Weird games

I’ve been amusing myself over at Baseball-Reference’s Play Index, looking for “weird” games. What do I mean by weird? Well, usually I’ll know it when I see it.

Hitting, but not scoring

For instance, I ran a search on games where a team collected 13 or more hits but failed to score. In fact, this has happened 12 times since 1957 (and the “or more” is unnecessary, since 13 is the greatest number of hits anyone has recorded without scoring in the past 50 years), the most recent coming on Aug. 31, 2005, when the Twins lost to the Royals in Kansas City.

This must have been an exasperating game to watch as a Twins fan. Every member of the starting lineup had at least one hit, and Minnesota got at least one runner into scoring position in every inning but the sixth. In the top of the ninth, they had runners at second and third with one out, but failed to score. The Royals proceeded to win in the bottom half on two singles and an error.

Just 18 days earlier, the Rockies had rapped 13 hiclassts in an 8-0 loss to the Nationals in Washington. Before that, the last 13-hit shutout occurred 12 years earlier, when the Braves beat the Pirates in Atlanta. This came near the beginning of the Braves’ great run through the ’90s. Lloyd McClendon and Lonnie Smith played in that game, and Mike Stanton was Atlanta’s closer. Yes, that Mike Stanton.

Another 1-0 affair took place on Aug. 23, 1989, in Montreal, as the Dodgers beat the Expos in 22 innings. Wait, hadn’t the Dodgers played a 22-inning game a couple months earlier? The only run in this one came when backup catcher Rick Dempsey homered to lead off the 22nd against his former battery mate, Dennis Martinez. Rookie John Wetteland picked up the victory, working six strong innings in relief of Orel Hershiser and others.

Singles only

Next I looked for games where a team had at least 15 hits but none for extra bases. This has happened 69 times since 1957. Where it gets interesting, to me, is 18 or more hits. There have been seven of these games, with the “offending” team winning three.

The Dodgers played in four such games and won two. On June 18, 1973, they beat the Braves in Los Angeles. Bill Russell led the hit parade, going 4-for-5 with 5 RBIs, while starting pitcher Andy Messersmith added three singles.

This game gets bonus weirdness points because Johnny Oates led off for the Braves. Turns out he did that 17 times in his career, all in 1973. For the record, Oates posted a .309 OBP over 11 seasons and stole bases at a 37 percent success rate (not that he tried very often).

The granddaddy, though, came on June 3, 1988. The Dodgers, again at home, beat the Cincinnati Reds on the strength of 22 singles. Steve Sax and Mickey Hatcher collected 10 hits between them in the No. 1 and No. 2 spots. That is some serious table setting.

The Dodgers scored runs against all but one of the six pitchers they faced that day. The only guy who shut them down was 40-year-old shortstop Dave Concepcion, making the first and last pitching appearance of his big-league career.

Extra bases

Over the past 50 years, teams have knocked 13 or more extra-base hits in a game 15 times. Not surprisingly, they’ve won all 15 of those.

The most extra-base hits is 15, most recently achieved by the Reds on May 19, 1999, in a game at—shock—Coors Field. The Reds banged out a total of 28 hits in this one, with every spot in the lineup collecting at least two. Pitcher Denny Neagle was the only starter without a multiple-hit game, but relievers Steve Parris and Ron Villone each singled, making the No. 2 spot occupied by Barry Larkin and Michael Tucker the only one in the lineup without at least three hits on the day.

The Expos knocked 14 extra-base hits in a July 30, 1978, contest against the Braves in Atlanta. It was sort of overkill, though, as Woodie Fryman spun a complete-game shutout and Montreal won, 19-0. Once again, every spot in the lineup had at least two hits. Andre Dawson, Larry Parrish, and Gary Carter led the charge with four apiece.

I found some interesting games with 13 extra-base hits as well. Most recently, the Dodgers accomplished the feat on Sept. 18, 2006, against the Padres.

We don’t really talk about that game, but we do talk about the craziness that happened at Wrigley Field on May 17, 1979. When the score is 7-6 after one inning, you know something has gone wrong.

The Cubs and Phillies combined to hit 10 home runs in this game, including three by Chicago’s Dave Kingman. The Phillies knocked three homers in the first inning alone, the last of which came off the bat of starting pitcher Randy Lerch. Good thing Lerch got his in early, because on the mound, he lasted all of six batters.

Rawley Eastwick pitched two perfect innings to pick up the win, while Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter took the loss. Future AL MVP Willie Hernandez put up one of the uglier lines you’ll see from a reliever: 2.2 innings, seven hits, eight runs, six earned runs, seven walks, one strikeout and one home run. The Cubs also had two guys (Kingman, Bill Buckner) drive in six or more runs and still lost.

Hitless winners

And then there are those rare instances where a team has failed to collect a single hit but managed to win the game. That’s happened four times since 1957.

On April 23, 1964, the Astros’ Ken Johnson tossed a no-no but lost, 1-0. The game’s lone run scored in the top of the ninth courtesy of two Houston errors (one by Johnson).

About three years later, Baltimore’s Steve Barber and Stu Miller combined to no-hit the Tigers. Trouble is, Barber walked 10 batters in the process and he couldn’t hold a 1-0 lead in the ninth. Here’s how Barber’s afternoon ended:

Norm Cash walked
Ray Oyler walked (ouch!)
Earl Wilson sacrificed to third
Willie Horton, batting for Dick McAuliffe, popped to catcher
Barber uncorked a wild pitch, allowing Dick Tracewski (running for Cash) to score
Mickey Stanley walked

Miller then came in and got Don Wert to ground to shortstop Luis Aparicio, who went for the force out at second. Mark Belanger, who had replaced Charlie Lau that inning, couldn’t handle the throw, allowing Jake Wood (running for Oyler) to score the go-ahead run.

But the hitless winner that stands out in my mind occurred on July 1, 1990, at Old Comiskey Park. That’s when Andy Hawkins, then with the Yankees, no-hit the White Sox but lost, 4-0, thanks to a disastrous eighth inning.

Ron Karkovice and Scott Fletcher popped out to second to start the inning. Sammy Sosa then grounded to third for what should have been the final out, but Mike Blowers booted the ball. Ozzie Guillen then walked (!), as did Lance Johnson.

With the bases now loaded, Robin Ventura flied to left, but Jim Leyritz couldn’t make the play, and all three runs scored. Ivan Calderon followed with a fly ball to right that Jesse Barfield mishandled, allowing Ventura to score. (Apparently it’s a bad idea to give the other team six outs in an inning.)

Finally, the last time someone won while being no-hit came on April 12, 1992, when the Indians beat the Red Sox, 2-1. Journeyman left-hander Matt Young took the loss in this one, although in his case, he was as much to blame as anyone, as he issued seven walks to Cleveland batters.

Conclusion, or lack thereof

What’s the point of all this? Well, c’mon, it’s fun. You know, like baseball…

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