Skip to content
Home » Blog » What Is an Immaculate Inning in Baseball?

What Is an Immaculate Inning in Baseball?

Baseball has numerous rare feats, such as the unassisted triple play, hitting for the cycle, and pitching a perfect game. None are rarer than the immaculate inning in baseball. 

An immaculate inning in baseball is when a pitcher strikes out three batters on nine pitches to complete the inning. Not only does a pitcher have to have pinpoint control and skill, but he must also have enough on the ball that each batter strikes out on three pitches. The moment this occurs provides unbelievable excitement to the fans of the defensive team and anguish to the fans of the team at-bat.

Immaculate Inning Explained

Quick Facts

  • An immaculate inning is when a pitcher throws nine consecutive strikes, recording three strikeouts in the inning.
  • The first recorded immaculate inning was credited to Rube Waddell of the Philadelphia Athletics in 1902.
  • Over a 23-year period from 1929 to 1952, no immaculate innings were pitched in MLB.
  • Although many forms of immaculate inning exist, the most dominant form is nine swings and misses.
  • The term “clean inning” was used prior to “immaculate inning,” which became more popular in 2020.
  • There have been 112 immaculate innings in MLB’s 132-year history.

Often known as a “clean inning,” the immaculate inning is perfect in a sense for a pitcher when he strikes out the side (all three batters he faces) in the inning on nine pitches. In an era where there are more power pitchers and higher strikeout rates, an immaculate inning is a bit more common. However, it’s still one of the rarer events in baseball. The immaculate inning is more common for relief specialists whose only job is to overpower batters for an inning before another pitcher enters the game.

Basically, the ultimate immaculate inning is when the pitcher and catcher play a game of catch. The three batters either swing and miss at all nine pitches or have strikes called on them. Another version of an immaculate inning is when batters get a piece of the ball on some swings resulting in foul balls. 

The most impressive immaculate inning would be a relief pitcher summoned to take the mound trying to protect a lead with the bases loaded and no outs.

Why Is It Called an Immaculate Inning?

It is called an immaculate inning because the pitcher must record three strikeouts on nine pitches, meaning there is no room for error. The term “clean inning” was used almost exclusively prior to 2020 when the term “immaculate inning” was popularized. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How Many Immaculate Innings Have There Been?

There have been 112 immaculate innings posted in 132 years of Major League Baseball.

Three pitchers (Sandy Koufax, Chris Sale, and Max Scherzer) have thrown three immaculate innings, while four pitchers (Lefty Grove, Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, and Kevin Gausman) have thrown two immaculate innings. Last year there were six immaculate innings, over five percent of all immaculate innings in MLB history.

Who Pitched the First Immaculate Inning?

The first immaculate inning occurred in 1889 when John Clarkson of the Boston Beaneaters struck out three Philadelphia Quakers on nine pitches. Still, the first recorded immaculate inning was credited to Rube Waddell in 1902.

The left-hander, pitching for the Philadelphia Athletics, recorded the feat in the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles, striking out Billy Gilbert, Harry Howell, and John Cronin. The Athletics won the game, 2-0.

Who Pitched the Last Immaculate Inning?

Enyel De Los Santos of the Cleveland Guardians threw the most recent immaculate inning on September 27, 2022, versus the Tampa Bay Rays. De Los Santos fanned Christian Bethancourt, Jose Siri, and Taylor Walls in order with 95-mph fastballs and sliders. The immaculate inning was the fourth in franchise history.

Just five days before De Los Santos’ immaculate inning, rookie Hayden Wesneski of the Chicago Cubs hurled an immaculate inning, setting down three Pirates batters in the fifth inning on nine pitches.

How Rare Is an Immaculate Inning?

In 2018, baseball statistician Ryan Spaeder noted that there were 23 perfect games in MLB history, which is 0.0106 percent of all games played in baseball history.

At the time, there were only 91 immaculate innings, translating to 0.0045 percent of the almost two million innings pitched.

Although the number of immaculate innings has increased to 112 and the number of perfect games has remained at 23, the number of immaculate innings is still rarer than a perfect game.

Has Any Pitcher Thrown an Immaculate Game?

No, there has never been an immaculate game. That would be striking out all 27 batters on 81 pitches. The closest anyone has come was when Sandy Koufax struck out 14 in a perfect game on 113 pitches on September 9, 1965.

Does a Foul Ball Ruin an Immaculate Inning?

A foul ball does not ruin an immaculate inning so long as the pitcher records three outs on nine pitches, all of the pitches being strikes.

Notable Immaculate Innings

Houston Astros – Two Immaculate Innings in One Game (June 15, 2022)

The Astros had the best pitching staff in MLB in 2022, resulting in a World Series championship. Their pitching was displayed against the Texas Rangers in this June game as Luis Garcia, and Phil Maton punched out three hitters on nine pitches.

The Astros became the only team in MLB history to have two immaculate innings in the same game. Even rarer is that the feat was accomplished against the same three hitters, Nathaniel Lowe, Ezequiel Duran, and Brad Miller.

Tampa Bay Rays – Immaculate Inning with Bases Loaded (May 8, 2014)

Brad Boxberger came in from the bullpen in the 6th inning against the Baltimore Orioles with the bases loaded and no outs. The right-hander struck out Steve Pearce, Jonathan Schoop, and Caleb Joseph on nine pitches to end a scoreless inning. 

Top 10 Pitchers to Record an Immaculate Inning

Sandy Koufax

Koufax recorded three immaculate innings during a Hall of Fame career. The first came against the New York Mets on June 30, 1962. Koufax punched out Richie Ashburn, Rod Kanehl, and Felix Mantilla in the first innings.

The second came on April 19, 1963, against the Houston Colt 45s when Koufax fanned Bob Aspromonte, Jim Campbell, and Turk Farrell.

The third came on April 18, 1964, against the Cincinnati Reds. In this instance, Koufax struck out Leo Cardenas, Johnny Edwards, and Jim Maloney.

Nolan Ryan

Ryan, the all-time strikeout leader in MLB history with 5714, accomplished the immaculate inning twice over his Hall of Fame career.

The first came on April 19, 1968, against the Los Angeles Dodgers, striking out Claude Osteen, Wes Parker, and Zoilo Versalles.

Four years later, Ryan accomplished an immaculate inning pitching for the Angels against the Boston Red Sox. Ryan fanned Carlton Fisk, Bob Burda, and Juan Beniquez.

Randy Johnson

Johnson, the all-time leading strikeout pitcher among left-handed pitches, threw two immaculate innings. The first was with the Houston Astros against the Atlanta Braves on September 2, 1998.

He struck out Javy Lopez, Andruw Jones, and Gregg Colbrunn. The second occurred with the Arizona Diamondbacks against the Pittsburgh Pirates on August 23, 2001, striking out Tony McKnight, Gary Matthews Jr, and Jack Wilson.

Related article: A Look Back at the Time Randy Johnson Hit a Bird

Lefty Grove

Grove threw two immaculate innings with the Philadelphia Athletics in August and September 1928. The first was against the Cleveland Indians, striking out Ed Morgan, Luther Harvel, and Martin Autry. The second was against the Chicago White Sox, punching out Moe Berg, Tommy Thomas, and Johnny Mostil.

Bob Gibson

Coming off 1968, in which Gibson posted a 1.12 ERA, winning both league MVP and Cy Young Award, he posted an immaculate inning. This feat occurred on May 12, 1969, against the Los Angeles Dodgers, striking out Len Gabrielson, Paul Popovich, and John Miller.

Pedro Martinez

Martinez accomplished the immaculate inning on May 18, 2002, against the Seattle Mariners. In the first inning, he struck out Ichiro Suzuki, Mark McLemore, and Ruben Sierra. 

Bruce Sutter

Sutter, one of the best relief pitchers of all time, pitched an immaculate inning against the Montreal Expos on September 8, 1977. He fanned Ellis Valentine, Gary Carter, and Larry Parrish in the 9th inning.

Max Scherzer

Then with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Scherzer threw an immaculate inning against the San Diego Padres on September 12, 2021. He fanned Fernando Tatis Jr, Eric Hosmer, and Tommy Pham.

Robin Roberts 

While pitching for the Philadelphia Phillies, Roberts threw an immaculate inning on April 17, 1956, against the Brooklyn Dodgers. Roberts struck out the trio of Carl Furillo, Charlie Neal, and Sandy Amoros.

Jim Bunning

Bunning accomplished the immaculate inning once during a Hall of Fame career. While with the Detroit Tigers, Bunning struck out Sammy White, Jim Mahoney, and Ike Delock of the Boston Red Sox on August 2, 1969.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *