennant by season’s end. Instead, Philadelphia’s Athletics outpaced their competition, winning three straight pennants and World Series in ‘29 and ‘30 before falling to the Cardinals in ‘31.

By 1932, a 37-year-old Babe Ruth was somehow still the team’s best player, but now only barely ahead of a peaking Lou Gehrig. On a team with nine Hall of Famers, the Yankees had rostered plenty of talent to earn their fourth title.

Through the early days of the season, on May 10, the Yankees had leapfrogged the 9-12 Athletics but still trailed the streaking 17-5 Washington Senators by 2.5 games. After forfeiting a 2-0 lead by allowing three Browns to score in the fifth inning of that day’s contest, two-time Triple Crown winner, Hall of Famer, and ace of the staff Lefty Gomez resumed cruising, eventually finishing out the 10-3 victory himself.

Playing in just the first of 13 big league seasons, Johnny Allen toed the rubber the following day, again taking on the Browns. Despite allowing five hits and a walk, Allen threw a complete game shutout, pushing the Yankees’ scoreless innings streak to 13. The Yankees won 3-0, scoring on an error in the fifth and then twice more on a two-out, two-RBI double by Bill Dickey in the bottom half of the eighth.

After a couple of days off, the Yankees welcomed the White Sox to the Bronx with another rookie pitcher, George Pipgras, on the bump. After a scoreless top of the first, Earl Combs led off for the Yankee offense with a bomb to right, giving the Yankees what would eventually be the decisive score in their very first at bat. Pipgras would go on to throw another nine scoreless innings, out-dueling Sad Sam Jones in the 6-0 Yankees victory, extending the streak to 22 innings.

On the 15th of May, the Yankees’ other Hall of Famer in their starting rotation took the mound against Cleveland. Striking out 12 over another complete game shutout, Ruffing dominated Cleveland’s ball club en route to a comfortable 5-0 win, the Yankees’ sixth in a row, and their third straight CG SO.

Again facing Cleveland, Lefty Gomez got a chance to extend the streak he started. Backed by four RBI from Earle Combs’ four total bases, Gomez rode an eventual eight-to-nothing lead the distance, pitching the Yankees’ fourth straight complete game shutout.

The next day, Johnny Allen surrendered a homer in the top of the first, snapping the streak at 40 innings. Still, the Yankees went on to win that game, as well as the next one, making it a nine-game winning streak, and giving them a 1.5-game lead over the Senators for first place in the American League that they would never relinquish.

While these Yankees couldn’t eclipse the all-time consecutive complete game shutouts record (six) or scoreless innings record (56), both held by the 1903 Pirates, they did go on to win 107 games by season’s end, strengthening their grip over first to 13 games. In the subsequent Series, the Yankees swept the Cubs for the franchise’s fourth championship.

Although just one of the Yankees’ starters in their current scoreless innings streak finished his own game, this streak is almost more impressive given the fact that it’s taken efforts from five different pitchers on five different outings to push the streak to 35 innings. In the 11 innings handled by Yankee relievers over the past four games, they’ve given up five runs, but have still maintained a six-game winning streak, and sit just a half game outside of first place behind the Red Sox for the lead in the American League East.

If Corey Kluber can pitch a clean first inning in Tuesday’s start against the Blue Jays, the 2021 Yankees will become the sole owners of the second-longest scoreless innings streak by starting pitching in franchise history. If Kluber can make it through six without surrendering a run, they’ll set a new franchise record.

Also, with a and losses from the Red Sox and Rays, the Yankees would tie Tampa for first in the division, for the first time since before their Opening Day loss to the Blue Jays. While it would be a huge relief to see the Yankees undo their putrid April with the continuance of their strong play in May, they have a long way to go before they can reach the championship heights that the only other two Yankee teams with scoreless starting pitching streaks as long as this one did.