On Monday night, the Clearwater Threshers defeated the Tampa Tarpons 1-0 in a minor league baseball game without the benefit of a hit, a walk, a hit batsman, or a runner reaching base due to an error. How did they manage this?
The key was the new rule in the minor leagues for deciding extra inning games. I discussed it here. Under this rule, which conceivably could come to the major leagues one day but probably won’t, teams start all extra innings with a runner on second base. The last batter of the previous inning is simply placed there.
The premise, a sound one, is that increasing the odds of scoring in an extra inning increases the odds that one team will score more than the other in a given inning. Thus, extra innings won’t mean extra hours.
In the Clearwater-Tampa game, neither team scored during regulation play. No Clearwater player even reached first base.
In the first extra frame, Luke Williams was duly placed at second base. Williams reached third base on an error by Tampa shortstop Diego Castillo, then scored when Daniel Brito hit a grounder to first, and he beat the throw home.
In the bottom of the inning Tampa failed to score despite starting out with the runner on second.
Tampa was credited with a no-hitter, but not a perfect game because of the error. The Tampa pitchers were Deivi Garcia and Christian Morris, who took the loss.
Garcia, only 19, is one of the top prospects in the talent-rich New York Yankee farm system. Brito, who hit the decisive grounder, is a well-regarded prospect for the Philadelphia Phillies. Williams, who scored the only run, is considered a prospect too, I think.
The win went to McKenzie Mills. He was a borderline prospect for the Washington Nationals until being dealt last summer to Philadelphia for Howie Kendrick. Howie hit very well for the Nats last year, but is missing all of the current season due to injury.
The Clearwater-Tampa game was hugely interesting and probably more fun to watch than had it dragged out a few more innings to a less anomalous conclusion. But if anything, the bizarre outcome likely decreases the odds — not high to begin with — that major league baseball adopts this approach to deciding extra inning games.