Earning the Ice Pack: 200 Pitches in a Nine-Inning Win

Perhaps the darkest week of an already long season took place shortly before the All-Star break. After a 6-3 homestand and a series split with the second-place St. Louis Cardinals, the Brewers returned home to host the San Francisco Giants. The Giants promptly deflated the Brewers, sweeping the four-game series by a combined score of 36-7.

From a purely trivial standpoint, the most interesting game of the series was the Thursday finale. Both teams combined to use eleven pitchers and thirty-four total players in a 3 hour, 34 minute nine-inning marathon. The Giants prevailed, 9-3, with reliever Dan Runzler picking up the victory despite injuring his left knee in his first career plate appearance.

Runzler picked up the win because Giants starter Barry Zito struggled with his control all day, walking six batters and throwing 113 pitches in 4 2/3 innings. Zito set the tone for the day as the Giants bullpen threw 89 more pitches over the final 4 1/3 innings. All told, Giants hurlers tossed 202 pitches in nine innings, making them the fifth team in 2010 to win while throwing 200 pitches in only nine innings.

Follow the jump for more trivia!

Now is a good time to note Baseball-Reference.com does not have complete pitch data. While the site's pitch data is very nearly complete back to 2000, the completeness varies from 89.6-99.9% complete in the years between 1988 and 1999. The exact percentages can be found here (scroll down).

Since 1988, over 22 1/2 seasons of major league baseball, a team has thrown 200 pitches in nine innings and won only 97 times. That works out to an average of just over four per year. As you might expect, there has been an increase in the yearly total recently, with seven such games in 2007, 2008, and 2009. Those years don't quite match the heady days of 1993 (8), 1999 (9) and 2000 (10). Regardless, the Giants' feat on July 8, 2010 is still a relatively rare accomplishment.

In fact, the Brewers have been involved in four such games since 1988. Milwaukee's club has won twice and lost twice.

The Brewers started off on a positive note, winning a wild game against Oakland on May 5, 1997 by a score of 11-7. Just under eight thousand souls braved the blustery night to see Scott Karl toss 121 pitches in five innings while scattering five hits and allowing three runs. Mike Fetters struggled through a 25-pitch scoreless sixth while Bob Wickman allowed seven hits and four runs in two innings on just forty-eight pitches. Doug Jones was the most efficient hurler of the night by far, facing four batters and retiring three on just nine pitches. All told, the Crew threw 203 pitches (123 strikes).

The Brewers won another such game on Opening Day in 1999, a day destined to make Rafael Roque's name famous among a small subset of baseball fans. Roque, in only the tenth game of his career, walked five Cardinals in just two innings (56 pitches) before being pulled in favor of David Weathers. Weathers ultimately earned the win with his 3 2/3 innings of one-run relief (69 pitches). Eric Plunk tossed a scoreless 1 1/3 innings (29 pitches) before Chad Fox was hammered for three runs on four hits while retiring just two hitters. After Fox couldn't retire the Cards on 21 pitches, Mike Myers took just five to record the final out of the inning. Perhaps eager to start a trend, Bob Wickman struggled through the ninth, allowing three runs on 20 pitches but holding the Cardinals off for the 10-8 win.  The Brewers threw an even 200 pitches, 112 strikes.  St. Louis nearly returned the favor, but used only 188 pitches in the losing effort.

All good things must come to an end and the Brewers could not keep up their winning ways. On May 20, 1999, the Brewers lost both halves of a doubleheader at Shea Stadium. The second game was a cut-and-dry 10-1 pasting by the Mets, possibly because Brewers hitters were exhausted from watching pitches in game one. Despite walking just one Milwaukee hitter, Al Leiter threw a whopping 122 pitches in just five innings. The forgettable Allen Watson did all he could to blow the game with his 59 pitches over three innings but John Franco closed it out (despite an unearned run) with a twenty-three pitch inning to seal the 11-10 Mets triumph.

As mentioned, the Brewers' loss to the Giants this year dropped the Crew to 2-2 in marathon wins. So where do the Brewers' four games place among all teams? It turns out they, like many National League teams, are near the bottom of the list:

Tm W L Total
NYY 8 7 15
TEX 7 7 14
DET 4 8 12
OAK 5 7 12
BOS 5 6 11
CHW 6 5 11
SFG 6 4 10
BAL 4 5 9
CLE 4 5 9
SEA 3 5 8
STL 5 3 8
LAA 4 3 7
NYM 3 4 7
FLA 5 1 6
KCR 3 3 6
COL 3 2 5
MIN 2 3 5
TBR 5 0 5
TOR 4 1 5
MIL 2 2 4
PHI 2 2 4
CIN 2 1 3
HOU 1 2 3
PIT 0 3 3
SDP 0 3 3
ARI 0 2 2
ATL 2 0 2
LAD 0 2 2
WSN 1 1 2
CHC 1 0 1

 

The next time you are sitting in the stands at a game that is dragging along with walk after walk, take a minute to tally up the total pitches for each team. You may be witnessing history. Along those lines, I leave you with the four teams that won in nine innings while tossing over 220 pitches:

1. Texas Rangers, 9/9/2007, 230 pitches
2. Colorado Rockies, 4/16/2000, 228 pitches
3. Toronto Blue Jays, 4/1/2002, 227 pitches
4. Chicago White Sox, 5/28/1995, 222 pitches

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