Monday, May 7, 2012
Chris Davis has a day for the ages
By Jayson Stark
I'm playing hurt today. But even a fever and a flu bug couldn't stop me from weighing in on one of the craziest games of all time:
Orioles 9, Red Sox 6, in 17 insane innings, Sunday at Fenway Park.
• Whatever the heck went on over the first five hours of this game, it was the last inning and a half that made it an all-time classic. A position player (Chris Davis) got the win. Another position player (Darnell McDonald) got the loss. And I know what you're thinking: When's the last time any game came down to a duel between two different position players?
Chris Davis, right, pitched the final two innings to earn the win in the Orioles' 9-6 victory over the Red Sox in 17 innings on Sunday.
Well, it's not like you see it every day, not even in a 17-inning game. According to Stats LLC and the great Bill Chuck, of billy-ball.com fame, this was the first game in which each team used a position player to pitch IN RELIEF since Oct. 4, 1925, a Browns-Tigers game that ended with George Sisler pitching against Ty Cobb on the final day of the season.
• But neither Sisler nor Cobb got a win (or a loss) that day. So to find the last game in which the winning AND losing pitchers were both position players, the Elias Sports Bureau reports that you have to go all the way back to Sept. 28, 1902. That was also the final game of the season, so just to liven up their afternoon, the White Sox and Browns used nothing BUT position players (seven of them) to pitch that day. Your winning pitcher: Sam Mertes (White Sox). Your losing pitcher: Jesse Burkett (Browns). Neither of them ever pitched again.
• But Chris Davis had himself a day for the ages in other ways, too. Before he headed for the mound in the bottom of the 16th, he'd already struck out five times and grounded into a double play. And friends, that ain't easy. According to baseball-reference.com's indispensable Play Index, only two other players in the live ball era had ever crammed five whiffs and a GIDP into the same game: Jim Thome (July 2, 2004) and Bobby Darwin (May 12, 1972). And Davis was the first to do it in a game his team won, let alone a game that HE won.
• But to whiff five times in a game, go 0-for-8 and come out of it as the winning pitcher? Try pulling that off on your Xbox 360 sometime. According to Elias, Davis was the first player to go 0-for-8 and wind up as the winning pitcher since Rube Waddell won a 20-inning COMPLETE GAME (against the Red Sox) on July 4, 1905, and was the first to win a game in which he struck out five times since Ted Lilly did it on June 30, 2008.
• Ready for your complete list of American League position players to win a game as a pitcher in the division-play era? Here it comes: Chris Davis. And that's it.
Last AL position player to win a game as a pitcher: That would be Rocky Colavito, for the Yankees, on Aug. 25, 1968. Colavito, by the way, entered that game in the FOURTH inning.
Davis was just the third position player, total, to win a game as a pitcher in the division-play era. The others were both National Leaguers: Wilson Valdez (last May 25, for the Phillies) and Brent Mayne (Aug. 22, 2000, for the Rockies).
• OK, now this really gets fun. Chris Davis won a game this year before a guy I picked to win the National League Cy Young award -- Josh Johnson. Anybody see that coming?
• In fact, was there anybody out there who predicted that Chris Davis would win a game before four different teams' Opening Day starters? Right. Thought so. Well, he has. Those four teams would be the Marlins (Johnson), Cubs (Ryan Dempster), Padres (Edinson Volquez) and Royals (Bruce Chen).
Orioles manager Buck Showalter says the win over the Red Sox in 17 innings on Sunday was a complete team effort. The team was energized by first baseman Chris Davis' pitching performance. Listen
• Had a bunch of people tweeting at me Sunday to ask if any player had ever started a game as the DH and wound up as the winning pitcher. The answer to that would be: No sirree. Chris Davis is the first, here in Year 40 of the DH era.
• Davis is also the first Orioles position player to wind up as a winning pitcher. The last to do that for the Orioles/Browns franchise? That would be the aforementioned George Sisler, for the 1916 Browns -- although Sisler pitched in 24 games in his career, and even once won a 1-0 game against Walter Johnson. So he was no Chris Davis!
• In case you didn't notice, there were several other guys who pitched in this game. In fact, there were 16 of them besides Davis and McDonald. And that made this the first American League game played before September in which 18 different pitchers stomped to the mound. The only other AL game to feature more pitchers: That Rays-Yankees game on the final day of last season (19), although that one was actually memorable for, well, other reasons.
• The two teams combined to throw 570 pitches in this game. That was the most in any American League game since another Red Sox extra-inning classic -- a 19-inning game against the White Sox on July 9, 2006.
• J.J. Hardy got five hits in this game for the first time in his career -- and got the fifth of those hits off a position player (McDonald). On the other end of that scale, Adrian Gonzalez went 0-for-8 and ended his day by striking out against a position player (Davis).
• Finally, the Orioles grounded into six double plays in this game -- and won. That might seem like a rarity, too. But guess what: Dating back to 1990, 12 teams have hit into six double plays in one game, and incredibly, eight of them have won. Over the previous 42 seasons, teams that did that went just 1-10. So go figure. But it all fit right in to the developments on this wacky day. Wouldn't you say?