Being forced to send a position player to the mound in a key moment seems like just the sort of quandary that the Baltimore Orioles have found themselves in over the last decade as the team has muddled through one losing season after another.
First baseman and designated hitter Chris Davis is pitching? In a key spot? At Fenway Park? Of course he is. But, somehow, this move actually made sense -- it was, after all, the 16th inning when he began pitching -- and even more surprisingly, it worked out.
After letting the first two batters he faced to reach base, Davis managed to strike out Red Sox slugger Adrian Gonzalez and induce a double-play ball from Darnell McDonald to becoming the first AL position player to get a victory as a pitcher since Rocky Colavito in 1968.
Entering the first full week of May, it's been that kind of start for the Orioles, who own the best record in baseball at 19-9. Of course, they might not hold this distinction for long as they play in the jam-packed AL East and are set to host the Texas Rangers at Camden Yards for a four-game series. But right now, the Orioles have the best record after a wild 17-inning win in Boston (and Philadelphia's win over Washington Sunday night).
O's manager Buck Showalter only handed Davis the ball because he'd already burned through pitchers Tommy Hunter, Luis Ayala, Darren O'Day, Troy Patton, Pedro Strop, Kevin Gregg, Matt Lindstrom and Jim Johnson.
Baltimore's marathon 9-6 win capped a three-game sweep of Boston at Fenway Park, the first time the Birds have accomplished that feat since 1994.
After running out of pitchers, Showwalter turned to Davis because he had pitched in high school with a low-90’s fastball. He took the mound for the 16th and 17th innings and didn't allow a run en route to earning his first career win.
The absurd numbers don't stop there.
- This was the first major league game where both pitchers in the decision were position players since Sept. 28, 1902, when Sam Mertes got the win for the White Sox and Jesse Burkett got the loss for the St. Louis Browns.
- Davis got the win but went 0-for-8 from the plate with five strikeouts. The last time this happened was in 1905 with Rube Waddell.
- According to Elias, eight other players struck out five times in a game in which they went into the books as the winning pitcher. Ted Lilly of the Chicago Cubs was the most recent pitcher to do so in 2008 against the San Francisco Giants.
- Over the three games, the Orioles and Red Sox played a total of 39 innings (they played a 13-inning affair on Friday night).
- Both teams used eight pitchers before going to position players.
- Adrian Gonzalez went 0-for-8 and even struck out swinging to Chris Davis on three pitches.
- Gonzalez and Davis both went 0-for-8. According to Elias, the last time a player from each team went 0-8 or worse in a game was on July 20, 1998 with Yankees second baseman Chuck Knoblauch and Brian Hunter of the Tigers (both went 0-for-8). That game also went 17 innings.
- It was Boston's longest home game since 2001. The Red Sox beat the Tigers 2-1 in 18 innings.
- Will Middlebrooks hit a grand slam in the fifth inning to tie the game at five. It was his first home run of his career. The last time a Red Sox player's first career homer was a grand slam was in 2010 with Daniel Nava.