Tampa Bay Rays lefty Blake Snell tied an American League record on Sunday by striking out seven consecutive batters to start the game against the Seattle Mariners. Snell finished with 12 strikeouts, which is one less than the baker’s dozen strikeouts he posted versus the Orioles in the final game of the 2017 season. He struck out six of the first eight Orioles batters in that contest.
No Orioles pitcher has put up an effort quite like Snell’s to start a baseball game. Chris Tillman struck out five of the first six Minnesota Twins batters he faced on Opening Day 2016. Wei-Yin Chen struck out six of the first eight Oakland A’s batters, including striking out the side to start the game, on July 29, 2012. Other similar examples can be found. However, not even the team record 15 strikeout games posted by Erik Bedard and Mike Mussina (twice) featured a sizzling beginning like Snell’s.
For this post, let’s focus on one of the first great strikeout performances in Orioles team history, and yes, it featured a fast start.
Bob Turley – aka Bullet Bob – totaled 14 strikeouts on April 21, 1954, versus the Cleveland Indians after striking out five of the first seven batters to begin the game. Turley retired the side on strikeouts in the top of the first inning at Memorial Stadium but sandwiched in a walk between his second and third strikeouts. He picked up where he left off in top of the second inning by striking out future Hall of Famer Larry Doby. A fly ball out and a strikeout looking followed.
Turley held the Indians in check until Doby exacted revenge in the top of the ninth inning with what amounted to a game-winning two-run homer. Turley’s final line consisted of nine innings of work, two hits allowed, two earned runs, four walks, and the aforementioned 14 strikeouts.
The Indians would go on to win a franchise record 111 games before being swept by the New York Giants in the 1954 World Series, which featured “The Catch” by Willie Mays. Turley would lead the league in both strikeouts (185) and walks (181).
Turley pitched one season in Baltimore and earned an All-Star nod. The O’s traded him to the New York Yankees after the ’54 season. He led the league in wins, won a Cy Young, finished second in league MVP voting, and was named World Series MVP in 1958. He also made two more All-Star teams after leaving Baltimore.
Turley’s Bullet Bob nickname originated during his time in Baltimore. As detailed in a 2010 New York Daily News profile of Turley, writer Tom Meany measured Turley’s fastball using a bullet timer from Aberdeen Proving Grounds for a Look magazine story. Turley remembered being clocked him between 96 and 98 mph. The profile also details how Turley had a knack for discovering ways that opposing pitchers tipped their offerings. Mickey Mantle credited Turley with tipping him on many of his home runs.