Lots of Runs, Few Home Runs

I posted a short version of this as a comment in a thread yesterday. After looking at it some more, I decided to expand it into a Fanpost.

Yesterday (23 April), the Cubs took a 21-0 win over the Pirates. The only home run of the game was hit by Alfonso Rivas, off of Zach Thompson in the 2nd inning. We've been talking lately about how there seems to be a power and xwOBA outage in baseball this year. I got curious about how common it is for a team to score 20 runs while hitting only one (or zero) home runs.

I used Stathead to look for games in which a team scored 20 or more runs, with fewer than 2 HR. It turns out that although the last such game was just last year (August 11, a Red Sox 20-8 win over the Rays), this was only the 10th such game since 1960. Prior to that Sox-Rays game, you have to go back to September 9th, 2004, for a 26-5 Royals win over the Tigers. Here is the complete list:

(I wanted to put in an image, but apparently you can't do that in a fanpost. So here it is as CSV. You can select this and import it to a spreadsheet if you want.)

1,1961-04-25,KCA,MIN,W 20-2,20,2,18,50,39,20,16,5,3,0,17,10,1,5,0,0,1,1,0,0,0,0.357,15.928,.386,6,10,4664,184
2,1970-05-31,CHW,BOS,W 22-13,22,13,9,55,51,22,24,6,1,1,18,3,1,9,0,1,0,1,0,1,1,0.580,17.491,.344,6,12,21952,206
3,1977-04-27,STL,CHC,W 21-3,21,3,18,57,48,21,19,6,0,1,18,8,3,7,1,0,0,2,0,0,0,0.407,16.118,.290,9,16,9248,154
4,1980-04-27,MIN,OAK,W 20-11,20,11,9,52,41,20,20,1,2,0,19,8,0,5,1,0,2,2,2,0,1,0.456,15.695,.281,8,14,19859,197
5,1992-08-28,MIL,TOR,W 22-2,22,2,20,65,57,22,31,4,0,1,21,7,0,6,0,0,1,0,0,1,0,0.404,17.490,.295,16,12,50408,221
6,1994-05-20,MIN,BOS,W 21-2,21,2,19,54,44,21,22,5,0,1,21,7,0,6,1,0,2,0,0,1,0,0.362,16.315,.263,9,14,20766,188
7,1995-06-29,CAL,TEX,W 20-4,20,4,16,57,49,20,21,3,2,0,18,6,0,5,1,0,1,2,0,0,0,0.485,14.730,.362,10,12,38280,212
8,2004-09-09 (1),KCR,DET,W 26-5,26,5,21,62,52,26,26,5,1,1,25,8,0,6,0,0,2,1,0,0,0,0.510,21.250,.239,9,12,,191
9,2021-08-11,BOS,TBR,W 20-8,20,8,12,53,42,20,19,7,2,1,20,9,2,6,2,0,0,0,1,0,0,0.339,15.457,.247,9,12,30286,197
10,2022-04-23,CHC,PIT,W 21-0,21,0,21,53,48,21,23,4,0,1,19,4,0,3,1,0,0,0,1,2,0,0.387,16.913,.357,8,10,39917,167

There are a few interesting things to note here. Yesterday's game is the only one on the list in which the opponent was shut out; it was the first time a team scoring 20 or more has shut out the opponent since 2010. (It is not, however, the record for most runs scored when shutting out the opponent. That modern-era record is 22, done twice, by Cleveland against the Yankees in 2004, and by Pittsburgh against the Cubs, ironically, in 1975.) Four teams appear on this list as having been both the winning and losing teams in different games, including the A's, who where the Kansas City A's when they beat Minnesota 20-2 in 1961.

The 2004 Royals-Tigers game featured a KC 11-run third inning. In that inning, Lino Urdaneta pitched for the Tigers; he faced six batters, and all six of them reached base and scored. One player who was in that game is still active: pitcher Zack Grienke, who started for the Royals and was lifted after five innings. Big irony: This was the first game of a doubleheader. The Royals were shut out in the second game, 8-0.

Note the 1995 Angels-Texans game, in which the Angels hit zero home runs, which was remarkable for 1995. The Angels racked up 11 in the first inning, and it started fairly innocently: Tony Phillips walked and Jim Edmonds beat out a roller to short for an infield hit. Rangers starter Roger Pavlik got Greg Myers to ground into a fielder's choice; he plunked Tim Salmon to load the bases, but got J.T. Snow to pop up. Almost out of the inning, right? Wrong. The sequence then went like this: passed ball, walk, single, single, infield hit, single, and then Pavlik was lifted for everyone's favorite anger-management subject, Dennis Cook. Infield hit, walk, reached on error. I'll bet you could see the smoke coming out of Cook's ears. Salmon hit a bases-triple, and just like that, the game was essentially over. Only two other games on the list have the winning team with no homers, and they were both in an era where it wasn't uncommon to see a game with no home runs.

In the 1977 Cards-Cubs game, the Cardinals led 14-2 after five innings. However, times being what they were, Cardinals starter John Denny stayed in though the 8th, and their closer Clay Carroll pitched the 9th. I don't recall any game from that decade in which a position player pitched, no matter what the circumstances. It just wasn't done. Cubs starter Mike Krukow failed to get anyone out; hit pitched to four batters and all four of them reached base and scored runs. The Cubs ended up using five relievers, but they were all real pitchers.

In the 1961 A's-Twins game, one of the relievers that the Twins used, after starter Ted Sawdoski was lifted in the third inning, one of the relievers they used was a pitcher named Fred Bruckbauer. He had been a highly regarded prospect, but had injured his shoulder in a spring training game. He faced four batters and went: double, single, walk, double. This ended up being his only major league appearance, and so he retired with an ERA of infinity. SABR says that he was the last pitcher to do so.

Before WWII, games like this were much more common; almost every year going back to 1920 features at least one. The Cubs-Pirates game just completed is the 51st such game in the modern era

This FanPost does not express the views or opinions of Battery Power.