The best single-game pitching performances of the 21st century

The best-pitched game of all time took place 100 years ago. To celebrate, we dig into the best pitching performances of this century.

One hundred years ago today, the two best pitching performances ever were thrown in the same game.

Joe Oeschger of the Boston Braves and Leon Cadore of the Brooklyn Robins each tossed 26-inning complete games. The game ended in a 1-1 tie. But history was made, and it probably will never be broken.

According to Baseball Reference, Oeschger and Cadore posted the two highest “game scores” in the history of baseball.

Oeschger’s 26 innings of one-run, nine hit, four-walk, seven-strikeout ball earned him baseball’s best game score ever: 153. Cadore allowed a run on 15 hits while walking five and punching out seven. His game score is 140.

To celebrate the best pitching performances of all time, we took a look at Baseball Reference and looked up the highest game scores of the 21st century.

While nothing is likely to top that wild game 100 years ago, here are the best pitching performances of recent history:

NEW YORK, NY – OCTOBER 03: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) Max Scherzer #31 of the Washington Nationals celebrates his no hitter against the New York Mets at Citi Field on October 3, 2015 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Nationals defeated the Mets 2-0. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Max Scherzer’s Second No Hitter — October 3, 2015

Not only is Scherzer’s no-hitter on the final day of the 2015 season the best game thrown this century, but according to Baseball Reference, Scherzer’s performance earned him a game score of 104, the highest this century.

The only thing that kept him from a perfect game was an error by Yunel Escobar to start the sixth inning. Scherzer than retired the next 12 batters he faced.

Scherzer struck out 17 batters, which is tied for the most ever in a no-hitter (Nolan Ryan did it in three of his seven no-nos).

This was also Scherzer’s second-no hitter of the season. He no-hit the Pirates on June 20 of that year. He faced 28 batters in that game, too.

Scherzer was down to his final strike to complete the perfect game. He then hit Jose Tabata. Was it bush league? You be the judge.

LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 18: Pitcher Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts after pitching a no-hitter against the Colorado Rockies in their MLB game at Dodger Stadium on June 18, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. The Dodgers defeated the Rockies 8-0. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

Clayton Kershaw’s No Hitter — June 18, 2014

Kershaw owns the second-best game score of the century. He, like Scherzer, was the victim of an error that kept him from a perfect game.

Hanley Ramirez committed a throwing error to lead off the top of the seventh inning. Kershaw then went nine up, nine down immediately after.

Kershaw punched out 15 batters, which is still a career-high for the future Hall of Famer. He also punched out 15 a year later against the Giants.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – JUNE 13: Matt Cain #18 of the San Francisco Giants celebrates after pitching a perfect game against the Houston Astros at AT&T Park on June 13, 2012 in San Francisco, California. The San Francisco Giants defeated the Houston Astros 10-0. Matt Cain struck out a career-high 14 batters, and pitched a perfect game in what was the first in Giants franchise history. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)

Matt Cain’s Perfect Game — June 13, 2012

Up until Kershaw’s no-hitter, Matt Cain’s perfect game was in the conversation as the best game thrown this century.

Cain struck out 14 Houston Astros at then-AT&T Park, which was tied for the most ever in a perfect game. Sandy Koufax accomplished the feat on September 9, 1965. Had he not thrown 125 pitches, the most ever in a perfect game, it might undoubtedly be the best game ever pitched.

TORONTO, ON – SEPTEMBER 01: Justin Verlander #35 of the Houston Astros celebrates after throwing a no hitter at the end of the ninth inning during a MLB game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on September 01, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

Justin Verlander’s Third No-Hitter — September 1, 2019

Verlander became the sixth pitcher with at least three no hitters when he accomplished the feat at Rogers Centre last season.

Verlander punched out 14 batters and walked just one. Cavan Biggio walked in the very first inning. Verlander then retired the next 26 batters he faced.

Randy Johnson of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches to the Atlanta Braves in the 1st inning of game 5 of the National League Championship Series 21 October 2001, at Turner Field in Atlanta, GA. The Diamondbacks have a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. AFP PHOTO Steve SCHAEFER (Photo by – / AFP) (Photo credit should read -/AFP via Getty Images)

Randy Johnson’s Perfect Game — May 18, 2004

Johnson became the oldest pitcher to throw a perfect game in 2004. He was 40 years young when he tossed the 17th perfect game in Major League Baseball history.

Johnson struck out 13 Atlanta Braves at Turner Field.

PHOENIX, AZ – MAY 04: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Houston Astros delivers a pitch against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on May 4, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

Gerrit Cole’s One-Hitter — May 4, 2018

Cole punched out a career-high 16 Diamondbacks when he allowed just one hit and one walk in his seventh start as an Astro.

Cole was retired the first nine batters he faced before walked David Peralta to open up the fourth. He then allowed a double to Chris Owings in the fifth. He retired the final 14 batters he faced.

MILWAUKEE, WI – JUNE 14: Max Scherzer #31 of the Washington Nationals get doused in chocolate sauce after pitching a one hitter in the 4-0 win over the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on June 14, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

Max Scherzer’s One-Hitter — June 14, 2015

In the start prior to Scherzer’s almost-perfect game, he struck out a then career-best 16 Brewers at Miller Park while walking one and allowing just one hit.

In this outing, Scherzer was perfect through six innings before allowing a single to Carlos Gomez to start the seventh. He walked Scooter Gennett in the eighth.

So in back-to-back starts, Scherzer faced 57 batters, just three more than the possible minimum he could have faced, while averaging 13 strikeouts, 0.5 walks, and 0.5 hits a game.

Scherzer was four batters away from throwing three perfect games in 2015. No one in baseball history has thrown two.

OAKLAND, CA – AUGUST 17: Brandon Morrow #23 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitching during the game against the Oakland Athletics at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on August 17, 2010 in Oakland, California. The Athletics defeated the Blue Jays 6-2. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Getty Images)

Brandon Morrow’s 17-K One-Hitter — August 8, 2010

In just his 37th career start, Morrow pitched the game of his life. Morrow struck out a career-high 17 batters – his previous high was nine, just one start prior – while walking two.

In his next start, he had just two strikeouts in four innings. Morrow struck out 10 or more batters just eight times in his career.

Arizona pitcher Curt Schilling delivers a pitch to Florida Marlins’ third baseman Mike Lowell during the second inning action of their game 28 April 2002 at Pro Player Stadium in Miami, Florida. Schilling pitched 7 innings and won his 5th game of the year as the Diamondbacks beat the Marlins 5-4. AFP PHOTO/RHONA WISE (Photo by RHONA WISE / AFP) (Photo credit should read RHONA WISE/AFP via Getty Images)

Curt Schilling’s Second One-Hitter — April 7, 2002

Schilling’s best game of his career game in his second start since winning a World Series. In his first start of the 2002 season, he posted seven shutout innings while striking out nine.

In his second start, he racked up 17 strikeouts, the most of his career, while walking just two.

The lone hit was allowed in just the third inning. Schilling allowed his second walk to open up the sixth inning.

It’s one of just eight games where Schilling faced no more than 29 batters in a nine-inning performance.

Next: Yankees: 5 best offensive WAR seasons of the 21st century

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