Page 300 – Most consecutive strikeouts, series (consecutive at bats), 1981 Division Series – 8, Jerry Reuss, Los Angeles, Oct 7 (4 in 11 innings), Oct 11 (4)
Ahh, 1981. One of my favorite years of baseball. The strike! The split season! An extra round of playoffs! The Montreal Expos and Milwaukee Brewers playing in the same postseason!
The playoff series held between the winners of each half of the split season in 1981 were dubbed "Division Series." And the name made sense. After all, it was a series of game to decide a division champion. But when MLB switched to three divisions in 1994 and in 1995, the extra round of playoffs was added for good, those series were dubbed "Division Series."
However, the 1981 Division Series aren't lumped in with the current Division Series for record-keeping purposes. The Sporting News just lists records from the 1981 series if they surpass a record set from the first round of the playoffs that has occurred from 1995 to date.
And so this is one of them.
The 1981 NL West Division Series matched up the Dodgers and Astros. The series opened in Houston and the Astros won Game 1, 3-1 on a home run by Alan Ashby in the bottom of the ninth off of Dave Stewart.
In Game 2, Jerry Reuss started for the Dodgers against Joe Niekro of Houston. Both pitchers matched zeroes through the first eight innings. Niekro struck out four in his eight innings of work: Davey Lopes to lead off the game, and then Reuss in the second, fifth, and sixth. The strikeout in the sixth came with the bases loaded and two outs. In the ninth, Reuss struck out against reliever Dave Smith. The Astros would win the game in the 11th on a Denny Walling single to score Phil Garner.
The series returned to Los Angeles and the Dodgers won Games 3 and 4, 6-1 and 2-1. This set up a Game 5 matchup between Reuss and Nolan Ryan. Not surprisingly, Reuss struck out all three times he batted against Ryan. But the Dodgers scored three runs against Ryan in the sixth on RBI singles by Rick Monday and Mike Scioscia and then picked up another on an error by Walling. In the eighth, Reuss struck out against Smith again.
While Reuss was a bust at the plate, he was brilliant on the mound, holding the Astros to five hits and pitching a 4-0 shutout that moved the Dodgers on to the NLCS against the Expos.
Reuss wasn't a particularly poor-hitting pitcher. He batted .167 in his career. In 1981, he had 10 hits in 51 at bats with 18 strikeouts. But in the postseason, Reuss never got a hit, going 0 for 19 with one walk, that was courtesy of Ron Guidry in Game 5 of the 1981 World Series.
But if you look up the record for "Most consecutive strikeouts (consecutive at bats), one series" in a Division Series, the record holder is not Reuss, but rather Reggie Sanders, who whiffed five straight times for the Reds in Game 3 of the 1995 Division Series against the Dodgers with Hideo Nomo punching him out three times, John Cummings once, and Antonio Osuna for the fifth time. Despite Sanders futility at the plate, the Reds won the game 10-1. Sanders wouldn't bat in a Division Series again until Game 1 of a 2000 Series for the Braves against the Cardinals and struck out against Rick Ankiel in his first at bat. Sanders stopped his whiffing streak overall in the Division Series when Ankiel walked him (along with several other people) in the third inning.