In the wake of Matt Peacock’s interesting arrival in the majors, let’s look at some similar first games by relievers
As was mentioned on the broadcast last night, Matt Peacock became the first pitcher since Marino Pieretti of the 1945 Washington Senators to get the win and a hit, while making his debut in an extra-inning game. Pieretti was the starter in that contest, and tossed all 12 innings of the 4-3 victory. But I thought it might be interesting to look at how Peacock’s debut stacks up among relief pitchers.
He’s not the only one to get a hit in his first game. That’s actually a bit more common than you might think, Peacock becoming the 193rd such pitcher. Actually, the last such reliever to execute the feat was also a Diamondback. Taylor Clarke did it on April 20 last year against the Cubs, combining with Zack Greinke on a four-hitter, and for his three innings of work (like Peacock), was awarded a save. Though for a reliever to get a hit AND a run in his debut is rarer. There have only been two such cases since the D-backs came into existence in 1998, most recently Brandon Dickson of the Cardinals in 2011.
Peacock became the fourth relief pitcher for the Diamondbacks to get a W in his debut. The previous three were Evan Marshall (2014), Josh Collmenter (2011) and Clay Zavada (2009). Collmenter’s debut was also in an extra-inning contest, pitching two innings in a 6-5 win over the Giants, though he didn’t have the whole “runner on second” thing. There have been two longer debuts in relief as a D-back: one memorable, the other utterly forgettable. The former was Max Scherzer’s first game, where he retired all 13 batters faced. But the franchise record goes to Vicente Campos (who?); he tossed 5.2 innings in a blowout loss to the Reds in 2016. Weirder still, it was Campos’s only appearance in the majors.
Five relievers have even hit a home-run in the major-league debut, though it has been more than 45 years since the last such occurrence (which we’ll get to in a bit). Probably the best debut hitting performance ever out of the bullpen came from Hal Hayden of the 1970 Twins. In the night-cap of a double header on September 7, he pitched five innings and got the win. But he also had a go-ahead home-run in the fourth, after having doubled in the second. [As an aside, there have been four multi-homer games by relievers, though of course, not on their debuts. The last was in 1957, and the best by the appropriately named Babe Birrer in 1955. He went 2-for-2 with a pair of home-runs, driving in six, and pitched four scoreless]
However, the most bizarre relief debut in history likely belongs to John Montefusco of the 1974 Giants. On September 3 in Los Angeles, the game was started by Ron Bryant, but he retired none of the six batters faced. After a hit, three walks, an error and a failed fielder’s choice, he was replaced by Montefusco. The reliever recorded all 27 remaining outs, as the Red Sox came back to win 9-5. He held the Dodgers to one run in his debut on six hits, walking five and striking out seven. And best of all, in his first major-league at-bat (he had walked in the second inning), he hit a home-run off Charlie Hough. Montefusco would win Rookie of the Year in 1975, so there’s something Peacock can aim for… 🙂