This day in baseball history — dueling shutouts

How many times have Hall of Fame pitchers squared off with both pitching at least nine innings of scoreless baseball? I assume it very rarely happens nowadays because pitchers don’t often pitch nine innings. It must have happened from time to time during the Dead Ball Era when pitchers did, and scores were low. As for the 70 years or so between these periods, I have no clear sense.

I do know that it happened on this day in baseball history, May 26, 1966, in a game at Candlestick Park between the Philadelphia Phillies and the San Francisco Giants. The pitchers were Jim Bunning and Juan Marichal.

Bunning entered the game with a 2.08 ERA and record of 5-1. Marichal’s ERA was a microscopic 0.69 and he was unbeaten in eight decisions (nine starts). Thus, the game figured to be low-scoring.

The Phillies threatened to score in the second inning. Johnny Callison led off with a single and went to second on a one-out single by Tony Gonzalez. Cookie Rojas walked to load the bases with two outs, but Marichal fanned Bunning.

After that, it was pretty clear sailing for both pitchers until the bottom the seventh, when Willie McCovey led off with a double. Bunning then retired Jim Ray Hart and Tom Haller, but walked Ollie Brown.

That brought Willie Mays, pinch hitting for Tito ( “I’m the father of five or six kids”) Fuentes, to the plate. Bunning induced a ground ball from the great center fielder to end the inning.

Marichal himself doubled in the bottom of the eighth with one out. However, Bunning struck out Don Landrum and Len Gabrielson.

Bunning breezed through the ninth and tenth innings. In the top of the eleventh, Richie Allen (as Dick Allen was then known) batted for Bunning. He grounded out, and the Phillies went down in order.

Bunning’s night was over. He had worked 10 innings, allowing no runs and only five hits. He struck out eight and walked two.

Darold Knowles replaced Bunning in the bottom of the eleventh. Knowles was just a rookie, but his ERA was under 2.00. He would go on to be an outstanding reliever for the Washington Senators and quite a good one for three world championship teams in Oakland. Knowles pitched in all seven games of the 1973 World Series, saving two of them and giving up no runs.

On this day, Knowles got off to a rocky start. He hit Landrum, the first batter he faced, and then gave up single to Cap Peterson (batting for Gabrielson). That brought the fearsome McCovey to the plate.

“Stretch” grounded out, but both runners moved up. The Phillies wisely walked Hart intentionally to load the bases.

Haller hit a fly ball to center field, but not deep enough to score McCovey. Then, with two out, Brown grounded out to Knowles.

Marichal had given up only four hits through eleven innings, but the Phillies added two more in the top of the twelfth — two out singles by Doug Clemens and Gonzalez (his third of the game). However, Clay Dalrymple grounded out to Marichal.

In the top of the thirteenth, Landrum led off with a single. Peterson failed to advance him on a bunt. This proved costly when the dangerous Hart singled with two out (after McCovey had popped out). Now it was up to Haller. Knowles got him on a ground ball.

In the top of fourteenth, Marichal retired the Phils in order. He had also done so in the thirteenth.

Entering the bottom of the fifteenth, Knowles was still pitching for Philadelphia, manager Gene Mauch having elected to let him bat in the thirteenth. Knowles was due to face Brown and then the bottom third of the Giants’ batting order.

Knowles got Brown on a fly ball. That brought up Jim Davenport, who had replaced Fuentes.

Davenport tripled to the opposite field.

Light-hitting Hal Lanier was next. Mauch decided he should be walked to set up the double play.

Marichal was due up now, but San Francisco manager Herman Franks sent up Jesus Alou as a pinch hitter.

With Landrum and Peterson — neither formidable — to follow, Mauch ordered an intentional walk for Alou, a solid hitter who was in a slump. That loaded the bases with one out for Landrum.

Franks didn’t like the Knowles-Landrum lefty against lefty match up, so he sent up his remaining right handed hitter Bob Barton, the back-up catcher. Barton was a sub-.200 hitter who fared no better against lefties than against righties. The same, though, was true of Landrum.

In this case, Franks, who was sometimes accused of over-managing, made a winning move. Barton brought home Davenport with sacrifice fly to end the contest. It was first of the three RBIs Barton would produce during the 1966 season.

Marichal thus picked up his ninth win in nine decisions. He gave up just six hits and one walk, while striking out ten.

But how did the long outing affect him? This is a question we sometimes consider on “This Day in Baseball History.”

Marichal was never going to maintain his astonishingly low ERA, now down to 0.59. Nor was he going to win every decision.

However, Marichal’s next nine starts were well below his usual standard. In 71 innings, he allowed 34 earned runs (an ERA of more than 4.20). This raised his ERA to 2.15. After that, he was outstanding, finishing the season with a 2.23 ERA and a record of 25-6.

So was Marichal’s nine-game slump the product of his 14 inning outing or just a case of reversion to the mean? I don’t know; nor do I know whether Marichal’s “mean” would have been even more impressive if he had worked fewer innings in general.

In any event, I don’t think I would have worked Marichal for 14 innings on this day in baseball history.

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