Bartolo Colon's home run, Jon Lester's bunt and all the best pitcher plate appearances of 2016
Few things are as fun in baseball as a pitcher putting together an unexpectedly great plate appearance. It's not a rare enough event that all hope is lost when a pitcher steps to the plate. After all, pitchers hit as many home runs this season (24) as D-backs slugger Paul Goldschmidt. Sure, pitchers took roughly 7 ½ as many plate appearances as Goldschmidt ... but 24 home runs is still 24 home runs!
Yes, pitcher glory at the plate is rare, but it's also a steady enough presence in our game that it's imperative we take a second to look back and enjoy 2016's most fun moments in pitchers hitting.
Kenta Maeda goes yard in MLB debut
Eight players homered in their Major League debuts this season, but the most surprising of that group, by far, was Dodgers pitcher Kenta Maeda. On April 6, Maeda made his debut and, in the top of the fourth, he connected on an 0-2 pitch from Padres pitcher Andrew Cashner for the first home run of his career. As if that wasn't enough, Maeda also threw six shutout innings to secure the first win of his Major League career.
Noah Syndergaard 2-HR game
Speaking of Maeda, he faced off against Noah Syndergaard at Dodger Stadium on May 11 and found somewhat different results than he had in his debut. The first time Syndergaard stepped to the plate against Maeda, Thor drilled the first pitch he saw to deep right field to give the Mets a 1-0 lead. When Syndergaard came up again, the Dodgers had taken a 2-1 lead and Maeda had learned to be careful with his fellow pitcher. With two men on, Maeda worked the outside part of the plate, but Syndergaard responded by going with the pitch and taking it to deep left-center for a three-run blast. It was the first two-homer game for a pitcher since Micah Owings accomplished the feat in August 2007.
Adam Wainwright's bases-loaded triple
On April 27, the D-backs clung to a 3-2 lead in the sixth inning when pitcher Patrick Corbin found himself in trouble. He retired the first Cardinals batter he faced, but two singles and a walk later, the bases were loaded. Fortunately, the pitcher was due up next. Unfortunately, that pitcher was Adam Wainwright, who crushed the ball down the left-field line for a bases-clearing triple. It was the second triple of Wainwright's career and, believe it or not, one of eight triples delivered by pitchers this season.
Jose Fernandez's game-winning pinch-hit double
Jose Fernandez tragically passed away in late September, but we won't soon forget the moments when he absolutely lit up a baseball field.
In the 12th inning of a game against the Braves on July 1, the score was tied at 5, and the Marlins were out of available position players. So, Fernandez stepped to the plate as a pinch-hitter and delivered the two-run double which would ultimately be the difference in the team's 7-5 victory. In quintessential Fernandez fashion, he couldn't stop smiling:
Who needs a DH?
On June 30, the Giants played an Interleague game in Oakland. With Madison Bumgarner due to pitch, Bruce Bochy faced the surprisingly difficult decision of whether to utilize the designated hitter rule or simply let the game's best slugging pitcher bat. Bochy took the less conventional path, and Bumgarner made it pay off immediately by doubling and scoring in his first at-bat of the game.
The old pinch-hit walk-off squeeze bunt
On July 31 at Wrigley Field, the Cubs tied up the game against the Mariners with a three-spot in the ninth inning. The teams remained in a stalemate into the bottom of the 12th when the pitcher was due up with one out and Jason Heyward on third base. Cubs manager Joe Maddon opted to use a different pitcher as a pinch-hitter. That was how Jon Lester -- the former AL pitcher with a career .064 batting average -- found himself stepping to the plate. On a two-strike count, Lester laid down a perfect bunt up the first-base line enabling Heyward to score and win the game.
The Cubs were pretty stoked:
NLDS Game 2
However, the Cubs' finest moments in pitchers hitting came in the postseason. During the second inning of NLDS Game 2, Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks stepped to the plate with nobody out and the bases loaded. He responded with a two-run single off Giants pitcher Jeff Samardzija.
But that was only the start. Hendricks left the game in the fourth, and reliever Travis Wood entered. During the bottom of the inning, Wood took the first pitch he saw from pitcher George Kontos deep to left field for a solo home run. The three RBIs off the bat of pitchers were the difference-maker as the Cubs went on to win the game, 5-2.
Just for good measure, Jake Arrieta joined the party with a home run of his own during the very next game off some pitcher named Madison Bumgarner.
You might think it would be difficult to accomplish "firsts" in your 19th Major League season, but Bartolo Colon managed to do just that. On Aug. 15, he stepped to the dish against D-backs pitcher Robbie Ray as a hitter without a single walk in his career stat line. Seven pitches later, he had finally done it. He watched ball four sail high and trotted down to first base. His ratio of walks recorded as a pitcher to walks recorded as a hitter now stands at 888:1.
The Home Run
Of course the walk wasn't even close to the most memorable first for Colon this season. Just two weeks before his 43rd birthday, Colon connected with a pitch from the Padres' James Shields on May 7 and sent it well over the outfield wall for the first home run in his career. In doing so, Colon became the oldest player ever to hit his first Major League home run and further proved the old adage that anything can happen in baseball.