We love it when professional athletes do rare things, like when the Phoenix Suns win a game, Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles gets a hit or the Arizona Cardinals draft quarterbacks in the first round in two consecutive years.
We’re talking highlight accomplishments, showstoppers worthy of neon lights.
In that respect it’s been a very historic last few days in the Major Leagues, beginning Thursday when Noah Syndergaard became only the seventh pitcher in history to pitch a complete-game shutout and homer for the only run of a 1-0 win. That was also a first in New York Mets history. And that began in 1962,
On Monday, it was Pablo Sandoval’s turn to revise the record books.
The San Francisco Giants aren’t very good this season and they were ending a series in Cincinnati with a day game. And by the bottom of the eighth inning, the Reds were leading 12-4.
So Giants manager Bruce Bochy decided he didn’t want to tax his bullpen any further so he called Sandoval, an infielder, to wrap things up in the eighth.
What Bochy didn’t know at the time was he had teed up Sandoval to do something that hadn’t been accomplished in MLB since 1905.
Earlier in the game, Sandoval had already homered and stolen base, which, of course, is no big deal. But then he pitched a scoreless eighth inning all the bells and whistles began to hoot at the Elias Sports Bureau, the know-it-all when it comes to trends, statistics and coincidences in pro sports.
Here’s how his day went. Sandoval stole third after reaching on an error in the second inning. He probably thought that would be the highlight of his day since it was his first stolen base since the 2012 season and just the 12th of his career. There is a reason Sandoval’s nickname is The Panda. He has a similar body shape, kind of stout around the midsection.
And then with two outs in the sixth inning, Sandoval cranked a three-run shot to right to cut Cincy’s lead to 7-4. That homer was his third of the season and the 137th of a career that began in 2008 with a previous tour of duty with the Giants.
It was in the bottom of the sixth inning that the foundation for what would come next was poured. The Reds scored five runs to crack the game wide open. So Bochy used Travis Bergen, his fifth pitcher of the day, in the seventh and tossed the ball to Sandoval for the eighth.
You can imagine what most people expected considering how hot the Reds bats had been in the series. And then Sandoval hit leadoff batter Jose Peraza. This was newsworthy in and of itself. It was the fifth hit-by-pitch the Reds absorbed in the game, tying an National League record.
Then Sandoval retired Josh VanMeter on a fly to center and got an inning-ending double-play ball from Nick Senzel with an 84 mph fastball. Senzel had already homered twice in the game. Sandoval threw 10 pitches with seven strikes.
“It was fun,” Sandoval told MLB.com after the game. “Tough loss, but whatever I can do to help this team, I want to take that punch and sacrifice everything to help the bullpen.”
Sandoval joins Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson as the only other player in MLB history to homer, steal a base and pitch a scoreless frame in the same game. He did so on May 23, 1905.
It also wasn’t the first time Sandoval had pitched in a MLB game. He handled the ninth inning in a game that Giants trailed by nine runs last April. And he retired the side in order, getting a grounder to second and two to short in just 11 pitches.
Unless someone else does this in 2019, it might be the last time we ever see it in a MLB game. The Commissioner’s office has recommended a rule change that would make it tougher for a team to use a position player to fill out a game on the mound.
As of the of play in Monday, 612 different position players have pitched in an MLB game since the 1880s.