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Thursday afternoon, the Milwaukee Brewers welcomed co-ace Corbin Burnes back from the COVID-19 list. Burnes missed 15 games after contracting the virus last month. At the time he was sidelined, he owned a 1.53 ERA with 49 strikeouts and zero walks in 29 1/3 innings. Opponents were hitting .152/.176/.238 against him.

Burnes picked up right where he left off Thursday against the Cardinals (GameTracker). He struck out three of the first seven batters he faced, giving him 52 strikeouts with zero walks to begin a season. That is a new MLB record. No pitcher in history has started a season with that many strikeouts and zero walks. Here's the milestone strikeout:

Burnes added another six strikeouts, but, alas, the streak came to an end in the fifth inning, when Burnes walked Tommy Edman on five pitches. He faced 126 batters and went to 16 three-ball counts before issuing his first walk of the season. Here is the strikeouts without a walk to begin a season leaderboard:

  1. Corbin Burnes, 2021 Brewers: 58
  2. Kenley Jansen, 2017 Dodgers: 51
  3. Adam Wainwright, 2013 Cardinals: 35
  4. Noah Syndergaard, 2017 Mets: 32
  5. Several tied with 30

Burnes broke Wainwright's record for the most strikeouts without a walk by a starting pitcher last month. At the time, he said, "I've heard it from everyone in the clubhouse, so it's kind of hard to escape it right now: 'Hey, you set a record tonight.' I know. I know. Thanks, and let's move on," according to's Adam McCalvy.

It should be noted Burnes set another record Thursday. When he struck out Andrew Knizner in the fifth inning, Burnes set a new record for consecutive strikeouts without a walk at any point in the season. Here's that leaderboard:

  1. Corbin Burnes, 2021 Brewers: 58
  2. Gerrit Cole, 2021 Yankees: 56 (and counting)
  3. Curt Schilling, 2002 Diamondbacks: 56
  4. Greg Maddux, 2001 Braves: 51

Cole's streak is active -- he has not walked a batter since April 12 -- and he could claim the top spot on the leaderboard when he makes his next start, which is tentatively scheduled for next Monday against the Rangers.

Two years ago Burnes pitched so poorly (52 runs in 49 innings) that he was demoted to the bullpen and eventually Triple-A. A few tweaks allowed him to enjoy a breakout season last year (2.11 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 59.2 innings), and he's taken his game to another level this season.