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Preview #102, 7/24 @ Cubs

After last night, let’s look at the history of position players pitching in games which aren’t really blow-outs..

Arizona Diamondbacks v Chicago Cubs Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

Today's Lineups

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS CHICAGO CUBS
Jon Jay - CF Anthony Rizzo - 1B
Paul Goldschmidt - 1B Albert Almora - CF
David Peralta - LF Jason Heyward - RF
Steven Souza - RF Javier Baez - 2B
Jake Lamb - 3B Ian Happ - 3B
Ketel Marte - 2B Kyle Schwarber - LF
Nick Ahmed - SS Addison Russell - SS
Alex Avila - C Kyle Hendricks - RHP
Clay Buchholz - RHP Victor Caratini - C

Interesting by the Cubs to go to their position players to pitch the ninth yesterday. Not so much for that - we’ve seen it a lot this season - but because of the relatively close margin. The Diamondbacks were only 7-1 up at that point: typically, unless all relievers have been burned and we’re in extra innings, the margin is usually considerably more. It isn’t unprecedented for the Cubs, however. The last NL position player to appear in a regulation game when behind by six or fewer runs was also a Cubbie: former Diamondback, Miguel Montero, who pitched the ninth against the Yankees on May 6 last year, when the Cubs were 11-6 down. But five appears to be a limit below which even they won’t go.

There have been few other examples of smaller margins. Most recent is the penultimate game last season, when the Tigers beat the Twins 3-2. Detroit utility guy Andrew Romine became the fifth to play all nine positions in one MLB game. He got a groundout to lead off the eighth, and became the first true position player credited with a hold. Thought I’d found another one involving the D-backs: Ruben Tejada pitched the ninth for the Cardinals in May 2016, a game St. Louis lost to Arizona 11-7. However, the score was 9-2 when Tejada came in: the Cardinals might have regretted that decision, as he allowed two, before they scored five in the bottom of the ninth. They’d otherwise have got the winning run to the plate.

The same was true for the Royals’ Mitch Maier. He pitched in a 9-13 loss to the Red Sox in July 2011, but came in with the score 7-13, because Kansas City had played a 14-inning outing the previous night. To find another regulation game before Romine where a position player came in to a game with a margin of fewer than five runs, we have to go back to the end of 2004. Dave McCarty pitched two scoreless innings - beginning with a K of Rafael Palmeiro! - for the Red Sox in their last game, while they trailed 3-2. It was his third relief outing of the season. Byung-Hyun Kim then pitched the ninth for Boston, so there’s still a D-backs connection there.

Perhaps the most memorable example was another Detroit player, catcher Shane Halter, again versus Minnesota, in the final game of 2000. Clearly the Tigers don’t give a damn, since he was also doing a Romine by playing all nine positions, and came to the mound with his side down 11-9 in the eighth. He walked the batter faced, though a double-play erased the runner. Detroit then scored a run in their half of the eighth, and walked it off in the ninth with two more - the winning run was, of course, scored by Halter who doubled with no outs. That’s how you should be required to finish off a gimmick performance... He and Romine are the only two true position players to pitch in a regulation win for their team since 1968.