Tigers make history with two MLB firsts in ’20

Detroit Tigers

Even though the 2020 season lasted only 60 games, it saw its fair share of notable individual performances. There were two no-hitters, 10 three-homer games, six five-hit outbursts and much more.
Some of these games produced stat lines never before seen in baseball history — at least as far back

Even though the 2020 season lasted only 60 games, it saw its fair share of notable individual performances. There were two no-hitters, 10 three-homer games, six five-hit outbursts and much more.

Some of these games produced stat lines never before seen in baseball history — at least as far back as is covered by available game-by-game data. (Baseball-Reference’s Stathead tool now goes back to 1901 for those purposes).

Before we gratefully flip the calendar to 2021, here is a look back at seven of these unique performances from this past season.

Lucas Giolito says no-no
Aug. 25 vs. Pirates: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 13 K, 101 pitches

When the White Sox ace mowed down the Bucs for the 19th no-hitter in franchise history, he did so in especially dominant and efficient fashion. The 13 strikeouts alone were impressive, with Giolito becoming one of 22 pitchers to pile up that many in a no-no. Combine that with just one walk — the lone baserunner Giolito allowed — and you have something truly spectacular. The righty became the eighth pitcher to strike out 13-plus and walk no more than one in a no-hitter, joining the likes of Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, Randy Johnson and Sandy Koufax. The lack of free passes helped Giolito keep his pitch count down, a necessity for any pitcher trying to finish the job in 2020. Complete pitch-count data only goes back to 1988, but Giolito’s 101 pitches are the fewest on record for a no-hitter with at least 13 K’s.

Adam Duvall does it all
Sept. 9 vs. Marlins: 3-for-4, 5 R, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 2 BB

You might remember this game, which the Braves won 29-9, scoring 11 runs in the second inning and winding up just one short of tying the modern single-game record for runs. Needless to say, there were eye-popping lines up and down the box score in this one. In addition to Duvall, we could have highlighted Braves superstar Ronald Acuña Jr., who became the first player to hit each of the following in a single game: three hits, three walks, four runs scored, five RBIs and one double. And on the flip side, Marlins pitcher Jordan Yamamoto became just the fourth reliever (and first since 1939) to give up at least 13 runs and four homers, and the first to do so in fewer than six innings. (He lasted just 2 2/3).

As for Duvall, his second three-homer game in an eight-day span included a two-run shot, a three-run shot and a grand slam, in that order — something never previously accomplished in MLB history. While there had been 18 prior instances of a player combining at least three homers and nine RBIs, none of those efforts also included multiple walks.

Alex Dickerson has an extra-special day
Sept. 1 at Rockies: 5-for-6, 2 2B, 3 HR, 6 RBI, BB

Offensive magic has been known to happen at Coors Field, and it certainly did in this one, a 23-5 Giants victory. Dickerson, who entered the day with 20 career homers, went deep in the first and second innings, doubled in the fourth, homered again in the sixth, walked in the eighth and doubled once more for good measure in the ninth — on a ball that hit the wall in left-center field. His five extra-base hits tied an MLB record, and his 16 total bases tied a Giants record set by none other than Willie Mays. Dickerson joined Kris Bryant (2016) and Matt Carpenter (’18) as the only players to pair three homers with two doubles, and he is the first to add a walk to the mix.

Tyler Alexander introduces himself
Aug. 2 vs. Reds: 3.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 10 K

Sometimes, fantastic feats come from unexpected places. And so it was that Alexander took the mound at Comerica Park in the third inning of a doubleheader opener and proceeded to make history. The Tigers lefty, who had three K’s over four innings in his first three appearances of the season, struck out each of the first nine batters he faced and came within one strike of tying Tom Seaver’s Major League record, before hitting Mike Moustakas on a 1-2 pitch. Alexander’s nine straight K’s still tied an American League record and set an MLB mark for relievers. He added one more for good measure and joined Danny Salazar (2014) as the only pitchers to finish an outing with at least 10 strikeouts in fewer than four innings. But Salazar did it as a starter, and also allowed five runs on six hits.

Bryce Harper makes the most of it
Sept. 23 at Nationals: 2-for-2, 4 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 3 BB (3 IBB)

The Nats know as well as anyone what Harper is capable of. So perhaps it’s no surprise that they would tread carefully with their friend-turned-foe, who now wears a Phillies uniform. But Washington didn’t tread carefully enough. The two times that starting pitcher Erick Fedde gave Harper a chance — both with the bases empty — Harper responded with a homer. Each of the three times Harper came up with traffic on the bases, he was walked intentionally. The Phillies went on to score at least one run after each of those free passes, and Harper joined Claudell Washington (1980), David Wright (2007) and Albert Pujols (‘13) as the only players to have a two-homer, three-IBB game. Harper’s four runs are the most among that group.

Derek Holland watches ’em fly
Aug. 8 vs. Tigers: 5 IP, 13 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 5 HR

Here is how Holland’s day started when he took the mound for the Pirates at PNC Park: homer, single, homer, homer, homer. Just like that, he was down 5-0 and Detroit had gone deep four times before making an out for the first time in franchise history. But Holland, a 12-year veteran who has been through many ups and downs, managed to hang around for a while. Despite the homers and a 43-pitch first inning (tied for second longest in 2020), Holland completed five frames with his team battling back to a 6-5 deficit. Unfortunately for the lefty, he began the sixth by allowing his fifth long ball and then two doubles before the bullpen finally came to the rescue. By the time Holland’s day was in the books, he had joined Jose Lima (2000) as the only pitchers to serve up at least five homers and 13 hits in no more than five innings. At least Holland was tagged with “only,” nine runs, to Lima’s 12.

Christian Yelich walks and runs
Sept. 2 vs. Tigers: 0-for-1, 3 R, 4 BB, SO, 2 SB

It was a difficult season for Yelich, whose production plummeted from the lofty heights he reached in his first two years with the Brewers. But one thing that didn’t suffer was Yelich’s walk rate, which ascended to a career-high 18.6 percent, ranking fifth in the Majors. Included in that was a pair of four-walk games, the first on Aug. 6, when Yelich also homered against the White Sox. In the second, he didn’t get a single hit, yet managed to swipe two bags and cross home plate three times on the strength of his keen eye and fleet feet. It was the first game on record to include zero hits and a strikeout but at least four walks, two steals and three runs.

Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

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