Hayden Wesneski kept it simple when he knew he was on the verge of a rare achievement.

“Ninth just let it rip,” he said, “and hope it happens.”

Vesneski uncorked a slider down and away, getting Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Jason Delay to complete a flawless inning in the fifth. The rookie right-hander became the first Chicago Cubs pitcher in 18 years to strike out the team in nine innings Thursday in a 4-3 game at PNC Park.

“You just try to fill it, and if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen,” Vesneski said. “If that doesn’t happen, the guy could spoil everyone’s fun.”

According to team historian Ed Hartig, who noted that from 1889 to 1914, Vesneski became the fifth Cubs pitcher to record a perfect inning.

  • Hayden Wesneski, Thursday: Fifth inning vs. Pirates: Jack Suwinski, Zach Collins and Jason Delay
  • LaTroy Hawkins September 11, 2004: Ninth inning vs. Marlins: Jeff Conine, Juan Encarnacion and Alex Gonzalez
  • Lynn McGlotten, 25 Aug 1979: Third inning vs. Giants: Larry Herndon, Joe Strain and Jack Clark
  • Bruce Sutter September 8, 1977: Ninth inning vs. Expos: Ellis Valentine, Gary Carter and Larry Parrish
  • Milt Pappas, September 24, 1971: Fourth inning vs. Phillies: Greg Luzinski, Don Money and Mike Anderson

Manager David Ross couldn’t recall ever witnessing, let alone catching, a perfect inning in his 15-year major league career. Left-hander Wade Miley threw one during his rookie All-Star game with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2012 against the Colorado Rockies. Miley and Wesneski are among 12 rookie pitchers to accomplish the feat.

“I don’t think I was throwing strikes, but they were hitting everybody,” Miley quipped after Thursday’s game.

For veteran catcher Jan Gomez, Vesneski’s flawless pitch was the fifth he’s caught in his MLB career.

“You don’t really understand what’s going on until, like, you get into the third batter,” Gomez said. “I mean, it shows what kind of pitcher he is. He has a great arsenal, and I’m sure there are a lot of great pitchers who haven’t done something like that. … He did a tremendous job tonight.

As he walked off the field after pitching, Vesneski asked Gomez how many perfect pitches he had caught, wondering if it was a first for the catcher. Gomez told him he had caught a couple before. Vesneski laughed as he recounted the exchange: “I said, ‘Come on, give me some love.’ »

“He disappointed me with his response,” said a smiling Vesneski, who had the baseball from the final strikeout in his locker after the game. “But everyone was really excited about it. You don’t see that often, and it’s really cool to be a part of it.”

The flawless delivery was a microcosm of how well the 24-year-old has performed since his major league debut. He registered his second straight quality start, limiting the Pirates to two runs and six hits in 6⅓ innings. In four appearances (two starts) with the Cubs, Vesneski has a 2.45 ERA — six earned runs in 22 innings — with 24 strikeouts and four walks.

Vesneski showed off his mix en route to pitching with nine walks and three strikeouts. He threw four pitches — a four-seam fastball, a changeup, a slider and a cutter — and got four strikes, all on off-speed pitches. Every pirate went down against Vesnesky’s hideous slider. Suwinski and Collins took it for a third strike, looking, and DeLay swung at a slider that was perfectly placed in the bottom of the zone, likely would have been a strike if he hadn’t swung.

Vesneski finished the game with three hits and seven strikeouts on the 22 sliders he threw.

“It’s pretty polished right now,” Wesneski said. “I spin it and I have a good frame of mind. In the past, when I haven’t thrown it very well, I’ve done it very poorly. But right now I’m staying very aggressive with it and it’s ending up where I want it to go.”



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