The Mariners completed one massive comeback last night against the Blue Jays. Down 7-0 in the seventh inning with one out already, the Mariners had a win expectancy of 0.3%. They came all the way back and won it with a walk-off “single” in the bottom of the ninth. What sparked their comeback was the eighth inning when, with the bases loaded, Octavio Dotel entered the game and walked Luis Rodriguez and Milton Bradley. Dotel was yanked for Marc Rzepczynski but he walked Jack Cust next. Three straight hitters drew bases-loaded walks. That piqued my interest. How often does that happen?
As it turns out that feat is not unheard of, though certainly rare. As far back as our Retrosheet data goes, there had been 108 games featuring at least three consecutive walks or hit batters (also known as “free passes”) with the bases loaded. Boston has done it the most frequently with ten different occasions followed by the Yankees at nine times. Interestingly, the Rays in their short history have done it four times. They’ve never allowed it though unlike the White Sox whose pitchers have ingloriously registered ten games.
Eight times in history the hitting team has benefitted from four straight free passes and twice it amazingly went to five in a row. Both of those times are incredible stories from baseball’s past.
The more recent of those times also involved the Mariners, but this time they were serving it up to the Yankees. Back in April of 1994 the season was still young and fresh. No thoughts of a canceled postseason languished in the spring air. In the top of the third of a scoreless game at the Kingdome, Dave Fleming retired Pat Kelly and Randy Velarde to begin the inning. What happened next was an incredible display of inaccuracy. Eight consecutive batters reached via free pass which stands as Major League record. With nobody on and two outs, the Yankees ended up scoring five runs without putting a single ball in play.
We have to go all the way back to 1959 for the first time this happened. The Chicago White Sox were visiting the Kansas City Athletics with the home town As trailing 8-6 in the top of the seventh and Tom Gorman was called into to pitch. Keep the game close he did not. The first two batters reached via error and a single drove them both home when the right fielder made it three consecutive plays with an error. That’s notable by itself, but then the fun really starts.
First came four straight walks. A come backer resulted in a force out at home for the first retired batter of the inning, but the bases remained loaded. Next came three more walks, a hit batter and then another walk making it five free passes in a row. The streak ended with a strikeout, but then came two more walks before another grounder back to the pitcher finally put the inning to rest.
The final tally was 11 runs coming off just one hit, three errors and 11 free passes. That total amount of gifted base runners is the highest ever in any single inning of baseball history.
Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.