(Updated Oct. 3, 2016)
Mark Littell and Trevor Rosenthal are Missouri natives who earned reputations as hard-throwing right-handed Cardinals relievers.
Until 2016, they were the only Cardinals relievers to strike out 100 batters in a season. Then a South Korean native joined the list.
In 2016, rookie Seung Hwan Oh became the third Cardinals reliever to strike out 100 batters in a season. Oh, a right-hander, recorded 103 strikeouts in 79.2 innings. Oh, 34, began the 2016 season as a setup reliever and took over for Rosenthal as the closer in July that year.
Littell’s average of 11 strikeouts per nine innings is the best single-season ratio for any pitcher in Cardinals history.
Among the relievers who fell just short of achieving 100 strikeouts in a season as Cardinals: Lindy McDaniel (95 in 1960), Diego Segui (93 in 1973), Todd Worrell (92 in 1987), Kevin Siegrist (90 in 2015), Rosenthal (87 in 2014) and Jason Motte (86 in 2012).
The top strikeout totals in a season for other prominent Cardinals relievers: Al Hrabosky (82 in both 1974 and ’75), Bruce Sutter (77 in 1984), Adam Wainwright (72 in 2006), Jason Isringhausen (71 in 2004), Lee Smith (70 in 1990) and Dennis Eckersley (49 in 1996).
Rosenthal, 23, from Lee’s Summit, Mo., was in his first full major-league season with the 2013 Cardinals. Littell, 25, from Cape Girardeau, Mo., was in his first season with the Cardinals in 1978 after being acquired from the Royals for Hrabosky.
Rosenthal pitched primarily in the eighth inning of games until becoming the closer late in the season for a 2013 Cardinals club that won a division title and posted the best record in the National League. Littell was a closer for a 1978 Cardinals club that started poorly and never recovered.
The 1978 Cardinals lost 10 of their first 15 games and manager Vern Rapp was fired in late April.
In a 24-hour period, Littell was the losing pitcher in three games. Facing the Giants at San Francisco, Littell took the loss in a Saturday game, May 13, and he was the loser in both games of a Sunday doubleheader on May 14.
Littell entered June with a 1-6 record and no saves. He didn’t earn a save until June 8 against the Braves at St. Louis. In that game, Littell relieved starter Pete Vuckovich with runners on first and second and two outs in the eighth. He struck out Jeff Burroughs, ending the threat. In the ninth, Littell secured the Cardinals’ 2-0 victory by striking out Gary Matthews and Dale Murphy before getting Darrel Chaney on a ground out. Boxscore
Wrote The Sporting News: “After getting off to a miserable start, the ex-Royal began to get his bullet fastball and slider on the same wavelength. Results: many strikeouts, few hits allowed and his first save of the season.”
One of Littell’s most impressive strikeout efforts occurred on July 20 in earning the save in the Cardinals’ 3-2 victory over the Padres at St. Louis. Littell got six outs, all on strikeouts. The first two batters he struck out: Ozzie Smith and Dave Winfield. Boxscore