Sky Rockets in Flight

A five home-run game has never happened for a hitter, but it has happened for pitchers plenty of times. It’s certainly less of a positive achievement there, but just as notable. Or more notable because it’s actually happened and I can note the times that it has. It happened another two times already tonight, as noted by Jeff Sullivan.

CC Sabathia surrendered five home runs to the Rays, all from different hitters, and Carlos Zambrano gave up five to the Braves, two coming from Dan Uggla and his now 32-game hitting streak. On their own, they are worth noting and then moving on. A pitching giving up five home runs is certainly unusual but it’s not incredibly rare. James Shields, Tim Wakefield and R.A. Dickey have allowed six in a game once and that’s only looking at the past decade. All in all, there have now been 34 instances of a five-homer game since 2000. For reference, over the same time period there have been a total of 39 triple plays turned. What I did notice however, is that Sabathia’s five home runs were all solo shots and that’s a much rarer event.

In the entire Retrosheet era, there are only 22 other cases of a pitcher giving up at least five solo home runs in a game. James Shields ruins a bit of the fun by having done it so recently as 7 August 2010 when five of the ultimately six home runs hit off him were solo dingers. More fascinating is that Tim Wakefield has actually done it twice. In the aforementioned six home run game in 2004, five of the home runs were solo shots in Detroit. The other was a two-run shot and Wakefield only allowed 2 non-HR hits over his five innings that game. Prior to that, in 1996 pitching at Fenway to the White Sox, Wakefield served up solo home runs to Frank Thomas (three times), Danny Tartabull and Robin Ventura. Similar to the other game, Wakefield only allowed a single hit that wasn’t a home run and completed six innings. Amazingly, the Red Sox won both those games.

Turning from the opposite of solo home runs, in case you needed another daily fun fact, the most amount of runs allowed by a pitcher via the long ball in one game is 11. Gio Gonzalez was responsible in July of 2009 by the Twins in Oakland of all places (and Oakland won despite being down 12-2 at one point) and Shawn Chacon was brutalized by the Angels in Colorado in 2001, which makes way more sense.

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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.

20 Responses to “Sky Rockets in Flight”

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  1. AustinRHL says:

    This is a really cool post. Sabathia seemed to be doing his best to normalize his HR/FB% in a single night.

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  2. Professor Lambeau says:

    Oh, for god’s sake Will. I told you to cooperate with these people.

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  3. Wachs says:

    I remember that A’s/Twins game. Cuddyer was definitely safe.

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    • TFINY says:

      I was thinking that EXACT same thing. Should have continued, and had the Twins won that game, they would have made it to the playoffs.

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  4. botatot says:

    The James Shields-Blue Jays game was fascinating. Never thought that guy would have 8 CGs a year later.

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  5. jaywrong says:

    where’s the afternoon delight?

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  6. Bronnt says:

    I kind of like the idea of Carlos Zambrano retiring like this. I mean, it makes a good story to tell future generations. He’s been generally an above average pitcher in his career, at times looking very good. He’s struggling through a fairly rough season, then has a night where he’s getting lit up. He’s angry so he takes it out on the opposing team, plunking one player and then throwing at another two different times to get himself ejected, and he heads out, cleans out his locker, and leaves the sport for good.

    It’s good to teach your kids about how NOT to respond to failure.

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  7. JDB says:

    Has anyone ever allowed 5 HR and won the game?

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    • rytwin says:

      According to Baseball Reference it’s happened 9 times since 1919. And 3 of those times the pitcher gave up 6 home runs and won. The most recent time is one mentioned in the article–Wakefield won on August 8, 2004 when he gave up 6 homers. The Red Sox beat the Tigers 11-9.

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    • rytwin says:

      Actually, 8 pitchers since 1919 have allowed 6 homers in one game, and their record is 3-4, with one no decision.

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    • JDB says:

      This must mean Wakefield is one of the best mediocre pitchers ever.

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      • Doug Lampert says:

        The thing about giving up 6 HR in one game is that to do it you have to be good enough that the manager leaves you in after you’ve given up the first five.

        This doesn’t happen for bad pitchers. Based on the article it appears to be routine for knuckleballers (Dickey and Wakefield are 2 out of 2 active MLB knuckleballers and 2 out of 3 active pitchers with a 6 HR game, number three is Shields).

        It seems that the knuckleball is erratic enough that when you give up 5 HR the manager doesn’t say “He hasn’t got any stuff tonight, take him out”, instead he says “Those are the breaks, at least he’s not walking people” and leaves him in.

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  8. Jake R. says:

    This article is simply further evidence of the awesomeness of Tim Wakefield.

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  9. gtrweqry says:

    http :// www. buygreatshoes. org

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  10. bcghdfh says:

    ok lala

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