Kerry Wood splashed onto the big-league scene with a 20-strikeout game and Rookie of the Year Award in 1998. Then he missed 1999 with Tommy John surgery and had an uneven return in 2000.
The 2001 season, though, began a run for Kid K of dominance in the National League, although that year didn’t start out that way for him. Through his first nine starts, he posted a 4.94 ERA and 1.431 WHIP. The team, meanwhile, roared into first place in May, but in mid-month suffered an eight-game losing streak that dumped them into fourth place.
A modest winning run had reached five when Wood was scheduled to throw the opener of a three-game series Friday, May 25 against the Brewers at Wrigley Field. The fifth win of that streak the previous day had been a one-hitter by Jon Lieber against the Reds.
Whether Wood set out to match his teammate isn’t known, but he did exactly that. He no-hit the Brewers through six innings, issuing only one walk. Through six he had 10 strikeouts, meaning he couldn’t match his 20-K game of three years earlier, though he might come close.
Mark Loretta led off the seventh with a single, foiling Wood’s attempt at a no-hitter. One out later, Wood issued one more walk, but those two and Loretta’s single were the only baserunners in a 14-strikeout one-hitter. The Cubs won 1-0 on a solo homer by Rondell White in the fifth inning. There have been 23 games in Cubs history (in the baseball-reference era, since 1904) where the team has won 1-0 and allowed one or no hits. This game is one of just four of those 23 in which the only run scored on a solo homer. The others happened in 1911, 1931 and 2003.
Loretta’s hit landed in front of White, and White might have had a chance to catch it:
“I hit a breaking ball that didn’t break as far,” Loretta said. “I was able to put a decent swing on it. It had topspin and it fell in. He had everything working. He had four pitches that were above average . . . it was no-hit stuff.”
Could White have caught it?
“I thought it could go either way,” Loretta said.
White pulled Wood aside after the single and asked if Wood thought he could have caught Loretta’s single.
“That would have been a [great] play, but I didn’t expect you to catch it when it was hit,” Wood told White. “You won the game, you got the big hit, you gave us a run. Don’t worry about that one.”
Sadly, no video survives of this game, or I’d certainly show you that play.
Wood’s 20-K game in 1998 might also have been a no-hitter, as the one hit bounced off the glove of third baseman Kevin Orie and could have been ruled an error. Kid K certainly had memorable moments in his career. A no-hitter would have been the cherry on top.
Fun fact: Wood wasn’t the only pitcher to throw a one-hitter with 14 strikeouts on May 25, 2001. That night at Fenway Park, Hideo Nomo matched the feat for the Red Sox. Nomo allowed a fourth-inning double to Shannon Stewart and didn’t walk anyone in Boston’s 4-0 win over the Blue Jays.