July 21, 1968 – Mike Paxton Strikes out Four in the Fifth Inning
A matchup between the last-place Mariners and second-to-last place Indians in mid-summer 1978 would be entirely forgettable if not for an event that happened only for the 16th time in MLB history. Mike Paxton had gone 10-5 in his first major league season the year before with Boston and was a competent member of the Indians rotation in 1978.
In the bottom of the second the Tribe got the offense going. Andre Thornton and Bernie Carbo drew back to back walks. Then catcher Gary Alexander singled to load the bases. Jim Norris flied out and everyone had to stay put. Second baseman Duane Kuiper grounded to short, scoring Thornton, while Carbo was forced out at first. Then Tom Veryzer singled, driving in Carbo. Rick Manning followed with a two-run double to center giving the Indians four runs on three hits in the inning.
Paxton struck out Dan Meyer to lead off the top of the fifth, but the third strike was mishandled by Greg Alexander and Meyer took first on the passed ball. Paxton then retired Bruce Bochte (not to be confused with Bruce Bochy, Giants manager), Tom Paciorek, and Bill Stein all on strikeouts. This was only the sixteenth time a pitcher had retired the side with four strikeouts.
The Tribe would score another seven insurance runs and go on to an 11-0 rout of the lowly Mariners. Mike Paxton would have his best season with a 12-11 record, but the Indians finished 74-85 and in sixth place.
Five Cleveland pitchers have had four-strikeout innings. Guy Morton in Game 51 of 1916 and Lee Stange in Game 136 of 1964 preceded him. Paul Shuey K-ed four in Game 33 of 1994 and Chuck Finley in Game 12 of 2000. Finley is the only MLB-er to have two four-strikeout innings. The other was with the Angels in 1999.