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The world of wacky relief debuts

In the wake of Matt Peacock’s interesting arrival in the majors, let’s look at some similar first games by relievers

Arizona Diamondbacks v Colorado Rockies Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

As was mentioned on the broadcast last night, Matt Peacock became the first pitcher since Marino Pieretti of the 1945 Washington Senators to get the win and a hit, while making his debut in an extra-inning game. Pieretti was the starter in that contest, and tossed all 12 innings of the 4-3 victory. But I thought it might be interesting to look at how Peacock’s debut stacks up among relief pitchers.

He’s not the only one to get a hit in his first game. That’s actually a bit more common than you might think, Peacock becoming the 193rd such pitcher. Actually, the last such reliever to execute the feat was also a Diamondback. Taylor Clarke did it on April 20 last year against the Cubs, combining with Zack Greinke on a four-hitter, and for his three innings of work (like Peacock), was awarded a save. Though for a reliever to get a hit AND a run in his debut is rarer. There have only been two such cases since the D-backs came into existence in 1998, most recently Brandon Dickson of the Cardinals in 2011.

Peacock became the fourth relief pitcher for the Diamondbacks to get a W in his debut. The previous three were Evan Marshall (2014), Josh Collmenter (2011) and Clay Zavada (2009). Collmenter’s debut was also in an extra-inning contest, pitching two innings in a 6-5 win over the Giants, though he didn’t have the whole “runner on second” thing. There have been two longer debuts in relief as a D-back: one memorable, the other utterly forgettable. The former was Max Scherzer’s first game, where he retired all 13 batters faced. But the franchise record goes to Vicente Campos (who?); he tossed 5.2 innings in a blowout loss to the Reds in 2016. Weirder still, it was Campos’s only appearance in the majors.

Five relievers have even hit a home-run in the major-league debut, though it has been more than 45 years since the last such occurrence (which we’ll get to in a bit). Probably the best debut hitting performance ever out of the bullpen came from Hal Hayden of the 1970 Twins. In the night-cap of a double header on September 7, he pitched five innings and got the win. But he also had a go-ahead home-run in the fourth, after having doubled in the second. [As an aside, there have been four multi-homer games by relievers, though of course, not on their debuts. The last was in 1957, and the best by the appropriately named Babe Birrer in 1955. He went 2-for-2 with a pair of home-runs, driving in six, and pitched four scoreless]

However, the most bizarre relief debut in history likely belongs to John Montefusco of the 1974 Giants. On September 3 in Los Angeles, the game was started by Ron Bryant, but he retired none of the six batters faced. After a hit, three walks, an error and a failed fielder’s choice, he was replaced by Montefusco. The reliever recorded all 27 remaining outs, as the Red Sox came back to win 9-5. He held the Dodgers to one run in his debut on six hits, walking five and striking out seven. And best of all, in his first major-league at-bat (he had walked in the second inning), he hit a home-run off Charlie Hough. Montefusco would win Rookie of the Year in 1975, so there’s something Peacock can aim for... :)