ST. LOUIS • Awhile after rookie pitcher Shelby Miller had retired his 27th consecutive batter and completed a game unlike any he had ever pitched in his career, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny received some calls and texts about the young righty's work.
The gist of a few of them were, "Shelby was pretty good."
"You think?" Matheny joked before the start Saturday's game at Busch Stadium. "That was something many of us may never see. Very, very impressive. The more you think about it the more you respect what he pulled off. That was almost like a no-hitter."
No, it was better.
It was almost perfect.
And for an organization that does not have a perfect game in its long, illustrious history, what Miller did on Friday is arguably the finest nine-inning game ever pitched by a Cardinal.
The concept of "Game Score" was devised by Bill James in order to assign a single integer to a pitcher's outing. Earlier this season, Adam Wainwright pitched a shutout of the Milwaukee Brewers that had his highest career game score, of 91. Back in 2011, Chris Carpenter pitched an epic shutout of the Philadelphia Phillies in the decisive Game 5 of the National League division series. His Game Score that day was 84, one of the highest for a Cardinal in postseason history. Bob Gibson's 17-strikeout shutout against Detroit during the 1968 World Series is the franchise king when it comes to October Game Scores. That was a 93.
Miller's start on Friday night, the best start ever at Busch Stadium III for a pitcher, scored a 98.
It is the highest nine-inning score for a Cardinals pitcher -- ever.
The concept of Game Score is remarkably simple. Every pitcher starts the game with a 50, and the score goes up or down from there based on the positive or negative results. A strikeout adds to the score (plus-1) and so does an out or complete inning (plus-4 for every inning after the fourth). A walk detracts from the score (minus-1), and so does an earned run (minus-4) or a hit allowed (minus-2). One of the highest nine-inning scores belongs to Kerry Wood, who charted a 105 Game Score for his 20-strikeout shutout.
Again, Miller's was 98.
Missing from that number is context, gravity, and, of course, opponent. The quality of opponent that Gibson faced in the 1968 World Series or that Carpenter faced in Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS easily trump what Miller did in the middle of May at Busch against the scuffling Rockies. What was at stake does, too. Carpenter may have the edge here because he pitched his shutout with elimination on the line. Gibson's 17-strikeout gem came in Game 1 of a World Series the Cardinals would lose in Game 7. In many ways, it's the most lasting of the Best Pitched Cardinals Games. Carpenter's is the most memorable. Stripped to bare stats, Miller's is the highest-scoring.
In Cardinals' history since 1916, there have been seven games pitched that have scored 100 or better, according the database at Baseball-Reference.com. All of them were outings of more than nine innings. The highest-scoring game in Cardinals history belonged to Roy Parmalee, who pitched 17 innings for a no decision against the New York Giants in 1936. His game scored a 116. Here are those seven:
Roy Parmalee, 4-29-1936 vs. NY Giants: W (ND), 17 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 9 KK, 116 Game Score (GS)
Tex Carleton, 7-23-1933 vs. NY Giants: L (ND), 16 IP, 8 H, 0 ER, 7 BB, 7 K, 106 GS
Harry Brecheen, 4-30-1950 vs Chi Cubs: W (SHO), 13 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 104 GS
Jose DeLeon, 8-30-1989 vs. Cincinnati: L (ND), 11 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K, 103 GS
Lee Meadows, 9-22-1917 vs. Boston: T (ND), 14 IP, 10 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 10 K, 102 GS
Bob Gibson, 7-25-1969 vs. SF Giants: W (CG), 13 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 11 K, 100 GS
Bill Doak, 6-11-1917 vs. Philadelphia: W (ND), 15 IP, 6H, 4 R/2 ER, 3 BB, 10 K, 100 GS
In Cardinals history, from 1913 to this morning, there have been 51 nine-inning games that have scored 90 points or better on James' system. Six pitchers have had at least two in their careers with the club: Gibson 11, Carpenter 6, Steve Carlton, Adam Wainwright, Ernie Broglio, and Jose Jimenez 2 each. The highest Gibson ever scored on his best nine-inning game was 96. Carpenter got to 94 against his former team, the Toronto Blue Jays. That was also as high as Matt Morris got in his career.
In his eighth career start, Miller outscored them all.
Here are the top seven Games Scores in Cardinals history since 1913, regular season or postseason (all seven were shutouts):
Shelby Miller, Friday vs. Colorado: 9 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 13 K, 98 GS
Ernie Broglio, 7-15-1960 vs. Chi Cubs: 9 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 14 K, 97 GS
Bob Gibson, 6-17-1970 vs. San Diego: 9 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 13 K, 96 GS
Chris Carpenter, 6-14-2005 vs. Toronto: 9 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 10 K, 94 GS
Matt Morris, 9-3-2004 vs. LA Dodgers: 9 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 BB, 11 K, 94 GS
Gibson, 8-14-1971 vs. Pittsburgh: 9IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 10 K, 94 GS
Steve Carlton, 6-19-68 vs. Chi Cubs: 9 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 K, 94 GS
There were many superlatives that came with Miller's shutout of the Colorado Rockies on Friday night. His 13 strikeouts were a career high and he tied the Cardinals' rookie record for a single-game strikeout total, matching Dick Hughes (1967) and Scipio Spinks (1972). Miller's one-hit shutout was the lowest hit shutout for a Cardinals rookie since Bud Smith's no-hitter in 2001.
The one hit that Miller allowed was a broken-bat single to the first batter of the game.
He then retired the next 27 batters.
He struck out the final two batters he faced, and seven of the strikeouts were called strike 3s. He hit 96 mph on his 96th pitch, and his final pitch of the game was 95 mph.
It was by the eye test the best pitched game at the new downtown ballpark. It was by statistics the best pitched game by a Cardinals rookie in the modern era. It was by at least one measure the most dominant nine-inning start in the last 100 years of Cardinals history.
That's pretty good, you think?