Earlier today I wrote about Tom Gorzelanny’s interesting and less-than-accurate game last night, when at one point he had a line of 4.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 7 BB, 4 K. What I did not realize is that Blue Jays righty Dustin McGowan had a very similar game against the Rays. While discussing some of our favorite young pitchers, Fangraphs reader and Tampa Bay Rays blogger Tommy Rancel said, “…if you thought the Gorzelanny game was weird, you should have seen McGowan against the Rays. He struck the first two batters out on six pitches and ended up walking 7 in just four innings.”
Facing 22 batters in 4+ innings, McGowan gave up 4 hits and 4 runs, striking out 6 and walking 7; this topsy-turvy performance in part led to quite the streaky game graph:
He threw 88 pitches with a perfect split of 44 strikes and 44 balls. As Tommy mentioned, his first inning was strong: He struck out Akinori Iwamura and Carl Crawford on six pitches and induced a groundout from BJ Upton with another three pitches, ending the frame with eight strikes out of nine pitches. In the second inning, McGowan’s accuracy took a hit, throwing just nine strikes out of 17 pitches. Despite this, he still managed to strike out Carlos Pena, Evan Longoria, and newcomer Gabe Gross; a walk to Eric Hinske was his only blemish.
The Blue Jays scored two runs off of Andy Sonnanstine in the top of the third, but McGowan could not shut the Rays down in the bottom half of the inning. After walking Dioner Navarro and surrendering a single to Jason Bartlett, Iwamura sacrificed the runners to second and third. Crawford knocked in Navarro on a groundout, to get one of the runs back, before Upton went down swinging. Again, McGowan’s accuracy was subpar, throwing just 11 strikes out of 20 pitches. Through three innings, he had a 2-1 lead and had compiled the following line: 3 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 6 K. Of his 46 pitches 28 were strikes.
He fell apart in the fourth inning but managed to limit the damage. With one out, Evan Longoria tripled and promptly scored on an Eric Hinske single. After Hinske unsuccessfully attempted a steal of second base, McGowan proceeded to walk Gross, Navarro, and Bartlett to load the bases. Luckily, Iwamura flew out to leftfield to end the threat. The inning saw him throw 32 pitches, just 11 of which were strikes. The game was tied 2-2, but McGowan’s line now stood at: 4 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 5 BB, 6 K.
The Blue Jays jumped back on top, 3-2, in the fifth but McGowan again went walk-crazy in the bottom of the inning. After Carl Crawford singled and stole second, he walked Upton and Pena to load the bases. John Gibbons had seen enough and brought in Brian Tallet to potentially record a “Houdini.” Things did not go well for Tallet as all three inherited runners scored; the Rays went onto win 5-3.
From 2000-2007, there have been 200 games in which a pitcher walked 7+ batters; this averages out to 25 games per season. With 30 teams and 162 games per team there are 4860 games in a year (give or take). On average, a miniscule .005 percent of the games this decade, or 0.83 games per team, have seen pitchers walk this many batters. Last night there were two games going on at the same time that accomplished this statistical rarity.