Sunday, August 3, 2014

Leadoff Home Runs in a 1-0 Game

Nick Markakis led off the bottom of the first inning in Baltimore today with a home run off of Seattle's Hisashi Iwakuma (video). Chris Tillman made it stand up with seven strong innings, then new acquisition Andrew Miller and Zach Britton closed it out for a 1-0 Orioles win.

Markakis notched his 1,500th career hit in his next at bat, but let's focus on the homer. It's pretty unusual for a leadoff dinger to represent the only scoring of a game. Of the more than 130,000 games for which we have play-by-play data (over 92 percent of games played since 1940), there have been 3,306 games in which the scoring was opened with a leadoff home run. Only 18 of those stood as the game's only tally: 

Date Team Opp Home Run Opp Pitcher Winning Pitcher
8/3/2014 BAL vs SEA Nick Markakis Hisashi Iwakuma Chris Tillman (7 IP)
7/27/2013 CLE vs TEX Michael Bourn Yu Darvish Justin Masterson (7.2 IP)
5/18/2013 ARI at MIA Gerardo Parra Tom Koehler Brandon McCarthy (9 IP)
8/14/2012 PHI at MIA Jimmy Rollins Josh Johnson Kyle Kendrick (7 IP)
4/23/2009 SEA vs TB Ichiro Suzuki James Shields Felix Hernandez (7 IP)
5/9/2007 CHN vs PIT Alfonso Soriano Tom Gorzelanny Jason Marquis (9 IP)
5/12/2004 NYM at ARI Kazuo Matsui Randy Johnson Tom Glavine (7.2 IP)
9/14/1993 PIT at FLA Carlos Garcia Chris Hammond Paul Wagner (6 IP) (CG, Rain)
6/19/1992 SEA at MIN Greg Briley Kevin Tapani Dave Fleming (9 IP)
8/7/1991 SF at ATL Darren Lewis Charlie Leibrandt Bud Black (8 IP)
4/26/1981 HOU vs CIN Denny Walling Mario Soto Bob Knepper (9 IP)
8/25/1979 KC vs BOS Willie Wilson (ITP) Mike Torrez Dennis Leonard (9 IP)
5/20/1979 HOU vs SD Terry Puhl Gaylord Perry Rick Williams (9 IP)
4/26/1976 MIL vs CAL Don Money Frank Tanana Jim Colborn (8.1 IP)
9/7/1973 NYM at MON Wayne Garrett Steve Renko Jon Matlack (8.2 IP)
4/28/1973 SF at STL Bobby Bonds Reggie Cleveland Jim Willoughby (9 IP)
6/12/1969 PHI at LAD John Briggs Bill Singer Grant Jackson (9 IP)
9/2/1963 CIN at NYN Pete Rose Jay Hook Jim Maloney (9 IP)

10 of them were hit in the top of the first and eight came in the bottom of the first. Note Willie Wilson's inside-the-parker in 1979. That's not surprising, since 13 of his 41 career round-trippers stayed in the yard.

Four of the 18 have been hit within the last two years. Run-scoring is plummeting, and while home runs are down as well, they haven't come down at the same rate. I still don't expect these games to happen very often, but they'll probably occur more often than we're used to.

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