Nineteen-year-old Dwight Gooden of the New York Mets became baseball's all-time rookie strikeout king tonight, breaking Herb Score's 29-year-old single-season record.
Gooden (16-8) had a career-high 16 strikeouts in a five-hit, 2-0 mastery of the Pittsburgh Pirates, his second consecutive shutout and fourth of the season, and seventh straight victory. It kept the Mets seven games off the Chicago Cubs' pace in the National League East.
Given his two-run lead on Hubie Brooks' two-run homer in the fourth inning off John Tudor (9-11), right-hander Gooden passed left-hander Score with his 11th strikeout of the game. When Marvell Wynne went down on a 2-2 fast ball in the sixth inning, it was Gooden's 246th this season, one more than Score achieved in 1955 with Cleveland.
In reaching 251 for the season, Gooden fell only three shy of the single-game record for a nine-inning game and two short of Bill Gullickson's single-game rookie mark. He got Tony Pena, Jim Morrison, Doug Frobel and Denny Gonzalez three times each.
Score, now an Indians broadcaster, congratulated Gooden in a videotaped message shown after the sixth inning on the left field scoreboard, to the delight of the paid crowd of 12,876 at Shea Stadium.
"I know it's a great thrill for you, and I'm sorry I couldn't be there with you," Score said to Gooden. "You're a fine-looking young pitcher, and I wish you many years of success."
The NL mark of 227, by Grover Cleveland Alexander of the Philadelphia Phillies in 1911, fell Friday night as Gooden had a one-hitter and fanned 11 Cubs. He now is averaging better than 11 per nine innings, ahead of the all-time strikeout ratio of 10.71 by Sam McDowell of Cleveland in 1965.
Gooden did not strike out a batter in the first inning. He did not issue any walks.
"You got to take charge, go out there and intimidate them. Don't let them intimidate you," said Gooden, who threw 120 pitches, 92 strikes.
"I didn't even know I had broken Score's record," he said. "Then the crowd started to yell, and I figured I'd done something.
"I've always been a big guy, even in Little League," said Gooden, who a year ago had just completed a 19-4 season in the Class A Carolina League in which he struck out 300 in 191 innings.
"And I always liked J.R. Richard and Nolan Ryan when I was growing up because everybody compared me to them. I think they probably compared me to those two pitchers because I threw hard. But I'm a little different than them, too. I try to use location and I also throw a changeup."
"Guys come up to me and ask me how to hit Dwight," said Mets teammate Darryl Strawberry, 1983 NL rookie of the year. "I don't know. I've never batted against him, and I don't know if I'd want to."
"Gosh, I'd like to be able to throw one ball like he does," the left-handed Tudor said. "Just one time to see what it feels like."
Said Score, reached in Anaheim, Calif.: "Of course, there's a twinge of disappointment, but very few records endure with the level of today's play. I'm a little surprised it's lasted this long."