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Double-Error, Game-Winning Plays

The Brewers and Diamondbacks played an afternoon game on Sunday at Miller Park. The scored was tied 1-to-1 heading to the bottom of the ninth. Milwaukee’s Aramis Ramirez walked to lead off the inning. He was replaced by pinch runner Carlos Gomez. Corey Hart flew out, bringing Rickie Weeks to the plate. Arizona’s Patrick Corbin never threw a¬†one pitch to Weeks. Gomez scored the winning run. It looked like this:

A double-error, game-winning play. A rarity in baseball.

How rare?

Using Baseball-Reference’s Play Index, I found only two¬†other double-error, game-winning plays since 1950. I did see a reference yesterday on another website to a double-error, game-winning play in 1993, but I could not confirm that information through the Play Index. So perhaps there were more than two, but certainly not many more. A rarity, indeed.

Note: Tuesday afternoon I learned that Baseball-Reference’s Play Index does not include game-ending base-running plays. The only game-ending plays in the Event Finder section of Play Index are those involving a batter. Thus, my conclusion is amended in that only two plays since 1950 that began with a batter taking some action ended a game on a double error. There may have been other double-error, game-ending, base-running plays like Carlos Gomez’s. I simply have not identified them.

Therefore, the last column in the chart is incomplete.

Some background information first, and then I’ll describe those two plays.

Based on the information I gathered from the Play Index, I prepared the below chart. It shows for each decade from 1950 to the present: (1) the number of games in which the winning run scored on an error; (2) the number of games in which the winning run scored on a double error; and (3) the number of games in which the winning run scored on a stolen base plus an error. I combined 2010-2012 with the decade from 2000-2009.

Games with Winning Run Scoring on Error Games With Winning Run Scoring on Double-Error Games with Winning Run Scoring on Stolen Base Plus Error
1950-1959 40 0 0
1960-1969 71 0 0
1970-1979 82 2 0
1980-1989 77 0 0
1990-1999 57 0 0
2000-2012 105 1 1 2

The first game since 1950 ending on a double-error, run scoring play occurred on August 6, 1973 in a game between the Yankees and Tigers at Tiger Stadium. The Yankees led 4-to-1 heading to the bottom of the ninth. Mel Stottlemyre was on the mound for New York. Detroit scored three on a double, single, ground out and home run, sending the game to extras. Bob Miller held the Yankees to a walk in the top of the tenth and the game remained tied at four.

Sparky Lyle took the mound for New York. Aurelio Rodriguez led off for the Tigers with a single, bringing Ed Brinkman to the plate. Brinkman laid down a sacrifice bunt. Lyle fielded the ball and threw it past first baseman Matty Alou and into right field. Error number one. Right fielder Johnny Callison fielded the ball and made an error on the throw, allowing Rodriguez to score. Error number two. Game-winning run.

The second since 1950 ending on a double-error, run-scoring play occurred on April 7, 1979 in a game between the Pirates and Expos in Pittsburgh. The Pirates led 5-to-2 heading to the top of the ninth. Starter Don Robinson will still on the bump as the inning started. But he allowed a walk and a hit and was replaced by Kent Tekulve with one out and runners on first and second. Tekulve gave up two runs on a walk, a single and a run-scoring ground out. Grant Jackson came in, with the Pirates clinging to a one-run lead. He gave up a two-0ut, two-run double and the lead. Heading to the bottom of the ninth, the Expos were ahead 6-to-5.

Elias Sosa took the mound for the Expos. After a popfly, a single, a walk and a fly ball to the outfield, the Pirates had runners on the corners with two outs, down by one. Matt Alexander, a pinch runner, was on third. Dave Parker, who’d walked, was on first. And Willie Stargell came to the plate. Stargell hit a ground ball toward the mound, but Sosa couldn’t field it cleanly, allowing Alexander to score, tying the game. Expos catcher Gary Carter then tried to field the ball, but he failed, too, allowing Parker to score all the way from first. Two errors. Two runs. Game over.

And the Carlos Gomez stolen-base, two-error, game-winning play makes three. As the chart shows, the Gomez play is the only one I could find since 1950 where the game-winning run scored on a stolen base and an error. This surprised me. I would have expected to find at least a few games where the game-winning run scored when a runner on second base stole third and advanced to home plate on a throwing error. But, at least according to the Play Index, no such play has occurred since 1950.

Update: A reader notes this play in the comments. Jayson Heyward scoring on a stolen base plus error earlier this year. Hmm.

So watch the Gomez play again. A few times perhaps. Because a double-error, game-winning play is so rare, we might not see one again for a long while.