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Celebrating the Game's Biggest Innings
ALSO: Starters Deserve Wins When They Pitch Longer and Better Than Relievers
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The Dodgers are honoring the memory of broadcasting legend Vin Scully with a commemorative jersey patch. The black patch features a microphone with the word “Vin” above it. Scully, Voice of the Dodgers for 67 seasons, died Tuesday at 94. Previous Dodgers honored with commemorative patches were Jim Gilliam (1978), Tim Crews (1993), Don Drysdale (1993), Roy Campanella (1993), Pee Wee Reese (1999), Duke Snider (2011), Don Newcombe (2019), Tommy Lasorda (2021) and Don Sutton (2021). The Dodgers will salute Scully tonight at Dodger Stadium before they play the San Diego Padres . . .
The Jackie Bradley, Jr. paradox continues. A star on defense but a bust on offense, the veteran center-fielder has been designated for assignment by the Boston Red Sox . . .
Also designated for assignment in recent days was 29-year-old starting pitcher Danielson Lamet, obtained by the Milwaukee Brewers from the San Diego Padres in the Josh Hader trade . . .
With the Cubs starting retread Sean Newcomb Thursday, they could be a perfect landing spot for Lamet, who has had past success in the National League . . .
With Austin Riley contending for the National League home run crown, history reveals that the last Braves third baseman to lead the NL in that category was not Chipper Jones, Vinny Castilla, Terry Pendleton, Bob Horner, or Darrell Evans but Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews (in 1959).
The Biggest Innings of Them All
By Andrew C. Sharp
Really big innings – beyond just double digits – happen less often than unassisted triple plays or perfect games. Just three teams have scored 15 or more runs in a single time up. If you drop it down to 14 runs, there still have been only 10 such innings since 1901.
The last one happened 13 seasons ago, on April 18, 2009. Cleveland pulverized the Yankees in New York, 22-4, by scoring 14 runs in the second inning. Only one other time in this century has a team scored as many as 14 runs in an inning. On June 27, 2003, the Red Sox did it in the first inning on their way to beating the Marlins, 25-3.
Half a century earlier, the Red Sox set the record for runs in an inning – 17 -- against the Tigers in the seventh inning on June 18, 1953. Boston won 23-3 at Fenway Park, a day after trouncing Detroit, 17-1. Yet the next day, those last-place Tigers (14-43) went to New York and beat the mighty first-place Yankees, 3-2.
The National League team record for runs in an inning is 15. The Dodgers set that standard against the Reds on May 21, 1952. Brooklyn had its outburst in the bottom of the first inning, but scored in just two other innings on the way to winning, 19-1.
The only 16-run inning happened in the American League. On April 19, 1996, in Texas, the Rangers broke open a 10-7 game in the eighth inning against the Orioles, winning 26-7. This was the lone time in any of the 10 games with blowout innings that a position player ended up pitching. Infielder Manny Alexander took the mound with one out in the eighth, walked four batters and gave up a grand-slam homer to Kevin Elster for the final four runs. So maybe that one needs an asterisk.
The only blowout inning that began with the score tied came in Boston on a July 4 Sunday in 1948. Philadelphia had just tied the score, 5-5, in the top of the seventh. Athletics rookie Bubba Harris got the last out in the sixth and stayed in. Harris at that point had an ERA of 1.09. After giving up 12 of the 14 Red Sox runs and retiring one batter in the seventh, his ERA was 3.64. Ted Williams, leading the league in batting average, was the only Boston player without a hit. The Sox won, 19-5.
Despite Cincinnati scoring 14 runs in the first inning on August 3, 1989, Houston manager Art Howe let Bob Forsch, who came on in relief, to pitch seven innings. Forsch surrendered seven of the first inning runs and gave up 10 overall on 18 hits. Ouch. Still, Howe used another one of his pitchers in the ninth. The Reds won, 18-2.
Perhaps as surprisingly, in just three of these 10 blowout innings were the teams at bat aided by errors. A missed catch at first base made the last two of the Cubs’ 14 runs unearned against Philadelphia on August 25, 1922. A booted grounder led to the last three of the 14 runs scored by Cleveland over Philadelphia being unearned on June 18, 1950.
Washington, however, made five errors when the Yankees scored 14 runs in the fifth inning on July 6, 1920. All 14 runs were unearned. It was Babe Ruth’s first season in New York. The Yankees beat the Senators, 17-0, in Washington. Carl Mays threw a three-hit shutout, the only time a team scored 14 or more runs in an inning and blanked the opposition. The onslaught was a 20th-century record for an inning then and remains the most unearned runs scored in any inning. Small consolation for the losers: The fifth error didn’t allow any additional runs.
As you would expect, several individual and team records have been set or matched during these blowout innings. Rookie Gene Stephens was the first player to get three hits in an inning in the 1953 Red Sox’s 17-run frame.
Johnny Damon matched that mark in the 2003 Red Sox game. In that same inning, Boston scored a record 10 runs before a batter made an out. If rookie Miguel Cabrera hadn’t thrown out Bill Mueller at the plate (what were Mueller or his third base coach thinking?!) for the third out, the Sox would have scored 15 runs.
In Brooklyn’s N.L.-record inning in 1952, 19 batters in a row reached base. After a walk, homer and double, 16 additional Dodgers reached on eight singles, five walks and two hit-batsmen (one runner was thrown out trying to steal). The Dodgers established the record for most runs in the first inning and most runs scored after two outs (12).
In New York’s 2009 loss, just the third game at the new Yankee Stadium, Cleveland set the record for runs in an inning in that ballpark. But the 40 runs by the Red Sox in back-to-back games in June 1953 did not come close to a Fenway Park record: the Red Sox had beaten the Browns, 20-4 and 29-4, on consecutive days in June 1950.
One team that scored 14 runs in an inning had another double-digit frame in the same game, and still had to hang on to win. The Cubs had scored 10 runs in the second inning in the August 25, 1922, game before putting up 14 in the fourth.
This game, at Wrigley Field, was a wild one. Two Phillies’ players – Russ Wrightstone and Frank Parkinson -- each had eight plate appearances, the first to do so in a nine-inning game the 20th Century. The Phils actually out-hit the Cubs, 26-25. Philadelphia scored eight in the eighth and six in the ninth. Chicago won, 26-23, the highest scoring game of all-time in the A.L. or N.L.
Andrew C. Sharp is a retired journalist and a SABR member who blogs about D.C. baseball at washingtonbaseballhistory.com
Starters Deserve To Get Wins If They Pitch Well
By Dan Schlossberg
Max Fried worked seven scoreless innings Sunday and came away with a no-decision. Kenley Jansen pitched the ninth and picked up the win.
Then teammate Charlie Morton went 6 2/3 scoreless innings Wednesday against Philadelphia but came away empty-handed as the bullpen turned a 1-0 lead into a 3-1 loss.
Say it ain’t so, Joe.
Fried, frequently a victim of poor support from his hitters or his relievers, could have been a 20-game winner by now. The modest lefty would never admit it but he knows it, Brian Snitker knows it, and every Braves fan at Truist Park knows it.
Perhaps the most underrated pitcher in the majors, Fried could have started the All-Star Game for the National League.
In fact, it would have generated a good story-line: a player who had to be evacuated from Santa Monica Hospital because his birth coincided with the 1994 Northridge Earthquake would be making an All-Star start in Dodger Stadium 28 years later.
Hall of Famer Don Sutton once said he never worried about pitch counts, five-man rotations, or relief pitchers. He said he was trained to finish what he started.
Not so today, however, when starters feel they’ve accomplished their mission with six solid innings — or seven at the most.
But leaving a scoreless game or turning over a thin lead to a thin bullpen can make starters crazy.
Remember when ElRoy Face went 18-1 for the 1959 Pittsburgh Pirates without making a start? He had a 2.70 ERA in 57 games — not bad by current standards — but was not even in the conversation about the Cy Young Award.
Seven years later, Phil Regan was even better for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He led the National League in games finished (48) and saves (21) while posting a 14-1 record and career-best 1.62 earned run mark. Teammates called him “the Vulture” because he’d swoop in, pick up the remains of a brilliant effort by Don Drysdale or Don Sutton, and wind up with a win after pitching just an inning or two.
Official scorers have the leeway to award wins to deserving pitchers but rarely use that power. They should.
With all the rules changes of recent years — from seven-inning games in doubleheaders to automatic extra-inning runners in scoring position — there’s no earthly reason why starters shouldn’t get credit when credit is due.
That’s especially true in an era known for the disappearance of the complete game. Warren Spahn won 363 games — all after World War II — and completed 382. He would have won 100 more if not for wartime military service but he would have won a lot less if he pitched today.
Spahn once threw more than 200 pitches in a game, losing a 16-inning, 1-0 duel against Juan Marichal on July 2, 1963. That could never happen today.
Baseball is a game for all ages but it changes with the times. And pitching rules should change too.
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ covers the game for forbes.com, Latino Sports, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, and Sports Collectors Digest. Reach him at email@example.com.
“Have your family be out of town. Seriously, I learned that in 2015, when my family went to Europe and I had my best Trade Deadline [with the Blue Jays].”
— Atlanta Braves president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos, revealing his secret to success after pulling off four trades on Deadline Day 2022
New Hall of Famer Gil Hodges was the first Dodger with 40 home runs in a season . . .
The winning pitcher in the “Bobby Thomson” game was Larry Jansen, who tied teammate Sal Maglie for the NL victories lead with 23 . . .
Ralph Branca, Brooklyn’s losing pitcher, also yielded a two-run homer to Thomson in the opener of the best-of-three pennant playoffs . . .
The 1951 Dodgers blew a pennant on the final day for the third time in six years . . .
No wonder his nickname was Minnie: his full name was Saturnino Orestes Armas Arrieta Minoso . . .
David Ortiz, another new Hall of Famer, won the Edgar Martinez DH Award eight times — three times more than Martinez himself.
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HERE’S THE PITCH is published daily except Sundays and holidays. Brian Harl [firstname.lastname@example.org] handles Monday and Tuesday editions, Elizabeth Muratore [email@example.com] does Wednesday and Thursday, and Dan Schlossberg [firstname.lastname@example.org] edits the weekend editions on Friday and Saturday. Readers are encouraged to contribute comments, articles, and letters to the editor. HTP reserves the right to edit for brevity, clarity, and good taste.