The Indians picked up a nice 2-0 win Saturday night. A score like that makes you think the pitchers were on their game, and to some extent they were. On the other hand, the Indians put 29 balls in play, and only had 5 of them fall in for hits (.172 BABIP), which is a very low rate. That might speak to a bit of bad luck for them. More significantly though, Tribe hitters didn't strike out once the entire game.
Strikeouts have been steadily climbing for years. The top twenty seasons for strikeout percentage in baseball history are the last twenty season. A new record was set in 1995, then broken in 1996, then broken in 1997, then broken in 2001. That record was broken in 2008, and every single season since then has established a new high-water mark. Twenty years ago the record was 15.9%, seven years ago the record was 17.3%, last year the record was set at 19.9%, and so far this year MLB hitters are striking out 20.7% of the time.
That manic rise means it's far less likely that a team will go an entire game without striking out. The 1950s saw a big drop off in such games. Most years before then had seen it happen more than 100 times (usually more than 200 times before the 1930s), and it happened at least 60 times each season from 1950 to 1954, but that dropped to 42 times in 1955, and all the way down to 18 times in 1959. In 1963 it happened only 17 times, and in 1967 it dropped all the way to only 9 games.
Zero strikeout games rebounded in the 70s, as it happened at least 34 times each year from 1973 to 1985, with a high of 71 instances in 1980. Then they tailed back off, dropping all the way to 14 games in the juiced-ball season of 1987. The strike-shortened 1994 season had only 9 such games, and there hasn't been a season with more than 18 such games since then. 2011 and 2012 each featured only 7 such games, and 2013 set a new low with only 6 of them.
Last night the Indians became the first team to go a whole game without striking out in 2014.
It was also the first time the Indians have done it since April 17, 2006. That one was especially impressive, because the Indians had 40 at bats (compared to 27 last night). That means the Indians had struck out at least once in 1,310 consecutive games.
That was a pretty long streak, but the Nationals haven't avoided striking out since September 29, 1999 (when they were still the Expos). The Brewers haven't gotten through a game without striking out since August 26, 1998. The Reds haven't had a game with zero strikeouts since June 23, 1997. That's 2,712 consecutive games and counting.
On the opposite end of things are the Royals, who've made it through a game without striking out 16 times in the 2000s (including 5 games in 2002, the most by any team in a season this century). No other team has more than 11 such games in the 2000s.
The last time Indians pitchers didn't record a strikeout in a game was August 15, 2012; the Tribe has had 8 such games in the 2000s. Tigers pitchers have failed to record a strikeout in 14 games in the 2000s, the most of any team.
Brewers pitchers haven't gone without a strikeout since August 24, 1999. Cubs pitchers have an even longer streak, with at least one strikeout in every game since June 11, 1999.
The last time both teams in a game avoided being struck out was June 29, 1985, when Detroit and Toronto managed it. I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for the next one of those.