Reliving the excitement of baseball games from previous seasons is not relegated to watching the DVD you purchased after your team won a World Series title. It is not limited to classic moments of baseball history that you might find on YouTube or re-runs of This Week in Baseball (also if you know where I can find some TWIB re-runs, please let me know so I can do something nice for my inner 9-year-old). We spend so much of the off-season talking and thinking about what comes next: who will sign the big free agents? Why did that guy’s swinging strike rate skyrocket? What prospects will be called up and when? Whose curveball spin rate exploded out of nowhere? Who will secure the best rotation in Major League Baseball and why is it the Padres?
You don’t have to go way back to reminisce, and whether you prefer fantastic pitching or out of this world hitting, there’s something for you on this list. For some, these games were heart-breakers. For others, they were moments of glory and euphoria. And if you’re a Tampa Bay Rays fan with an affinity for Rachel McAdams, you’re going to enjoy this.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at six games from the 2020 season worth revisiting and re-watching.
Preeminent Pitching Performances:
Lucas Giolito, No-Hitter
Let’s go ahead and set the bar high with our first trip down memory lane. It goes without saying that this was a dominant performance, but I went ahead and said it anyway. Lucas Giolito was one free pass away from perfection, but he walked Erik Gonzalez to lead off the top of the 4th inning. He was stranded at first, however, as Giolito quickly retired Adam Frazier, Bryan Reynolds, and Josh Bell to get out of the inning; nobody else was to get on base for the remainder of the game.
Not only did Giolito prevent the Pirates from getting a hit, but he also struck out 13, inducing 30 swings-and-misses, including getting Gregory Polanco and Cole Tucker three times apiece. Using mostly fastballs and changeups, he limited the Pirates to mostly soft contact, with an average exit velocity of just 82.4 mph, relinquishing only 2 “hard-hit” balls. He gave up 0 barrels. In other words, Lucas was dealing.
Not to be forgotten, Chicago’s offense also plated 4 runs, 3 coming in the second inning and the last in the third, on RBI from Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez, James McCann, and Adam Engel. McCann was also finally able to catch his first no-hitter. He had come close with Justin Verlander in 2015 while they both played for Detroit, but it was broken up in the top of the 9th. He couldn’t keep that from running through his mind as Giolito went out for the ninth:
“I just kept thinking to myself every pitch is 0-2. We’re not trying to steal a strike here, we’re trying to make a nasty, perfect pitch, every pitch from here on out and he did it. He made his pitches. I looked out there and in his eyes, I couldn’t tell the difference whether it was the ninth and the no-hitter was on the line or if it was the first inning. So tip your cap to him” (MLB.com).
The opposing manager, Derek Shelton, also sang Giolito’s praises, “We saw one of the best pitchers in the game have a performance of a lifetime. You tip your cap.” If one thing is plain and clear in all of this, it is that we should tip our caps. After the game, Giolito said:
“The thing is, I was able to do what we did tonight — and it still hasn’t sunk in yet, it’s crazy — but I know I can continue to get better. There are a lot of things I can improve. That’s all I care about is becoming the best pitcher I can possibly be” (NBCSports.com).
You really do have to admire that attitude; he faced one more than the minimum batter and gave up no hits in a Major League Baseball game and follows it up talking about improvement. Maybe he meant doing it against a team other than the Pirates.
You should definitely watch the whole thing, but for those of you interested in condensed versions, here are two videos: one of all 27 outs in the game, and one of the full 9th inning:
Sixto Sanchez, Full-Game Debut
Okay, so technically Sixto Sanchez made his starting debut a few days earlier on August 22, but it was a 7 inning game, the second of a doubleheader and he was just so much better in this one. To be fair, the approach to winning a shorter game is likely very different and that conveniently supports the idea that this game was his real debut. Furthermore, ESPN says so and who am I to argue with the Worldwide Leader in Sports?
More to the point, Sanchez was amazing in this one, despite taking the no-decision in an eventual Marlins loss. He scattered six hits while inducing an 80% ground-ball rate and relinquished zero fly balls over 7-innings. He relied heavily on his 98-mph fastball and changeup to strikeout ten and generate a swinging-strike rate of 19.6% while walking just one Tampa Bay Ray. Kevin Cash, the Rays manager, said:
“That was some impressive stuff. He was able to land his off-speed pitches. He established the fastball and he had a wipeout changeup. He is pretty talented” (MLB.com).
Unfortunately for Sanchez, the Marlins’ bullpen surrendered single runs in each both the 8th and 9th innings. That proved to be enough as the Miami offense was unable to score, shut out by the less dominant but, ultimately, more effective combination of Ryan Yarbrough‘s 6.2 shutout innings, Pete Fairbanks 1.1, and Diego Castillo‘s clean ninth that earned him the save.
While this was a showcase for Sanchez, Yarbrough was also very good; if you’re into pitchers’ duels, and you should most definitely be, this one’s for you. For those of you who just want to see Sixto be awesome, here’s a clip of all of his pitches from this game.
Wil Myers, Walk-Off
This late August gem comes to us by way of a 7-inning doubleheader and ends with Wil Myers securing the win for the Padres with a three-run dinger in the bottom of the 7th. It was a 3-3 tie going into the top of the inning and the Mariners managed to plate 4 runs on singles by Sam Haggerty, Kyle Lewis, and Kyle Seager, all with no outs, topped off by a sacrifice fly by Austin Nola. The next two batters, Jose Marmolejos and Jake Fraley, struck out to send the Mariners back onto the field with a seemingly healthy and robust 4-run lead. The Padres had other plans, however.
Those other plans probably did not include the first two batters of the bottom of the 7th making outs; Ty France struck out to lead off and Jurickson Profar grounded out with a dribbler in front of the plate that Taylor Williams fielded and tossed to first base. Williams should probably have hit the showers at that point, but he did not.
He proceeded to hit Austin Hedges with a pitch, walk Trent Grisham, throw a wild pitch to Fernando Tatis, Jr. that allowed the runners to move up, and then walked Tatis too. Three more singles, a passed ball, and a wild pitch brought Wil Myers to the plate with the game tied at 7-7 and facing Dan Altavilla, who had replaced Williams after he had surrendered the tying run.
On the second pitch of the at-bat, Myers went yard deep down the left-field line to walk it off with an unlikely victory. Seattle went on to win Game 2 of the twin-bill 8-3, so the heroics saved San Diego from being swept on both sides of the double-header. In six previous innings, the teams had combined for just 6 runs but scored a combined 11 in the 7th; what a finish!
You can see the highlights here:
Atlanta Braves, Slugfest
Do you like offense? Are you a fan of runs? Would you be excited if I told you this game had 9 home-runs and that the Marlins scored NINE runs?! If so, then you’ll be beside yourself to learn that the Braves scored 29 runs in this one.
Of the eight innings in which the Braves hit, only two yielded goose eggs and only three resulted in less than 3 runs. The Marlins were the first to strike, plating two in the top of the 2nd on RBI from Jorge Alfaro and Jazz Chisholm. The Braves responded by putting up an 11 spot in the bottom half with 7 players driving in at least one run (Ozzie Albies had two at-bats, driving in a single run in each).
If you like good pitching, it’s time to close your eyes (and hold your nose). The Marlins went through five pitchers with only Ryne Stanek giving up 0 runs. The crazy thing is, the Braves starter had a worse line than all but one. Check it out:
Tommy Milone | 3.1, 8 H, 8 R
This thing was a 4 hour and 14-minute behemoth, but you can’t ask for more offense with a combined 38 runs and 9 bombs, including 3 by Adam Duvall alone.
Mike Brosseau, “Revenge”
Who doesn’t love a good revenge story? Seeing somebody who has been wronged and come back to win the day is a narrative we can all get behind. So when Aroldis Chapman buzzed a 100+ mph fastball up by the head of Mike Brosseau earlier in the season, it made for the perfect set up in the Division Series when the two faced off again, this time with a very important game on the line. Chapman started off the bottom of the 8th, score tied at 1-1, by getting Randy Arozarena to groundout to shortstop on a 1-0 pitch. Then Mike Brosseau stepped into the box.
It was not an easy at-bat by any stretch. It started with a called first strike and then a swinging second. Brosseau was down 0-2 after which, according to this article on Fangraphs, results in just a .203 wOBA produced. So, the odds were heavily stacked in Chapman’s favor. He took two balls, fouled off two more pitches, and then took a third ball. The count was now 3-2 (after which there is a .377 wOBA produced, if you’re interested) and Brosseau was in the driver’s seat. He fouled off two more and then, on the 10th pitch of the at-bat, took Chapman deep over the left center field wall.
It was not technically a walk-off, but it put the Rays up for good in the bottom of the 8th. Diego Castillo, who had come into the top of the 8th, came back out for the 9th and set the Yanks down 1-2-3 (two strikeouts and a lineout to 3b) to earn the win.
Yay, little guy.
Brett Phillips, World Series Walk-Off
Let’s begin with the obvious: Randy Arozarena would have been very, very out if Will Smith had squeezed the ball. Now that we have that out of the way, WHAT AN UNBELIEVABLE FINISH TO A WORLD SERIES GAME! This was a great moment for Tampa Bay fans and it can’t sting too bad for Dodgers fans since the Dodgers won it all eventually.
The rest of the game was exciting as well, with a combined 13 runs scored headed into the bottom of the 9th, including 24 hits and five home-runs. Kenley Jansen was set up to earn the save and give LA the 3-1 lead in the Fall Classic. But, in stepped Brett Phillips with other ideas. He took a first-pitch ball and then watched two straight strikes. He was down 1-2 and sitting on the Rays’ last out when he flared the fourth pitch into short right-center field, allowing Kevin Kiermaier to score. When Chris Taylor booted the ball, Arozarena took a chance. He took a big chance. Taylor’s throw hit the cut-off man who turned and fired to Will Smith at the plate while Arozarena scrambled to return to third but when Smith failed to secure the baseball, Arozarena was able to score the winning run, slapping the plate in celebration while Phillips tried to fly like an airplane.
Here’s the entire at-bat and aftermath:
And here are the highlights:
So there you have ’em, the six games you should re-watch from 2020, and all the good reasons why. Maybe you have a different favorite? Drop a line in the comments or hit us up @PitcherList or @TheCorkedMatt with all the baseball-y goodness I missed here. And, of course, check out the rest of our PitcherList 6.0 content here.
Happy 2021 baseball season, everybody!
Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)