Historical Displays of Bad Control

The Mariners completed one massive comeback last night against the Blue Jays. Down 7-0 in the seventh inning with one out already, the Mariners had a win expectancy of 0.3%. They came all the way back and won it with a walk-off “single” in the bottom of the ninth. What sparked their comeback was the eighth inning when, with the bases loaded, Octavio Dotel entered the game and walked Luis Rodriguez and Milton Bradley. Dotel was yanked for Marc Rzepczynski but he walked Jack Cust next. Three straight hitters drew bases-loaded walks. That piqued my interest. How often does that happen?

As it turns out that feat is not unheard of, though certainly rare. As far back as our Retrosheet data goes, there had been 108 games featuring at least three consecutive walks or hit batters (also known as “free passes”) with the bases loaded. Boston has done it the most frequently with ten different occasions followed by the Yankees at nine times. Interestingly, the Rays in their short history have done it four times. They’ve never allowed it though unlike the White Sox whose pitchers have ingloriously registered ten games.

Eight times in history the hitting team has benefitted from four straight free passes and twice it amazingly went to five in a row. Both of those times are incredible stories from baseball’s past.

The more recent of those times also involved the Mariners, but this time they were serving it up to the Yankees. Back in April of 1994 the season was still young and fresh. No thoughts of a canceled postseason languished in the spring air. In the top of the third of a scoreless game at the Kingdome, Dave Fleming retired Pat Kelly and Randy Velarde to begin the inning. What happened next was an incredible display of inaccuracy. Eight consecutive batters reached via free pass which stands as Major League record. With nobody on and two outs, the Yankees ended up scoring five runs without putting a single ball in play.

We have to go all the way back to 1959 for the first time this happened. The Chicago White Sox were visiting the Kansas City Athletics with the home town As trailing 8-6 in the top of the seventh and Tom Gorman was called into to pitch. Keep the game close he did not. The first two batters reached via error and a single drove them both home when the right fielder made it three consecutive plays with an error. That’s notable by itself, but then the fun really starts.

First came four straight walks. A come backer resulted in a force out at home for the first retired batter of the inning, but the bases remained loaded. Next came three more walks, a hit batter and then another walk making it five free passes in a row. The streak ended with a strikeout, but then came two more walks before another grounder back to the pitcher finally put the inning to rest.

The final tally was 11 runs coming off just one hit, three errors and 11 free passes. That total amount of gifted base runners is the highest ever in any single inning of baseball history.

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

22 Responses to “Historical Displays of Bad Control”

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  1. Patrick42 says:

    Holy crap. That’s all I’ve got. What a terrifyingly horrible inning.

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  2. Anthony says:

    I could be wrong on this, but I seem to remember Jeff Nelson(NYY reliever) with nobody on base, walking 4 Mariners in the bottom of the 9th to lose the game, sometime in late 90’s or early 00’s.

    Don’t know if they were consecutive walks, if anyone else remembers that game, help me out with the specifics.

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  3. jpg says:

    I also remember a similar game in, I wanna say, 2001 with atl vs mets at shea. My memory is hazy but I remember the brave were up big, like 8-0 in the 7th or 8th inning and the braves pen simply imploded. I remember kerry lightenberg and at least two other relievers walking met after met. The part I remember as clear as day was that mike piazza capped what I believe was a 10 run inning with a grand slam that left the park on a line in a nanosecond. Like I said my details are sketchy but man that was one of the most exciting moments in the Piazza era. Any help with details would be awsome.

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  4. quincy0191 says:

    What about Game 2 of the World Series last year? Four straight walks by Rangers pitching in the eighth inning, two of which resulted in runs. The last one was to Juan Uribe. If four consecutive walks, scoring two runs, the last one to Juan Uribe, IN THE WORLD SERIES, isn’t a historical display of bad control I don’t know what is.

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    • Nathaniel Dawson says:

      I guess it might be historical for a World Series, but it doesn’t come close to eight free passes in an inning.

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  5. MikeS says:

    I need help with this one.

    I seem to remember a Royals rookie making his MLB debut against the White Sox a few years back. I believe he threw 8, maybe 12 or 16 straight balls to start his career, walikng in a batter or two.

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  6. Matty Brown says:

    As I am wont to do, I stopped watching when it was 7-0 in the late-game. I returned to the channel by chance to watch other games highlights, only to witness the 9th inning of my BlueBirds defeat….

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  7. Greg W says:

    The fact that my favorite team has created so much buzz on the internet would be less painful than if they had actually won a game this week!

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  8. suicide squeeze says:

    Here’s a recent one I remember:


    6 walks and a HBP, followed by a grand slam led to an 8 run inning with just one hit.

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  9. Buford says:

    This past week Alex Wimmers (Twins’ 2010 #1 draft pick from Ohio State) pitching in the A+ Florida Sate League walked the first six batters.

    Also four of his first eight pitches were wild pitches to the extent that they all hit the netting behind home plate on the fly.

    I hope he can hit like Rick Ankiel.

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  10. Justin says:

    4/12/2009 Jeff Suppan allowed 4 runs to score on bases loaded walks.

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  11. Joe Nathan says:

    I remember back in the good ‘ol days when I could buy a gallon of milk (which came in glass jugs by the way) for a shiny quarter

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  12. fly eli says:

    Which brings me to one of my favorite pitching lines ever (only loosely related to conversation at hand):
    Bobby Witt 4/17/86

    5IP, 0H, 2R, 8BB, 10K, 4WP- both runs earned on WP. 15 outs- 10K, 3 balls hit fair (1GIDP, 1 error, 1GO), and 2 foul outs.


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