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Fractions don't add up in scoreless streaks

Don Drysdale and Orel Hershiser actually pitched more zeros than the official totals, but baseball's 1980 decision cut them short.

August 29, 2013|By Ben Bolch
  • Dodgers pitcher Orel Hershiser is congratulated by catcher Mike Scioscia after breaking Don Drysdale's 20-year-old record of 58 consecutive scoreless innings.
Dodgers pitcher Orel Hershiser is congratulated by catcher Mike Scioscia… (Vince Compagnone / Los Angeles…)

You could make an argument that Orel Hershiser's famed scoreless streak reached 60 consecutive innings.

Of course, baseball historians would counter that your numbers don't add up.

Before Hershiser held the Montreal Expos scoreless over the final four innings of a Dodgers victory on Aug. 30, 1988, officially embarking on a major league-record scoreless streak that would reach 59 innings by the end of the regular season, the pitcher secured the final out of the fifth inning, in which he had given up two runs.

Hershiser also recorded two outs in his 1989 season debut against the Cincinnati Reds before Todd Benzinger drove in the game's first run with a single to right field.

Doesn't 1/3 + 59 + 2/3 = 60? Not in this instance.

In a decision that baffled Don Drysdale and elementary school math teachers everywhere, baseball's scoring and rules committee declared in 1980 that fractions don't add up to a whole in the case of consecutive scoreless innings pitched. That edict shaved 2/3 of an inning off what would become Drysdale's official record of 58 consecutive scoreless innings pitched during the 1968 season.

Drysdale remained a fan of fractions.

"The game is made up of thirds of an inning," he told The Times' Ross Newhan in the days before Hershiser broke his streak in 1988. "It takes three thirds to make a whole. I thought I pitched 58 2/3 scoreless innings and it seems kind of funny now that someone can say I only pitched 58. But nothing surprises me. You've got guys in the game who never played, who know nothing about it. You've got guys sitting around in a suit making a ruling."

Hershiser's record would have stopped at 59 1/3 innings even if the fraction was counted because records didn't carry over from one season to another.

His eight scoreless innings to start the Dodgers' 1988 National League Championship Series opener before giving up two runs in the ninth weren't added to his total because postseason statistics were kept separately from those attained in the regular season.

Hershiser and the Dodgers would have to settle for a World Series championship.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

Twitter: @latbbolch

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