When I think of great pitching performances in Mets history, there are several that come to mind. Johan Santana's no-hitter, Tom Seaver's near no-hitter (or any game of his for that matter), R.A. Dickey's back-to-back one-hitters or any Jacob deGrom start over the last three seasons. While the 2012 season featured some of the best pitching performances in Mets history, the season before featured one by a player who wasn't in a Mets uniform all that long and it was perhaps the greatest start of his career.
On a warm New York night on August 26, 2011, Chris Capuano pitched the greatest game of his career, one of the best games in Mets history, all coming from absolutely nowhere.
Before we dive into his performance, I have to talk about game score. A metric devised by Bill James, every pitcher starts with 50, and as the game goes along, points are added or subtracted based on what occurs.
Add one point for each out recorded, so three points for every complete inning pitched.
Add two points for each inning completed after the fourth.
Add one point for each strikeout.
Subtract two points for each hit allowed.
Subtract four points for each earned run allowed.
Subtract two points for each unearned run allowed.
Subtract one point for each walk.
As you can probably see, 90 game scores alone are hard to achieve. Most complete game shutouts sit at around 80-87 and one would probably have to throw a no-hitter to achieve a 90 game score. The maximum achievable game score for a nine-inning game is 114, which would be a 27-strikeout perfect game. Kerry Wood holds the highest game score in a nine-inning game, a 105 mark for his 20-strikeout, one-hit performance. Mark Buehrle's perfect game in 2009 was scored a 93 and Corey Kluber's no-hitter last night was scored a 95.
This performance tops both Buehrle and Kluber in terms of game score. It was a regular old complete game shutout, but in nine innings, Capuano allowed two hits, struck out 13 and allowed no runs or walks as the Mets won 6-0. He had a game score of 96 (50+27+10-4+13), which is among the best performances in not only Mets history but outranked every start in 2011.
THE GAME ITSELF
In his career, Chris Capuano had thrown two shutouts, both during his All-Star season in 2006 and hadn't thrown as much as a complete game since then either. After a run of average seasons in Arizona and Milwaukee, Capuano signed with the Mets as a free agent for 2011.
Heading into August 26, Capuano was not having the greatest season, having a 4.71 ERA heading into his start against the Braves. His best performance was seven shutout innings at Pittsburgh on June 12, and to that point on the season, he had gone seven innings six times and eight innings once. You can see how crazy this game was to begin with. He had never struck out more than eight in a game, something he did twice before that and once more after.
He opposed Tim Hudson in a random start for the 2011 Mets, who at that point were six games under .500. The expectations for this game were low, as Capuano was coming off a bad start against the Brewers, so no one could have foreseen what would happen that night.
Capuano faced off against the lineup seen below, and the Braves were a strong 79-54 at that point which made this absolute carving of a lineup all the more incredible.
Capuano's night started with a bang, fanning Michael Bourn for his first strikeout of the evening and not the last time Bourn would strike out. After a scoreless first inning, Capuano looked to settle in, and settle in he did.
He proceeded to strike out the side in the second, leaving Freddie Freeman and David Ross flailing at strike three. He struck out two more in the fourth, and in the fifth, Dan Uggla led off with a base hit to end the no-hit bid but was quickly erased by a double play.
RBI singles by Josh Thole and Nick Evans (what a throwback) gave the Mets the lead they never relinquished as Capuano continued to be unhittable. He struck out two in the seventh and one in the eighth, and while Ross hit a double, the Braves were continuously stymied by Capuano for the remainder of the evening. Lucas Duda and Justin Turner further buried the Braves with RBI doubles.
Capuano headed into the ninth inning needing three outs to complete one of the best random pitching performances ever. He got Jose Constanza to ground out, pinch-hitter Brooks Conrad to strike out, and then finally, Michael Bourn struck out swinging to achieve the platinum sombrero. It was a brilliant performance and a career-high in strikeouts for Capuano, who fanned 13 and allowed just two hits in the victory. His breaking stuff was working quite well that night.
THE CRAZINESS OF IT ALL
While 13 strikeouts were a new career-high for Capuano, he had never pitched a game with a 90 game score in his career. His other two complete-game shutouts in 2006 were 83 and 81, respectively.
That season, Capuano was 11-12 with a 4.55 ERA. That was the most out of left-field performance ever, but he put it all together and looked like an ace on that night. It was the highest game score in 2011, even with the plethora of no-hitters that were tossed that season.
Here's where it ranks against some of the best games in Mets history:
Jacob deGrom, 4/23/21, 9 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 15 K, 98 GSc
Tom Seaver, 5/15/70, 9 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 15 K, 97 GSc
Tom Seaver, 4/22/70, 9 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 19 K, 96 GSc
Tom Seaver, 7/9/69, 9 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 11 K, 96 GSc
R.A. Dickey, 6/18/12, 9 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 13 K, 96 GSc
Chris Capuano, 8/26/11, 9 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 13 K, 96 GSc
Those are some pretty special names in Mets history. deGrom and Seaver alone are two of the best pitchers in Mets history (Seaver hit 96 another time in 1972 as well), and Dickey won a Cy Young, so for Capuano to be on that list is incredible in its own right.
Here is how it ranks versus no-hitters from 2011:
Chris Capuano, 8/26/11, 9 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 13 K, 96 GSc
Ervin Santana, 7/27/11, 9 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 10 K, 94 GSc
Justin Verlander, 5/7/11, 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K, 90 GSc
Francisco Liriano, 5/3/11, 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 6 BB, 2 SO, 83 GSc
Verlander had a CGSO of a higher game score in 2011 with 94, but it did not top Capuano's game. Liriano's is bogged down by the number of walks as well.
Regardless of it being an outlier performance, this game was incredible to watch, but no one remembers it as it was overshadowed by several other performances in Mets history. Capuano may not have had the credentials of other pitchers, but he put it all together on one night in 2011 and it was a game I will never forget while others might.
If you like baseball, you'll love our content. If you're new here and made it this far, follow us on Twitter, @stranded_sports, for more content such as this.