Seventeen Hits Is Plenty… Unless It’s 1980

On Wednesday, the Padres collected 17 hits en route to an 8-4 victory over the Orioles in Baltimore. Collecting 17 or more hits in a game doesn’t guarantee success, but it helps. From 2008 to 2012, big-league teams did that 545 times, winning 91 percent of the time.

The Padres have knocked 17 or more hits 123 times in their history, going 105-18 in those games. And while 85 percent isn’t as sparkly as 91 percent, it’s still solid (MLB was at 86 percent in 2012).

They’ve done it twice this year and won both times. The Padres have won at least one game in which they collected 17 or more hits every year dating back to 1989. The only times they have played an entire season without winning at least one game that meet our criteria are 1971-1977 and 1988.

Think about that for a moment. The Padres played 1,124 games between 1971 and 1977. They knocked at least 17 hits just twice… and lost both times.

Still, the Padres rarely lose such games: two in the last 15 years. They fell to the Braves, 15-12, on July 14, 2006. And they suffered an 11-10 defeat by the Rockies on September 2, 2012.

But it wasn’t always this way. After starting out 4-0 in such contests, the Padres dropped the first in franchise history to the Cardinals on June 2, 1974. By the start of 1981, the Padres owned an 8-6 record in games where they collected 17 or more hits.

The big problem came in 1980, the season Jerry Coleman managed. Those Padres went 1-3 when knocking at least 17 hits. They fell twice to the Montreal Expos, and once dropped two such games in the span of 10 days. The nadir came on August 15, at San Diego Stadium, when the Padres tallied just one run in 20 innings against the Astros.

Since at least 1916, which is as far back as readily available records currently go, this is one of only two MLB games in which a team with 17 or more hits failed to score at least two runs. I believe congratulations are in order.

The Padres scored in the second inning, and Houston responded in kind in the fourth. Then it was nothing but goose eggs for the next–well, the game lasted 6 hours, 17 minutes–so a while.

The Astros threatened in the seventh, when Coleman summoned closer Rollie Fingers with two out and the score tied. Yes, there was a time when managers didn’t allow statistics to dictate bullpen usage. If you needed a guy to get a key out in a key situation late in the game, you brought him in to do his job. Fingers fanned Enos Cabell with the bases loaded to end the the threat.

The Padres’ best chance came in the 11th, when they loaded the bases with two out. Tim Flannery then struck out against right-hander Frank LaCorte, and the two teams played another full nine.

Houston finally broke through in the 20th. Padres right-hander Eric Rasmussen retired the first nine batters he faced before Luis Pujols reached on a throwing error by shortstop Ozzie Smith to start the frame. After Art Howe sacrificed Pujols to second and reached on a fielder’s choice, Rasmussen got two quick outs, bringing Terry Puhl to the plate.

Puhl lofted an easy fly ball that should have been the final out. But it landed between center fielder Jerry Mumphrey and right fielder Dave Winfield, allowing two runs to score and making a loser of Rasmussen, who worked four hitless innings.

Mumphrey, charged with an error, accepted blame for the miscommunication:

We both went for the ball, but at the last minute I heard Winfield say “Take it.” It was my ball and I guess it was my fault.

The late Dave Smith, pride of Poway High School and SDSU, picked up the win in relief. The rookie right-hander worked five scoreless, fanning eight.

Willie Montañez knocked five hits for the Padres, with Craig Stimac adding four. Stimac, making his first big-league start, drove home San Diego’s only run. Juan Eichelberger pitched six scoreless innings in relief. Pitchers Randy Jones and John Curtis pinch-hit. The Padres went 2-for-23 with runners in scoring position and left 21 men on base.

Wednesday’s win over the Orioles was a little more fun than that. But then, almost anything is more fun than losing a 3-1 game in 20 innings on two errors.

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What’s the most frustrating loss you remember (c’mon, you’re a Padres fan; it shouldn’t be difficult)? Leave a comment, send an email (geoff@sonofaduck.com), or hit me up on Twitter (@ducksnorts).

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  • May 9th, 2010: Heath Bell enters the 9th inning in Houston with a 1 run leader. First batter of the inning hits a nice and easy grounder to Jerry Hairston who proceeds to airmail the throw into the stands allowing the runner to go to second. After a groundout and a sac fly the game is tied and the Padres lose in 11 innings.

    Considering how 2010 turned out, 1 game can mean a lot, even in May. I think about this game. A lot. Here, go relive it: http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/HOU/HOU201005090.shtml

  • VM David

    Most frustrating? Joe. Fucking. Randa.

  • 17 hits in a game yet only 2 of them came in a situation to score runs. Despite being in that situation 23 times in a game. That’s remarkable in the worst way something can be remarkable.

  • Most frustrating loss? I think that conversation begins and ends for me with Game 163 in Colorado. I think about that game far more than anyone should even to this day. A close second is the 10 game losing streak in 2010 which isn’t so much a loss but many losses.

  • Seventeen hits and scoring only one run in a 20 inning game seems entirely doable. Sad, but not terribly difficult (7.65 hits per 9 innings).

    Curious about that other less-than-two-run game. How many innings did that one go? And did they get shut out, or score one?

  • Geoff’s choice of game 163 is probably it.

    After that would be the game in 2006 when the Padres were leading 9-5 going into the bottom of the 9th against the Dodgers in LA, and gave up four consecutive HRs to tie it (the last two on Trevor’s first two pitches after he came in to stop the bleeding).

    After that, they scored a run in the top of the ninth to take a lead again. Yay! But…but…then Garciaparra hits a two-run HR to win it for LA! DAMN!

  • 4 homeruns in a row by the Dodgers in the 9th inning. September of 2006. I was playing beer pong with a group of Dodgers fans while that was happening, which is why it is (without a doubt) the most frustrating game of all-time for me.