CHICAGO -- For a pitcher to accumulate a high number of strikeouts, a lot of things have to go right. Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy knew early on Thursday that the conditions were there for Mike Fiers to have a big day against the Cubs.
"First of all, the team has to match up," Lucroy said. "If you play someone like the A's, someone real patient like that, it's probably not going to happen. But a team like these guys over here -- who have younger players that swing, trying to get hits -- obviously you can take advantage of that and pitch accordingly.
Brewers pitchers with at least 14 K's in a game
"With Fiers and his deceptiveness of being able to pitch up in the zone and work down in the zone with his fastball as well while mixing your offspeed, I think that the result is what you saw."
What the crowd at Wrigley Field saw was a dazzling 14-strikeout performance over six innings that wrote Fiers into the Brewers' record books as only the fourth pitcher in team history to accumulate 14 strikeouts or more during Milwauke's 6-2 victory.
"You could see it right off with him, the first couple innings you could see how guys were swinging at his fastball," said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke. "And when they're late on the fastball, you know everything's going to be working right."
"He had a downward angle, hid the ball very well," said Cubs manager Rick Renteria. "He kept the ball down, and was locating very well down in the zone -- probably painting very good. Tip your cap to him, he did a nice job."
Pitchers with at least 14 K's this season
|Clayton Kershaw||June 18||LAD||COL||W||9||0||0||0||15|
|Felix Hernandez||June 8||SEA||TBR||W||7||4||0||1||15|
|Jon Lester||May 3||BOS||OAK||W||8||1||0||2||15|
|Mike Fiers||Aug. 14||MIL||CHC||W||6||3||0||1||14|
|Max Scherzer||Aug. 14||DET||PIT||W||8||3||0||2||14|
|Jose Fernandez||April 22||MIA||ATL||W||8||3||0||0||14|
Fiers' 14 strikeouts matched totals from Moose Haas in 1978 and Yovani Gallardo in 2012. Ben Sheets set the club record when he struck out 18 Braves in May 2004.
None of those Brewers pitchers had 14 strikeouts by the end of the sixth inning, as Fiers did against the swinging Cubs. In fact, Fiers was only the eighth pitcher in Major League history to strike out 14 or more batters in six or fewer innings, and the first since Max Scherzer struck out 14 A's in 5 2/3 innings in 2010. Others on that list include Kerry Wood, Randy Johnson and Nolan Ryan.
And how about this list: Fiers joined Clayton Kershaw, Felix Hernandez, Jon Lester, Jose Fernandez and Scherzer as the only pitchers in the Majors to strike out at least 14 batters in a game this season. Fiers and Scherzer each had 14 strikeouts in victories on Thursday, Scherzer's coming against the Brewers' division rivals from Pittsburgh.
Pitchers with 14 K's in six innings or fewer
"I knew he was striking out a lot of guys [in Triple-A], but I didn't know he had those kinds of numbers," said Roenicke. "That's impressive."
Over Fiers' six innings, the Cubs put only seven balls in play, with three falling for hits.
"It was pretty boring. I didn't do much," joked Scooter Gennett. "I wish he would've told me, because I probably wouldn't have run out to the field those two innings [where he struck out the side in the fifth and sixth]. He was fun to watch today, and that's what I normally see from him. It's like he throws a fastball and it's invisible. People just swing right through it. I hope he keeps it up."
The joy in Roenicke's voice was nearly palpable as he discussed Fiers' outstanding performance. His emergence comes at an important time for the Brewers, who are without the injured Matt Garza and may miss a start from Kyle Lohse, who is nursing an ankle injury. The win gave the Brewers a series split and helped solidify their hold on first place heading into a tough weekend set against the first-place Dodgers.
For Fiers, the win seemed to be enough of a reward.
"I definitely knew I was striking out a bunch of guys. The number I didn't know, but I knew it was getting up there later in the game," Fiers said.
"I mean, the biggest thing is getting the win, definitely after losing two straight. The 14, I'll definitely take it, but the biggest thing was the zeros and the win."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. Caitlin Swieca is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.