But I'm not here to talk about Zack. Instead, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look back at Orel's 1988 season and see what everyone was saying. After all, if a 43 inning consecutive "scoreless" inning streak is enough to get a Kansas City Royal on the cover of SI for the first time in 15 years, that 59 inning streak must've been pretty exciting too.
First, let's take a look at what writers were saying about Hershiser entering the 1988 season. After a strong rookie performance in 1984 where he went 11-8 with a 2.66 ERA, and an even better 1985 season where he went 19-3 with a 2.03 ERA, Hershiser seemed to regress in '86 and '87. In those two years, he had a perfect .500 record (30-30) with a 3.43 ERA. People seemed to be unsure of what he might be able to do next. From the 1988 Athlon preview guide:
"Hershiser's 16-16 record [in 1987] would seem to be scant improvement over 14-14 the year before. Nevertheless, his pitching markedly improved. He was third in the National League in earned run average at 3.06 and complete games with 10, first in innings pitched with 264 2/3 and tied for fourth in strikeouts with teammate Fernando Valenzuela with 190. He was named to the National League All-Star team for the first time in his four-year career and also was selected to a postseason all-star team by one baseball publication.Those numbers were good enough for only a fourth-place finish in Cy Young voting, well behind Philadelphia Phillies reliever Steve Bedrosian, the winner. Hershiser's lackluster September and sustained weak hitting by the Dodger offense cost him wins and votes."
"The victory improved Hershiser's record to 18-8 and, with six starts probably remaining, he has a good chance to win 20 games for the first time in his career.At the time, there was no reason to get excited about this start, save for it being Hershiser's 18th victory of the year. After all, it's not all that uncommon for a pitcher to finish up a complete game with four scoreless innings. Six days later, the Dodgers traveled to Atlanta and Orel had his first dominating start of the streak: 9-inning complete game, 4 hits, 1 walk, 8 strikeouts, and, at one point, he retired 16 consecutive batters."I'll be very satisfied if I get 20," said Hershiser, who reduced his ERA to 2.84. "But I'm not going to stop there and say, `See you in the playoffs.' I've got a shot to win 24 (games), and it'll help the team if I do."...Hershiser's bid for his fourth shutout ended in the fifth, when Tim Raines hit a run-scoring double to left field and Dave Martinez singled home Raines, cutting the Dodger lead to 4-2.But the Expos did not threaten after that..."
"When Dodger pitcher Orel Hershiser hunkers down at his personal computer to log data about Monday night's outing, a 4-hit shutout of the woeful Atlanta Braves, he probably will not note the quality of competition or the ease with which he won his 19th game.In the analytical mind of Hershiser it didn't matter that a rainout Sunday in New York aborted his scheduled start against the team with the National League's best record and, instead, pitted him against the league's worst team."The key is not to think you're playing the Mets, not playing the Braves," Hershiser said. "The key is to just go out and beat whoever's out there. If we can just narrow things down to a minimum, it gives us the best chance to win our division.""
"Monday night's victory was Orel Hershiser's fourth straight complete game. He is 3-1 with a 1.00 earned-run average. In his eight previous starts before this streak, Hershiser was 3-4 with a 4.76 ERA. Just as he refused to say he was in a slump, Hershiser now says "I'm not on a streak. I'm just pitching well.""
"The battle for the National League's Cy Young Award, the race within a race, drew tighter Wednesday night.First, the Cincinnati Reds' Danny Jackson was hammered by the Houston Astros, allowing 7 runs in 5 innings of a 7-1 loss.Then the Dodgers' Orel Hershiser sustained his late-season roll in a 1-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves.Jackson is 21-7. Hershiser is 21-8, having pitched six consecutive complete games and three consecutive shutouts.Before a Dodger Stadium crowd of 42,434, Hershiser extended his shutout streak to 31 innings. He allowed only six hits in besting Atlanta's veteran right-hander, Rick Mahler (9-15)."
"Is he close enough to be looking at Don Drysdale's major league record of 58 consecutive scoreless innings?"That first came up in '85 when I had 30-some in a row," he said. "In my view, (the Drysdale record is) an unbelievable feat, one of the records that may not be broken."It's hard enough to throw a shutout, and he threw six and then some. I don't know if I have enough innings left in the season and enough pitches left in my arm to do it."But I'll settle for three more (the number of starts he has left). I don't want to give up a run until I have to.""
"The most impressive statistic, however, is Hershiser's scoreless inning streak. But Hershiser, normally optimistic to a fault, said he does not believe he can surpass Drysdale."It's hard enough to throw one shutout, let alone two more in my last two starts," Hershiser said. "Even if I did, I still would come up short."Maybe not, Hershiser was advised. There is the possibility-considering the slumbering ways of the Dodger offense-that Hershiser would have to pitch extra innings in one of his two remaining starts, thus qualifying.Or, he could always request to work an inning of relief, something that no doubt would not thrill Manager Tom Lasorda."Oh yeah, I can just see me asking Tommy to do that on the last day of the season with the playoffs coming up," Hershiser said.Lasorda laughed at that scenario."
"Where have you gone, Don Drysdale?Well, Drysdale, now a Dodger broadcaster, was among the greeting party awaiting Hershiser after he forced pinch-hitter Keith Moreland to fly to right fielder Jose Gonzalez for the third out in the 10th inning of a then-scoreless tie between the Dodgers and the Padres.Drysdale gave Hershiser a bear hug. So did Manager Tom Lasorda, pitching coach Ron Perranoski and each Dodger player. It was a repeat, though with far more feeling, of the celebration bestowed upon Hershiser an inning earlier, when he tied Drysdale's record."I never thought I would break this record," Hershiser said. "I thought nobody would break this record. But now, I think somebody can break it from me, because I'm nobody special."Hershiser spoke those words with what appeared to be total sincerity. Also in all sincerity, he said that he did not want to break Drysdale's record, just tie it.""