2012: A Chiefs Odyssey – Kevin’s #3

3. Complete Domination

The complete-game shutout has gone the way of the dinosaur, basketball short shorts and Eddie Murphy’s acting career – a once-prominent standard, now essentially vanished from this earth.  In fact, going into last season, the Chiefs hadn’t had a pitcher toss a complete-game shutout since Garrett Mock on June 22, 2009.  And after the year’s first four months, there was more of a reason to expect a Coming to America sequel than a nine-inning, no-run game by an individual Syracuse hurler.

But on August 11, Zach Duke twirled a three-hit gem at Lehigh Valley, shutting out the IronPigs, 6-0.  The soft-tossing left-hander was on fire, throwing first-pitch strikes to 15 consecutive batters at one point.  It stood to reason that Duke’s performance would stand the test of 2012, frozen as the best Chiefs pitching performance of the season.  Perhaps we’d even have another three-year gap in between complete-game shutouts.

As it turned out, we wouldn’t even go three weeks.  Just 14 days later at Gwinnett, John Lannan turned the trick in a 1-0 win over the Braves.  Lannan allowed just three hits and one walk, getting the shutout despite a mere two strikeouts.

That’s when things got really wacky.  Mock to Duke took three years and two months.  Duke to Lannan took two weeks.  And Lannan to Jeff Mandel took 24 hours.  The very next day – Mandel battled through 102 pitches to shut out the G-Braves on six hits in a 7-0 Chiefs win for his first ever nine-inning shutout.  Fifteen days, three complete-game shutouts.

But Lannan had one more for the road.  In his next start – his last of the season with Syracuse before a return to the major leagues – he provided the most memorable Syracuse pitching performance of the year.  Lannan struck out a season-high 10 Knights and wriggled out of jam after jam, scattering eight hits in a 2-0 win.  He threw an astonishing 122 pitches – a number that exceeded any other effort by a Chiefs starter this season.

Lannan’s early struggles this season were well-documented with Syracuse.  He was roughed up in his first start and had a difficult couple of months after his very public trade demand following a demotion to Triple-A.  But the Lannan we saw at the end of the season was the Lannan that’s been an Opening Day starter in the past for the Nationals.  He’ll be across the division this year in Philadelphia – and if the end of 2012 is any indication, he’ll be a difficult task for Washington’s bats.

JB, I know this is more of a cumulative entry, but four complete games in a month?  How could I leave that out?

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