Monday I posted a list of the top plunking duels between starting pitchers in the 2011 season, but of course that got me thinking about prior great pitching duels in which starting pitchers traded plunkings. In 2011, no pair of starters combined to throw more than 4 HBPs in a game, but since 1920 there have been 8 games where the starters hit a combined 5 batters. It doesn’t take much effort to think of why this would be the case – for much of the live ball era, HBPs were pretty rare, and if pitchers start hitting multiple batters they usually don’t stay in the game long. And, now we have things like umpires issuing warnings and ejections, and before that it was sometimes popular to have a bench clearing brawl when HBP numbers got too high. So as you’ll see, most of these instances have been in the past few years.
So, here’s the list of live ball era games in which the starting pitchers hit 5 batters. (Note: all notes about motivation or intent of any of these HBPs are imaginary.)
Sept 20, 1922 – Bill Piercy (BOS) vs Phil Bedgood (CLE) – Bedgood hit Del Pratt, Dick Reichle and Pinky Pittenger, and Piercy responded by hitting Homer Summa – and Phil Bedgood. That’s the only game on this list in which a starting pitcher was plunked while batting.
July 24, 1963 – Al Jackson (NYN) vs Jack Sanford (SFG) – Sanford started things off in the 2nd inning hitting Mets left fielder Joe Christopher, and Jackson responded by hitting Giants left fielder Willie McCovey in the 4th. That sounds about even, right? Sandford then hit Joe Christopher again in the 7th, but Jackson got the last word in the bottom of the 9th, hitting Felipe Alou and Willie McCovey again. He won the plunk battle, but lost the game, as both Alou and McCovey’s pinch runner scored runs after reaching on those plunks, and the Giants won 4-3 in the bottom of the 9th.
April 23, 1964 – Dick Donovan (CLE) vs Ken McBride (LAA) – McBride hit Max Alvis in the 4th inning, and Donovan hit Ed Kirkpatrick in the 6th. McBride jumped right on that challenge, hitting John Ramano in the 7th, John Ramano again in the 9th, and then Woodie Held in the 9th with the bases loaded, just for extra style points. Driving in the go ahead run. So McBride lost the game, but outplunked Donovan 4-1. So charging him with a “loss” in that game might be a misunderstanding of what his goals were.
June 7, 2001 – Barry Zito (OAK) vs Scott Schoeneweis (ANA) – This one’s interesting – in the first inning, Frank Menechino homers of Schoeneweis. Schoeneweis plunks the next batter, Jason Giambi. In the 2nd inning, Menechino comes to bat after his homer, with 2 outs, but Johnny Damon ends the inning getting caught stealing. Menechino leads off the 3rd, and Schoeneweis hits him. Three batters later, Schoeneweis hits Olmedo Saenz. In the 6th, Barry Zito finally gets on the board, hitting Tim Salmon. But, leading off the 8th Frank Menechino leads off the inning again, and again gets plunked by Schoeneweis. That’s 4 plunks for Schoeneweis vs 1 for Zito. Continuing the fun, Mike Holtz hit Eric Chavez, and Mark Guthrie hit Scott Speizio to bring the game HBP total to 7. Schoeneweis got the win for the game, making him one of seven live ball era pitchers to hit 4 batters in a game, and still get the win. Perhaps most remarkable about this game is that David Eckstein was involved, and on his way to setting the American League rookie HBP record, and none of the 7 plunks thrown landed on him.
May 24, 2004 – John Lackey (ANA) vs Justin Miller (TOR) – Miller hit Alfredo Amezaga and Adam Kennedy back to back in the 2nd inning. John Lackey looked on, perhaps thinking “so what if those two plunks loaded the bases and drove in a run – I bet he did that on purpose”, so Lackey plunked Carlos Delgado leading off the bottom of the 2nd. Miller then got confused about what game they were playing and gave up back to back to back home runs in the 3rd. Somehow he was still in the game in the 6th inning, and hit Jose Guillen. Lackey responded in the bottom of the 6th hitting Simon Pond. Both were relieved immediately after those plunks, although in Lackey’s case it was because he was ejected. Meanwhile, David Eckstein and Reed Johnson looked around wondering how they failed to get hit by any of those pitches. (Although Delgado is the modern era leader in left handed plunks, and Guillen holds the Domincan plunk record so there was no shortage of high HBP targets in the game).
June 11, 2004 – Kris Benson (PIT) vs Tim Hudson (OAK) – Tim Hudson was feeling left out of the group of 131 pitchers who had plunked Jason Kendall a combined 166 times going into this game, so he hit Jason Kendall with a pitch in the 2nd inning, joining the club. Kris Benson then hit the first batter he faced in the next inning, Erubiel Durazo. Later on, in the 6th inning, Hudson plunked noted sausage wacker Randall Simon, and then threw one more at Ruben Mateo. Benson finished off his day plunking Bobby Crosby.
June 5, 2006 – Dontrelle Willis (FLO) vs Ryan Madson (PHI) – David Bell took the first damage in this one, getting hit by Willis in the 2nd inning. Willis struck again in the 4th inning, hitting Shane Victorino. Madson then hit Miguel Olivo with the first pitch he threw in the bottom of the 4th. Probably a strategic move – send a message to the Marlins. On the other hand, the score was 1-1 going into the inning, and 5-1 Marlins at the end of the inning after Olivo and three of his friends scored. Madson then called a do-over in the 5th inning, plunking Olivo again, but retiring the side without giving up more runs. The official scorers failed to register the do-over though, siting that it’s not a real thing, and let the 4 runs scored in the 4th stand. However, Willis appears to have felt that there should be a do-over rule, because he plunked Chase Utley to lead off the 7th, causing the Marlins to give up 4 runs in the inning, and putting the score back to a tie, like it should have been if Madson’s do-over and re-plunking of Olivo had been properly executed. At least I think that’s what happened. Anyway, Madson hit Olivo twice and Willis hit 3 Phillies.
July 5, 2008 – Justin Masterson (BOS) vs Mike Mussina (NYY) – This was Justin Masterson’s first game at Yankee Stadium, and Mike Mussina’s final season. Mussina may have known he was going to retire at this point, and he may also have known that he’d face Manny Ramirez over 100 times and never hit him with a pitch. So, he crossed that off his list of things to do in the major leagues before he retired (it was just above “win a world series” on the list). He hit Manny in the 1st inning, then Masterson plunked Alex Rodriguez in the 3rd, possibly fulfilling his high school fantasy of someday pitching at Yankee Stadium and hitting Alex Rodriguez with a pitch. Manny Ramirez led off the next inning (4th), so Mussina hit him again – probably just to make sure the first one counted. Then Masterson struck back, hitting Robinson Cano leading off the bottom of the 4th. Finally in the 6th inning, Masterson hit Jose Molina, leaving the final score for the starters at Two Mannys for Mussina, and an Arod, a Molina and a Cano for Masterson. However, Mariano Rivera came in to close the game and realized he’d never hit Manny Ramirez with a pitch either, and thought he’d cross that off his list of career accomplishments (that was probably the last thing on his list). So he hit Manny in the 9th, giving Ramirez 3 plunks for the game. And then he hit Kevin Youkilis with a pitch, just because he seems to like doing that.
That’s the full list of live ball era games in which the starting pitchers hit 5 batters.