The Chicago Blackhawks won their first Stanley Cup on home ice since 1938 on Monday. On Tuesday, the Golden State Warriors won their first NBA title in 40 years. Apparently baseball didn’t want to be left out of the drought-breaking fun.
Position players pitching in blowouts is one of those fun little oddities that happen over the course of a six-month baseball season. Two position players pitching for the same team in the same game, however, is quite rare. The Rays turned a pair of fielders into pitchers when Jake Elmore and Nick Franklin both took the mound during their 16–4 loss to the Nationals on Tuesday. They became the first team in 25 years to send two pitchers to the bump in the same game, and yet it only took about 24 hours for it to happen again.
The Cubs pounded the Indians 17–0 on Wednesday. That score alone, which is more befitting of a Bears-Browns contest, would make this game noteworthy, but not one for the record books. The Indians, however, would change that by time the night was over.
With the Cubs leading 10–0 heading into the ninth, Terry Francona, who had already used six relief pitchers, decided to give his bullpen a rest by sending utilityman Ryan Raburn to the mound. Chris Coghlan then walked, Starlin Castro flew out to center, Kyle Schwarber reached on a shift-aided infield single and Chris Denorfia lined out to third. At that point, Raburn’s night as a pitcher was done. However, you don’t just close the Pandora’s Box of position players pitching. Once you crack that open, you stick with it. So out went Raburn and in came outfielder David Murphy from left to, hopefully, bring the inning to a merciful end.
Of course, it shouldn’t be surprising that any game featuring two position players from the same team pitching—with one relieving the other no less—would fall victim to more weird baseball. Murphy got David Ross to pop up for what looked like an easy third out, but unfortunately for the Indians, rookie shortstop Francisco Lindor got turned around and the ball dropped to let a run score and continue the inning. The Cubs would go on to plate six more runs, punctuated by Kris Bryant’s first career grand slam. If there’s any silver lining for Murphy, it’s that he’ll be the answer to that piece of bar-room trivia in 10 years.
Raburn and Murphy combined to allow seven runs on three hits, two walks and a hit batter, but, thanks to the Lindor miscue being ruled an error, none of the runs was earned. In that vein, they outperformed their Tampa Bay counterparts, who surrendered three earned runs on six hits in two innings.
Before the Rays closed Tuesday’s game with two position players toeing the rubber, the last team to do so was the Montreal Expos on July 20, 1990. In that game, a 12–6 loss to the Astros, Dave Martinez threw 1/3 of an inning, allowing two runs on two hits and a pair of walks. He returned to centerfield for the final two outs of the ninth inning, with Junior Noboa, who had previously played shortstop and third, relieving him. Noboa walked one batter, but escaped otherwise unscathed, and ultimately retired with an ERA of 0.00.
The Cubs’ 17-run margin of victory was the largest in the majors since last September, when the Dodgers beat the Giants by the same 17–0 score. In addition to Bryant hitting the first grand slam of his career, Schwarber went 4-for-5 with two RBIs in his first MLB start. No offense to Bryant or Schwarber, both of whom should be pleased with what they did at the plate, but this one is going to be remembered for an entirely different reason.