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Walk-Off Sac Bunt From First

Posted by Raphy on June 11, 2010

In last nights' Cubs-Brewers game, Craig Counsell came up to the plate in the bottom of the tenth with Carlos Gomez on first. Counsell sacrificed and Gomez, seeing that nobody was covering third, kept running.  An errant throw by Xavier Nady allowed Gomez to score and the Brewers walked off with the win (video). Of course, this leads to the question if   there is a precedent for a team with a runner only on first  executing a sacrifice bunt and walked off with the win on the same play.

To find this, we can use the team batting event finder to search for sacrifice hits with a runner on first which  put a team in the lead and ended the game. Most of the plays returned will be sacrifice bunt attempts that were mishandled by the defense and the sacrifice was never actually executed  (The batter is still credited with a SH). A  much smaller number will be similar to the play from last night. How much smaller? From 1952-2010 , it happened only one other time.

Yr# Gm# Date Batter Tm Opp Pitcher Score StSc InnSc BOP Pos Inn RoB Out Pit(cnt) RBI Play Description
1 1 1975-07-17 Jay Johnstone PHI HOU Ken Forsch tied 5-5 0 1 3 9 Out b11 1-- 0 0 *ENDED GAME*:Bunt Groundout: 3B-2B/Sacrifice; Bowa Scores/Adv on E4 (throw to 3B)/No RBI/unER
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 6/11/2010.

On July 17, 1975 the Phillies beat the Astros 6-5 when Astros attempted to nab Larry Bowa at third base and instead threw the ball away. Bowa had started the play on first, but attempted to go all the way to third as the Astro's successfully retired Jay Johnstone for the sacrifice. Sounds familiar, doesn't it ?

Sometimes it  take 35 years, but in baseball even the most unique looking plays may not be so  unique after-all.

17 Responses to “Walk-Off Sac Bunt From First”

  1. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Stealing and bunting on the same play? I wonder if the Brewers anticipated that Gomez, who is tremendously fast, might be able to take 3rd on that play. Which is kind of genius -- I've never seen or thought of it before.

  2. Nick O Says:

    Man, I swear this happened to the A's around 2006 or 2007. I think Marco Scutaro was either at the plate or on first, and the ball was thrown up the first baseline and the runner came around to score. After messing around with the play finder, I wasn't really able to come up with anything, so I'm sure I'm misremembering something. Maybe it was a swinging bunt?

    Any A's fans have any recollection of something like this happening?

  3. JeffW Says:

    Aren't there stories of Deadball-Era players -- like Cobb -- routinely trying to take two bases on a sacrifice bunt or infield out?

    Surely some of them were able to force errors on the relay to third, especially Cobb, coming in, spikes high.

    I'm pretty sure he went from second to home at least a few times.

    And they say deadball was boring!

  4. Kahuna Tuna Says:

    Jay Johnstone, whose bunt wound up winning that 1975 game for the Phillies, batted the whole game in the #3 spot in the lineup. I wonder how many regular third-place hitters would be asked to bunt in an extra-inning game in 2010.

  5. Thomas Says:

    I don't remember what you're talking about Nick O, but having the throw go up the line wouldn't be what Raphy was talking about. (it took me a second read to figure it out, as well) In that case, the sac bunt goes down as a sac bunt but the runner makes first on the error. If I'm reading correctly the play last night, and from '75, the bunter was out at first, then the player sacrificed moved up an extra bag on an error to get him out. If that makes sense...

    Or maybe I got something different from what you meant to write.

    Either way, this situation is absolutely crazy...

  6. Mark Says:

    I remember a Yankee game last year (think it was against the Mets) where a man was on first and A-Rod popped it up to the 2nd baseman and won the game because of an error....or two.

  7. Mike Says:

    Johnny Twisto Says:
    June 11th, 2010 at 1:57 pm
    Stealing and bunting on the same play? I wonder if the Brewers anticipated that Gomez, who is tremendously fast, might be able to take 3rd on that play. Which is kind of genius -- I've never seen or thought of it before.

    Its like a hit and run except its a bunt and run, its a great play in high school. In the hit and run the batter hits the ball into the newly opened hole and in the bunt and run the hitter makes sure the 3rd baseman fields the bunt.

  8. Raphy Says:

    Mark - This post may interest you.

  9. Frank Clingenpeel Says:

    I'm surprised that the Dodgers of the '60s don't dominate these "small ball" discussions, front to back. In their book, a "Big Rally" consisted of Wills making his way to first somehow, stealing second, reaching third on an error and scoring on a sac fly.

  10. Frank Clingenpeel Says:

    One other wish -- that enough people had thought it important enough to keep Negro League records on stats like this. I would bet good money {no offense, Pete Rose} that Cool Papa Bell would have made all of these latter-day figures seem meaningless.

  11. TheGoof Says:

    As Johnny Damon showed in the Series last year, you have to ALWAYS look ahead. It doesn't take long for a team to figure out, usually, that there's nobody covering. In that brief moment, a quick player can change the course of an entire game.

  12. Mark Says:

    Thanks Raphy! That's the post I was looking for.

  13. Hartvig Says:

    Alfredo Griffin used to do stuff like that all the time. I think I remember Ozzie Guillen doing something similar too.

  14. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Bill James compiled somewhere a bunch of Alfredo Griffin's exploits. I don't remember this one, but I think he somehow advanced two bases after an infield pop-up.

    Mike, now that you mention it, I have heard of the bunt-and-run. I just don't remember ever seeing it in the majors, or at least done with the initial intent of getting that extra base, which it looks like Gomez had.

  15. TheGoof Says:

    Griffin's XBT% was 57. I thought that sounded high, so I compared it to some of my favorite quick, aggressive runners. They all were 47-49%!

  16. Johnny Twisto Says:

    League-wide extra base taken % used to be higher. There's probably a lot of little reasons it has gone down, but I'm not sure which are most important. Anyway, if you look at some older players, you'll find guys who top Griffin's number. Willie Mays was 63%, Jackie Robinson was 60% (and that's only with data from '52 on, so it was almost certainly higher before that), Willie Davis 63%, Willie Wilson 58%. Mickey Mantle was 58% through '63, before all the injuries slowed him down at the end.

  17. TheGoof Says:

    Of course, Mays and Robinson were famously aggressive on the bases, too. You hear stories and watch clips, and they believed on running and running until they were out -- even if it meant running backwards or sideways in a rundown. You don't see that too often these days, although Jeter does it all the time, and other guys now and then. There's a great story from Bill James in the Tony Taylor portion of the 2001 Historical Baseball Abstract. In it, he's got the great line that "catching Willie Mays in a rundown is like trying to assassinate a squirrel with a lawn mower."