Commentary

More amazing stories to watch for

Originally Published: August 23, 2007
By Tim Kurkjian | ESPN The Magazine

It was one of the most amazing weeks in baseball history.

We had a pitcher, Micah Owings, go 4-for-5 with a double, two home runs, four runs scored and six RBIs in one game, the first pitcher in 50 years to do that and the second Diamondback to have that kind of day; Shea Hillenbrand was the other in 2003. Owings became the first pitcher since Boston's Jim Tobin (who hit three homers in a game) in 1942 to record 11 bases in one game. Owings' home runs traveled a combined 861 feet.

We had another non-pitcher, Arizona third baseman Jeff Cirillo, pitch in a game. He threw a scoreless inning for the Diamondbacks, and even struck out Craig Counsell. Cirillo became the fifth non-pitcher to pitch in a game this season. Their combined ERA is 0.00.

We had the Angels' Garret Anderson, who became the 12th player ever, the sixth in the past 40 years, to reach 10 RBIs in a game, and came one RBI short of Tony Lazzeri's American League record. Anderson, who has been injured part of the year, had 10 RBIs in April, 13 in July.

We had the Diamondbacks' Mark Reynolds, who tied a major league record for non-pitchers by striking out in nine consecutive plate appearances, done five times in the past 41 years, last done by Bo Jackson in 1988. Albert Pujols has 12 strikeouts since the All-Star break.

We had the Twins' Johan Santana, who struck out 17 Rangers on only 113 pitches in eight innings. The Rangers swung and missed 32 times; Jarrod Saltalamacchia had six of those.

We had the Diamondbacks' Brandon Webb, whose scoreless innings streak ended at 42.

We had the White Sox's Bobby Jenks tying a major league record by retiring 41 consecutive hitters.

And we had the Rangers' 30-3 trouncing of the Orioles. It was the most runs scored in a major league game in 110 years, more runs than the Rangers had scored in their past eight games and more than the Orioles had allowed in their past nine. It was the largest margin of victory ever for a visiting team. The Orioles became the first team since earned runs became an official stat in 1912 to have four pitchers allowing at least six earned runs in one game. Rangers shortstop Michael Young, the No. 3 hitter, didn't drive in a run on a day when his team scored 30, but the Nos. 8-9 hitters (Saltalamacchia and Ramon Vazquez) had seven RBIs each, which -- we're guessing -- had to be a first, given that 1962 (the Yankees' Mickey Mantle and Elston Howard) was the last time teammates had seven RBIs in a game.

So, what incredible occurrence will happen next? What ridiculous game or performance will make us slap our foreheads and exclaim, "How can that be?" Likely, nothing can top the historic 30-3 fiasco in Baltimore, but here are a few possibilities to keep your eyes on.

11 home runs by one team in one game

The record is 10. It happened on Sept. 14, 1987, at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto. And I was there. The team I covered, the Orioles, gave up 10 home runs -- three to Ernie Whitt, two apiece to Rance Mulliniks and George Bell, and one each to Lloyd Moseby, Rob Ducey and Fred McGriff. One week later, Orioles general manager Hank Peters saw me walking past his office and called me in.

"I've got something to show you," he said. "I call it, 'The Barrage.'"

He had had one of the Orioles video guys piece together the at-bats for all 10 home runs. "We're going to show it to all our minor leaguer pitchers on the proper way not to pitch," Peters said.

(Side note for beat writers only: In the bottom of the eighth inning, Orioles manager Cal Ripken Sr. took his son out of the game, ending Cal Ripken Jr's streak of 8,243 innings. He was replaced by Ron Washington, who managed the Rangers on Wednesday night. This happened at 10:15 p.m. So there I was, writing about the first time in baseball history that one team hit 10 homers in a game, then that story was equaled, if not topped, in importance in Baltimore by the resting of Ripken. First deadline was 10:30 p.m. Good luck.)

With today's offensive climate, it's a matter of time before a team hits 11 homers in a game. Chances are, some team will need nine innings to do it. The Blue Jays needed only eight.

Seven strikeouts in a game by a hitter

Eight times in history has a hitter struck out six times in a game, the last being Milwaukee's Geoff Jenkins in a 17-inning game in 2004. Sam Horn struck out six times in a game in 1991. I was there. After the game, I asked Orioles pitcher Mike Flanagan to help me put six strikeouts in a game into proper perspective.

"Well," he said, "three strikeouts is a hat trick. Four is a sombrero. Five is a golden sombrero and, from now on, six will be known as 'A Horn.'" I asked what seven would be.

"That would be a 'Horn-A-Plenty,'" Flanagan said.

Strikeouts occur at historic rates these days; the Rangers, who scored 30 runs in one game Wednesday, also struck out 11 times. Through Wednesday, 93 times this year had a player struck out four times in one game (Bill Buckner never struck out even three times in a game). We have several instances of five-K games this year. Someday, a team will play 20 innings and someone will strike out seven times in one game. Adam Dunn? Jack Cust?

21 strikeouts by a pitcher in a nine-inning game

Roger Clemens struck out 20 twice, and Kerry Wood and Randy Johnson did it once (first nine innings of an 11-inning game). Santana had 17 in eight innings Sunday. Who's to say Jake Peavy can't punch out 21?

Five home runs in one game by a player

On 14 occasions, a player hit four homers in a game, the last being Carlos Delgado in 2003. The Mariners' Mike Cameron hit four home runs in a game in 2002, and his final at-bat of that game ended with a deep fly ball to right field. As small as the ballparks are today, as hard as the ball is, as big as the hitters are, it's inevitable that one of these really big guys today will play 15 innings in a game and hit five homers.

A pitcher hitting for the cycle

Since 1900, a pitcher has never hit for the cycle, but neither did Willie Mays, Hank Aaron or Babe Ruth. What's to prevent a pitcher from doing so? Owings had a single, a double and two homers against the Braves, but lined out to first base in his last at-bat. If it had gone another five feet toward the line, and the right fielder had fallen down trying to field it, it's possible we could have had a pitcher hitting for the cycle.

The Mets throw a no-hitter

Joe Cowley, Juan Nieves, Mike Warren, Bud Smith, Bobo Holloman (his first major league start; he won three games in his career) all threw no-hitters, and Hideo Nomo has two, but the Mets have never had a no-hitter. This is amazing given that they've been around since 1962; they've had Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden, David Cone and a bunch of other great pitchers on their roster, but still no no-no.

When it happens, it will be someone you'd never think of.

Maybe none of these events will happen. They probably won't. But who, before Wednesday night in Baltimore, actually thought a team could score 30 runs in one game?

Tim Kurkjian is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. His new book "Is This a Great Game, Or What?" has been published by St. Martin's Press and is available in bookstores. Click here to order a copy.

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