Walk-off walks have a special place in baseball. Walk-offs are almost universally loved; just the right measure of excitement, and even if someone walks-off against your team, at least you enjoyed a close game that came right down to the wire. Plus walk-offs can only happen at home, which adds to the magic of the moment. However, to win by a walk-off walk is none of these things. It is an anticlimax, a moment where you have won not so much because of skill as because of ineptitude. Bases-loaded walks are justly hated, but sometimes (Buck Showalter ordering Gregg Olson to walk Barry Bonds) they are notable and memorable. Bases-loaded walks that end games are not particularly notable either for the winning team or the losing team. But they happen. Sometimes, the most notable of games can end in this most mundane of fashions.
The Diamondbacks have been both on the winning end and the losing end of this event. Nine times a Diamondback has walked in the winning run, most recently in 2013, when Eury De La Rosa walked Chase Utley in Philadelphia. Three walk-off walks were surrendered in Philadelphia, while no other team has benefited from this lack of control more than once. Perhaps pitching in Philadelphia is problematic for Diamondbacks pitchers!
Vicente Padilla walked Mark McGwire in the 10th inning in July of 1999 for the first occurrence. Dan Plesac walked Todd Zeile later that month, making it one of two months (the other being May of 2004) where the Diamondbacks surrendered multiple walk-off walks in the same month.
Now for the better side of the equation. The Diamondbacks have won seven games in this fashion. The most recent time was Lyle Overbay, walked by Joe Thatcher, in September of 2011. That game was memorable for other reasons. The Diamondbacks trailed 6-4 entering the ninth inning, but Chris Young and Overbay launched back-to-back home runs (off Heath Bell!) to tie it. In the bottom of the tenth, Justin Upton walked, Miguel Montero singled, and Geoff Blum was intentionally walked. That brought up Young, who struck out. Thatcher was called upon to face Overbay and couldn't find the strike zone, walking him on four pitches.
Mark Reynolds has never been noted for his patience at the plate, but he turned in a gem of an at bat in September of 2009, against the Dodgers. Both teams hit back-to-back home runs earlier in the game, with Montero and Young doing so in the second and Manny Ramirez and James Loney doing so in the fourth. But after the Diamondbacks tied it in the fifth, there was no scoring until the ninth. Ramon Troncoso was the pitcher, and while the run was unearned, it was his fault, as it was his error that allowed Gerardo Parra to reach second base to lead off the inning. Ryan Roberts laid down a sacrifice bunt, Stephen Drew and Upton were intentionally walked, and then Reynolds came to the plate, with the Dodgers hoping for a double play. He worked the count full, and on the eighth pitch, drew a walk to end the game.
On September 28, 2008, the Diamondbacks and Rockies were engaged in a pitching duel between Randy Johnson and Ubaldo Jimenez in the final game of the season. Johnson allowed Clint Barmes, who had reached on an error, to score on a wild pitch in the first inning, and then shut down the Rockies the rest of the way, allowing only a pair of singles to Troy Tulowitzki. But Jimenez more than matched him, not allowing any runs on four hits through seven innings, striking out ten. But he was pulled for a pinch hitter in the eighth, and Chris Young hit a tying home run off Manny Corpas. After Johnson worked a perfect ninth, Luis Vizcaino entered the game, and after striking out Reynolds, went walk-single-walk to load the bases. Stephen Drew popped out, bringing Young to the plate, and he walked on seven pitches. Interesting that there are multiple games in which a player homered and then drew a walk to end the game later on.
In May of 2005, the Diamondbacks were struggling through another poor Javier Vazquez start. However, Vazquez would redeem himself in the most unlikely of ways. Over 14 years and 692 plate appearances, he had one home run. He picked the bottom of the seventh, and hitting for himself for some reason (even though he would be pulled before the next inning) to hit that home run, off Duaner Sanchez. It tied the game at 4, and it stayed that way into the ninth. Tony Clark led off with a double, and Matt Kata was inserted as a pinch runner. After Shawn Green was walked intentionally, Luis Terrero tried to bunt and everyone was safe as the second baseman dropped the ball. That brought Kelly Stinnett to the plate, and he walked on 5 pitches to end the game. Interestingly, Stinnett was probably going to hit for Vazquez, had the bases not been empty, as Chad Tracy had hit for Chris Snyder and delivered an RBI groundout immediately before Vazquez hit.
May 19, 2003 was the inspiration for this article. Curt Schilling got the start for the Diamondbacks, and gave up three runs in seven innings, but was outdueled by Jesse Foppert. And then, with two innings to go and a 3-2 lead, the Giants bullpen lost their control. In the eighth, Felix Rodriguez walked both batters he faced, and was pulled for Tim Worrell. Worrell would intentionally walk Mark Grace in the eighth, and the Diamondbacks would tie it on a Tony Womack groundout. He then walked Luis Gonzalez to start the ninth, had David Dellucci reach on an error, and after recording the next two outs, walked Steve Finley to pitch to Barajas. But in an 8 pitch at bat, Barajas drew the walk (the eighth recorded by the Diamondbacks in the game, six, including two intentional, in the last two innings) and the Diamondbacks walked off winners.
The game against the Reds on May 8, 2001, is famous for something else. In fact, we all know something about this game, but forget how it ended. Randy Johnson struck out 20 Reds in nine innings, but the Diamondbacks only managed one run, and it went to extras. In the top of the eleventh, the Reds scored two on a sacrifice fly. I'm not sure how this happened. No one was charged with an error on the play. In the bottom half, Grace drove in two with a double, and Danny Graves intentionally walked Dellucci to pitch to Greg Colbrunn, who struck out. He then walked Craig Counsell on four pitches. Bob Brenly brought in Matt Williams as a pinch hitter, and he walked on seven pitches. Game over.
Randy Johnson pitched well on June 19, 2000, against the Padres. But the Diamondbacks couldn't manage any offense against Stan Spencer or Carlos Reyes, and trailed 2-0 after seven. Brandon Kolb entered the game for the Padres in the eighth and struggled with control throughout. He walked Greg Colbrunn before surrendering a bases-loaded groundout to Travis Lee that tied the game. Then, in the bottom of the ninth, he fell behind to every hitter. Still, after a leadoff single to Danny Bautista he retired the next two, but an intentional walk to Luis Gonzalez made the wheels come off. (One of the intentional balls was also a wild pitch.) He walked Matt Williams on six pitches, and followed up by walking Steve Finley on five to end the game. Vicente Padilla, who had been the first Diamondback to surrender a walk-off walk just the season before, got the win for his two strong innings in relief.
The thing that was most interesting to me about these games was how many of them had memorable moments, yet were decided in this fashion. It's also interesting that Randy Johnson was the starting pitcher for three of them, and that generally, lack of offense was the reason why the teams were tied. Anyway, after seven such games in the first fourteen seasons of the franchise, we haven't had one sense. I guess we're due.