Corbin Burnes makes baseball history on Thursday with a stunning display of power and control
If Milwaukee Brewers right-hander Corbin Burnes was going to let 17 days off spoil his run at the baseball record books, he put those fears to rest early on Thursday.
Burnes, in his first start since April 26, struck out Harrison Bader swinging on a 96 mph cutter in the second inning against the St. Louis Cardinals. Still with no walks on the season, Burnes became the first pitcher in MLB history to strike out 52 batters before issuing his first walk, breaking the old record of 51 set by Kenley Jansen in 2017.
Burnes shattered the record by a starting pitcher, 35 by Adam Wainwright in 2013, long ago. He went 34 consecutive innings without a walk, the second-longest streak to begin a season in the division era.
After striking out the first two batters in the fifth inning, Burnes established another record: 57 strikeouts in between walks. The streak came to an end with two outs after issuing a walk to Tommy Edman.
With his long, blonde hair flying with every devastating cutter he hurls at opposing batters this season, Burnes is enjoying one of the best runs of any starting pitcher ever. No pitcher has ever had a six-start span of 50 or more strikeouts and no walks. Only one has ever begun a season with five straight starts of at least five innings and no walks, Hall of Famer Grover Cleveland Alexander in 1923. Burnes has now joined him.
It’s a stunning turnaround for a pitcher who, just two years ago, had the worst season in Brewers history. In 2019, Burnes had an 8.82 ERA. He was primarily a fastball-slider pitcher back then, throwing his cutter less than one percent of the time. This year, his cutter usage is up to 54 percent, and the results have been spectacular.
He throws his cutter an average of 96 mph, the fastest in the league by three mph. He leads all pitchers in cutter usage. Of his 54 pitches against the Cardinals through four innings, 35 have been cutters. Opposing batters are hitting just .164 against it this season.
Burnes has reached three balls on a batter 16 times this season, including three against the Cardinals. He’s given up just two hits with 10 strikeouts. In the first inning on Thursday, he had a 3-2 count on Dylan Carlson and threw—what else—a cutter in the dirt. It should’ve been ball-four, the pursuit of the record coming up just short. But Carlson swung and missed for Burnes’ first strikeout of the game.
That’s what Burnes has been doing to batters all season. Even after a stint on the COVID-19 list that kept him off the mound for three months, Burnes lost none of his power and dominance.