Yesterday afternoon I was treated to one of the greatest endings to a baseball game I have ever seen. No, it wasn’t the playoffs. No, there wasn’t a dramatic walk-off homerun. No, it didn’t involve Bryce Harper. What made the Baltimore Orioles‘ 9-6 victory over the Boston Red Sox yesterday so special is that by the end of it, the 17th inning, the two pitchers of record were both position players.
What made it even more special is that the Orioles first baseman Chris Davis not only picked up the win—the first for an American League position player since 1968—but he was also downright filthy. When a position player is called upon to pitch, you generally expect to see him throwing fastballs in the low 80s, maybe mixing in a slow curve or a bad slider because that’s what he thinks he’s supposed to do.
Davis came out of the bullpen after a minimal warmup period and, with his first pitch to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, threw an 89-mph sinking fastball on the outside corner for a strike. This was the first pitch Davis had thrown in a real game since high school, and if you had missed the lackluster mechanics and only seen the ball in flight and the result, you would have never guessed the pitch didn’t come from a genuine relief pitcher.
Ok, so maybe the adrenaline got a hold of him and his first pitch happened to be the best of his life. Beginner’s luck, right?
Well on the next pitch Davis hit the same spot with his fastball, but this time he hit 90-mph on the gun. He followed that up by throwing an 84-mph sinking changeup that Saltalamacchia swung and missed—Davis had struck out his first Major League batter on three pitches.
He would have gotten out of the inning without allowing a hit were it not for Wilson Betemit‘s error at third base, but Davis got out of the inning unscathed thanks to a tremendous relay by Adam Jones and J.J. Hardy that cut down the potential winning run at the plate to end the inning.
In the next half inning Boston’s Darnell McDonald took the mound and showed us what a position player is supposed to look like out there: 82-mph fastballs, a lack of control, inability to throw offspeed pitches for strikes. McDonald flirted with disaster and eventually gave up a three-run jack to Jones which gave the Orioles a 9-6 lead. The announcers questioned whether the Orioles would summon a starting pitcher to get the final three outs, but why would they? They went to Davis to let him finish the game.
Davis had a rocky start to the inning, allowing two baserunners to reach and bringing the tying run to the plate with no outs. That’s when we all expected him to cave.
Davis struck out Adrian Gonzalez (admittedly struggling, but still one of the game’s best hitters) on a changeup and got McDonald, who was attempting to make amends for his poor outing on the mound, to ground into a game-ending 6-4-3 double play.
This was the most entertaining finish to a game I’ve seen in a long time. I was literally giggling like a schoolgirl by the end of it. You can look at the Yahoo! article for a list of “wacky” facts about the game, but the performance got me thinking about something else.
Has something like this ever happened in another sport? When have guys played out of position and made that big of an impact on the outcome of the game? Here’s a list of a few that I could think of, but if you have more please leave them in the comments field.
Magic Johnson Plays Center In The NBA Finals: We all know the story by now. It was the 1980 Finals, Magic’s rookie year, and legendary center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar hurt his ankle and was unable to suit up for Game Six. Magic, a 6-9 point guard, started the game at center and eventually played all five positions en route to a 42-point, 15-rebound, 7-assist performance that gave the Lakers the win and the NBA Championship.
William “The Fridge” Perry Scores Multiple Touchdowns: Perry, who was listed at 340 pounds, was a solid defensive lineman, but he soon found fame when he began making occasional appearances on the offensive end for the Chicago Bears in 1985. Perry first entered a game on offense to block for running back Walter Payton, but eventually coach Mike Ditka decided to let Perry carry the ball himself. He ran for two touchdowns in the regular season, plus one in a lopsided victory in that year’s Super Bowl (which ended up creating quite a bit of controversy), and even caught a touchdown pass during the regular season against the Green Bay Packers.
Sandis Ozolinsh Comes Out Of Nowhere: Ok, I’m not going to pretend I know a lot about hockey, but I do know that when the goalie leaves the net, occasionally he is bailed out by another player. I also know that no matter how many times I watch this video, I still think that the puck is going in the net every time. Ozolinsh, a defenseman, makes an absolutely ridiculous save to stop the goal.
Tim Tebow’s Miracle Pass: We all remember the moment. In last season’s NFL playoffs, Tebow hit the pinnacle of his legendary status by throwing a game-winning, 80-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas to shock the Pittsburgh Steelers. It will go down as the greatest pass by a non-quarterback in NFL history.