Doing all the driving

On Sept. 2, 1996, the Red Sox beat the Mariners 9-8 in 10 innings in Seattle. Boston’s left fielder, Mike Greenwell, batting eighth in the order, drove in all nine of the Red Sox runs. He set a major league record.

After flying out to right-center to lead off the top of the third inning, the Gator hit a two-out, two-run home run in the fifth, a grand slam with no one out in the seventh—putting the Sox ahead 6-5—a two-run double down the left field line in the eighth—tying the game at 8-8—and an RBI single in the top of the 10th to give the Red Sox a 9-8 lead. Unfortunately, Boston manager Kevin Kennedy stayed with reliever Heathcliff Slocumb in the home half of the tenth, denying Greenwell the opportunity to take the hill and pick up a save.

After the first inning, Boston managed only six hits, and Greenwell had four of them. He finished the day with a WPA of 1.051—the third highest for a Red Sox batter in Retrosheet history, and only the sixth Red Sox batter to ever top a 1.000 WPA. Greenwell also drove in Boston’s first run the following night, making it 10 RBI in a row.

Before Greenwell’s one-man show at the Kingdome, there had been two instances of a player driving in all eight of his team’s runs.

George “Highpockets” Kelly went 4-for-4, with three home runs and a single, for the New York Giants on June 14, 1924, in an 8-6 win over the Cincinnati Reds. Nearly 14 years later to the day—June 12, 1938—Philadelphia A’s second baseman Bob Johnson drove in eight runs in an 8-3 win over the St. Louis Browns in the first game of a doubleheader. Johnson had two homers and a single.

I started wondering which players with big RBI days had driven in almost all of their team’s runs—eight of nine, nine of 10, 10 of 12, etc. I went to Baseball Reference’s Play Index and did some digging. All of the information below covers games played in the last 93 years (1919-2011). I first looked at the highest RBI games—11 and 12 RBI—in major league history, but only one of the four instances even came close.

12 runs batted in

Mark Whiten tied a major league record with four home runs and drove in 12 of St. Louis’ 15 runs in the second game of doubleheader against the Reds (a 15-2 win) on Sept. 7, 1993. In the first game, which Cincinnati won 14-13, St. Louis had 17 hits but Whiten went 0-for-4 with only one RBI.

Jim Bottomley went 6-for-6 with 12 RBI as the Phillies beat the Dodgers 17-3 on Sept. 16, 1924.

Eleven

Both players with 11 RBI in a game were part of serious blow-outs.

Tony Lazzeri (4-for-5, four runs scored), May 24, 1936, Yankees 25, Athletics 2. Phil Weintraub (4-for-5, five runs scored), April 30, 1944 (game one), Giants 26, Dodgers 8. In Weintraub’s game, the Giants added insult to injury by scoring their final eight runs in the bottom of the eighth.

Drove in 10 of 11 runs

No one.

Drove in 10 of 12 runs

Eight players have driven in 10 runs in a game. Two of those players drove in 10 of their team’s 12 runs.

Nomar Garciaparra hit three home runs— two grand slams and a two-run shot—in the Red Sox’ 12-4 win over the Mariners on May 10, 1999. Alex Rodriguez drove in 10 runs in the Yankees’ 12-4 victory over the Angels on April 26, 2005. He hit a grand slam, a three-run homer, a two-run homer and an RBI single.

Rudy York of the Red Sox drove in 10 of Boston’s 13 runs on July 27, 1946, a game in which the Red Sox had only 12 team RBI. Note: Ted Williams reached base six times (single, double, four walks) ahead of York, but scored only three times.

Drove in nine of 10 runs (one time)

Vladimir Guerrero (4-for-4), June 2, 2004, Angels 10, Red Sox 7. David Eckstein (5-for-5) had the other Anaheim RBI.

Drove in nine of 11 runs (one time)

Jimmie Foxx hit for the cycle on Aug. 14, 1933, driving in nine runs in the A’s 11-5 win over Cleveland. Philadelphia’s other RBI came on a solo home run by Eric McNair. Note: Foxx finished the season with 163 RBI, 24 more than the AL’s No. 2 man, Lou Gehrig, and an astounding 43 more than the NL leader Chuck Klein. Five seasons leater, in 1938, Foxx led the AL with 175 RBI, out-pacing Joe Medwick of the NL by 53!

Drove in eight of nine runs (three times)

On Sept. 19, 2003, the Chicago Cubs won the first game of a doubleheader against Pittsburgh, 10-9. Jason Bay drove in eight runs for Pittsburgh—the only time in the last 93 years a National League player had eight-plus RBI in a losing effort. While Pittsburgh scored nine runs, the Pirates were awarded only eight RBI—all of them from Bay. He hit a grand slam in the second and a two-run homer in the fourth. In the fifth, he was up with the bases loaded. A wild pitch scored a run and Bay hit the next offering for a two-run double, tying the game at 9-9. The Cubs scored the eventual winning run on a walk, a hit batsman, a wild pitch, another walk and a sacrifice fly.

Colorado’s Larry Walker hit three home runs and drove in eight runs as the Rockies beat St. Louis 9-7 on April 28, 1999. Walker grounded out to second in his final at-bat.

Dave Kingman hit a grand slam and two two-run bombs in his first three plate appearances on April 16, 1984, as the A’s beat the Mariners 9-6. Kingman struck out and popped to shortstop in his next two times up.

Drove in seven of seven runs (15 times)

Since the start of the 1919 season, 401 players have driven in exactly seven runs in a game (their teams went 373-27-1). In 15 of those 401 games, the seven runs batted in were the total runs for the team—and five of those 15 games have come in the last 10 seasons.
{exp:list_maker}Hank Greenberg: Sept. 14, 1946—Tigers 7, Yankees 4
Del Ennis: July 23, 1955—Phillies 7, Cardinals 2
Roberto Clemente: May 15, 1967— Reds 8, Pirates 7 (loss)
Ken Harrelson: June 14, 1968—Red Sox 7, Indians 2
Brant Alyea: Sept. 7, 1970—Twins 7, Brewers 6 (game one)
Eddie Murray: Aug. 29, 1979—Orioles 7, Twins 4 (game two)
Larry Parrish: April 25, 1980—Braves 8, Expos 7 (loss)
John Kruk: Aug. 4, 1987—Braves 12, Padres 7 (loss)
Rondell White: July 24, 1994—Expos 7, Dodgers 4
Mark McGwire: May 18, 2000— Cardinals 7, Phillies 2
Richie Sexson: April 18, 2002—Brewers 7, Cardinals 5
Garret Anderson: May 8, 2003—Angels 7, Indians 1
Ryan Howard: June 20, 2006—Yankees 9, Phillies 7 (loss)
Albert Pujols: Aug. 22, 2006—Mets 8, Cardinals 7 (loss)
Jason Giambi: May 19, 2011—Rockies 7, Phillies 1 {/exp:list_maker}Some factoids:

Clemente and White are the only two of the 15 players to have four hits.

Pujols had only two hits, but they were both home runs. White and Anderson each scored only one run.

Giambi, Ennis, Harrelson, McGwire and Murray hit three home runs. Harrelson and Murray made outs in their first two plate appearances, then belted three home runs.
Sexson hit a two-run triple with no outs in the third, but no one drove him in (line out to shortstop, strikeout, line out to second).

John Kruk’s seven RBI came in palindromic fashion: 300 010 003.

Ryan Howard broke a tie with each of his hits, but (as the potential winning run in the bottom of the ninth) grounded out against Mariano Rivera.

Drove in six of six runs (31 times)

Thirty-one players since 1919 have driven in all six of their team’s runs. The only pitcher on the list is Wes Ferrell of the Red Sox, who hit a two-run home run and a grand slam in consecutive innings against the A’s on Aug. 12, 1936 (game one). Ferrell also pitched a complete game, winning 6-4. It is the most RBI by a pitcher who drove in all of his team’s runs.

Could a batter drive in all 10 of his team’s runs? It’s possible, though the odds must be astronomical. The batter obviously must have a good day at the plate, but he needs to be in the right spot at the right time (over and over again in the game). He needs men on base when he comes to bat and he needs to bring in all or most of them each time. Home runs are the hit of choice, since a double or a triple may clear the sacks, but would put the next batter in a prime spot for an RBI of his own.

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Comments

  1. AaronB said...

    Nice work on the maligned RBI Mr. Wood!  Thanks much.  One quick correction, Sunny Jim Bottomley’s 12 RBI game came as a Cardinal. 

    I also think Hard Hitten Mark Whiten’s game was the single greatest offensive game ever during the regular season.

  2. Greg Simons said...

    I’d have to put Shawn Green and Joe Adcock ahead of Whiten for greatest single offensive games. Green had 19 total bases (4 HR, a double and a single), but “only” seven RBI, but that’s not his fault.  Adcock also had a mere seven RBI with 18 TB (no single). They couldn’t help that their teammates didn’t get on base in front of them as often as Whiten.

    Great games by all three men to be sure, though.

  3. jere said...

    “They couldn’t help that their teammates didn’t get on base in front of them as often as Whiten.”

    True, they all did pretty much all they could do with what they had. But among his teammates in that game, Whiten knocked in 12 of 13 potential runs while the other guys were 3-53. So that’s an impressive percentage compared to what anyone else could have done, if you wanna talk about it in terms of percentage. Just throwin’ that out there.

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