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Best debuts in baseball history

Pirates right-hander Nick Kingham might not have been the most famous starting pitcher to take the mound Sunday, but many more fans were certainly aware of him by the time he stepped off the mound for the final time. Making his first MLB appearance since the Pirates drafted him in the fourth round of the 2010 Draft, Kingham was sensational as he carried a perfect-game bid against the Cardinals into the seventh inning.

Kingham's first foray into the Majors instantly ranked among the best debuts in Pirates history, and indeed deserves to be mentioned among the all-time best debuts in MLB history. The following is a look at some of the most memorable and dominant debuts made on a Major League diamond:

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Pirates right-hander Nick Kingham might not have been the most famous starting pitcher to take the mound Sunday, but many more fans were certainly aware of him by the time he stepped off the mound for the final time. Making his first MLB appearance since the Pirates drafted him in the fourth round of the 2010 Draft, Kingham was sensational as he carried a perfect-game bid against the Cardinals into the seventh inning.

Kingham's first foray into the Majors instantly ranked among the best debuts in Pirates history, and indeed deserves to be mentioned among the all-time best debuts in MLB history. The following is a look at some of the most memorable and dominant debuts made on a Major League diamond:

View Full Game Coverage


Video: STL@CIN: Poncedelon's father on son's sterling debut

Daniel Poncedeleon, Cardinals RHP (vs. Reds, July 23, 2018)
Final line: 7 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 3 K, 3 BB

Just 14 months after undergoing emergency surgery to repair a cracked skull -- an injury he sustained when being struck by a line drive during an outing for Triple-A Memphis -- Poncedeleon turned in one of the most memorable pitching debuts in history, and he did so while making a spot start for a Cardinals club playing its sixth game in five days. On a crisp night in Cincinnati, Poncedeleon carried a no-hitter through seven innings, becoming just the fifth pitcher to do so that deep into a game in his debut in the Expansion Era (since 1961), according to Elias. Alas, the 26-year-old was plagued by a 116-pitch count that kept him from attempting to become the first pitcher since 1892 to complete a no-no in his MLB debut. 

Video: STL@PIT: Kingham throws 6 2/3 perfect frames in debut

Kingham, Pirates RHP (vs. Cardinals, April 29, 2018)
Final line: 7 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 9 K, 0 BB

Using a looping slider to strike out nine St. Louis batters, Kingham was untouchable through 6 2/3 frames before surrendering a two-out single to Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong. It was the culmination of a long road to the Majors for Kingham, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2015 and also battled ankle injuries before finally getting his callup from Triple-A Indianapolis. Even though the 26-year-old rookie ultimately fell short of history, he joined All-Star Johnny Cueto as the only pitchers since at least 1908 to allow one or fewer hits, strike out nine batters and not walk any in his MLB debut.

Collin McHugh, Mets RHP (vs. Rockies, Aug. 23, 2012)
Final line 7 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 9 K, 1 BB

McHugh wouldn't have consistent success as a starting pitcher until he joined the Astros in 2014 (2.73 ERA in 25 starts that season), and struggled to a 7.59 ERA in eight appearances (four starts) as a rookie in 2012. But his big league debut was stellar -- he surrendered just two hits to the Rockies at Citi Field while walking one and striking out nine. The 25-year-old right-hander threw 100 pitches over seven scoreless innings, though the Mets would eventually lose the game, 1-0.

Video: PIT@WSH: Strasburg electrifies through seven frames

Stephen Strasburg, Nationals RHP (vs. Pirates, June 8, 2010)
Final line: 7 IP, 2 ER, 4 H, 14 K, 0 BB

In one of the most hyped and anticipated Major League debuts in recent history, Strasburg lived up to the reputation that preceded him out of San Diego State as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 Draft. The 21-year-old right-hander was overpowering against the Pirates at Nationals Park, fanning 14 Pittsburgh batters to become the third pitcher since at least 1908 to strike out 14 or more in his big league debut -- the Astros' J.R. Richard struck out 15 Giants in his Major League debut on Sept. 5, 1971, and Karl Spooner also struck out 15 in his debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers against the New York Giants on Sept. 22, 1954.

Johnny Cueto, Reds RHP (vs. D-backs, April 3, 2008)
Final line: 7 IP, 1 ER, 1 H, 10 K, 0 BB

Not all stellar debuts lead to sustained success during a rookie season, and Cueto suffered plenty of bumps later on in his rookie campaign. But the Dominican righty showed right away that his command and his stuff had elite potential when he shut down Arizona over seven excellent frames. Cueto was perfect until Justin Upton led off the sixth with a solo home run, but the rookie was unfazed, retiring the last six batters he faced after that. Cueto finished as the first pitcher in modern history to pair at least 10 strikeouts with no walks in his first MLB appearance.

Video: COL@NYM: Jennings tosses shutout, hits homer in debut

Jason Jennings, Rockies RHP (vs. Mets, Aug. 23, 2001)
Final line: 9 IP, 0 ER, 5 H, 8 K, 4 BB. Batting: 3-for-5, HR, 2 RBIs

Jennings was stellar not only on the mound, from which he tossed a shutout of the Mets in a 10-0 Rockies victory at Shea Stadium in his Major League debut, but at the plate, where he hit his first career homer. Jennings, who batted left-handed, lined an RBI single to right-center in the seventh inning off Mets reliever Grant Roberts, and then belted the solo homer off Donne Wall over the right-field wall in the ninth.

After making seven starts (4.58 ERA) in 2001, Jennings was named the NL Rookie of the Year in 2002, going 16-8 with a 4.52 ERA in 32 starts for Colorado. Overall, he pitched nine Major League seasons, posting a 4.95 ERA while also pitching for the Astros and Rangers. At the plate, he was a career .207 hitter and would hit one more homer in his career -- off Hall of Famer Greg Maddux at Wrigley Field on May 8, 2004.

Steve Woodard, Brewers RHP (vs. Blue Jays, July 28, 1997)
Final line: 8 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 12 K, 1 BB

As a youthful 22-year-old, Woodard made his MLB debut against the Blue Jays and didn't disappoint. He picked up his first win, allowing one hit and striking out 12 batters. He threw 76 of his 119 pitches for strikes. Woodard induced six ground balls and seven flyouts, while producing a 91 game score.

J.R. Richard, Astros RHP (vs. Giants, Sept. 5, 1971)
Final line: 9 IP, 3 R (2 ER), 7 H, 15 K, 3 BB

If fans were unaware of Richard's triple-digit fastball or low-90s slider before he took the mound against Willie Mays' Giants, they certainly were aware by the time he delivered his final pitch. Richard's 15 strikeouts (which tied a big league record for most in an MLB debut) included three punchouts of Mays and two more against Bobby Bonds. With Mays due up fourth in the ninth, Richard struck out the side to put an emphatic exclamation point on his first Major League appearance. Houston's ace-in-the-making would later record back-to-back 300-strikeout seasons, in 1978 and '79, before a stroke ended his career at age 30.

Luis Tiant, Indians RHP vs. Yankees, July 19, 1964)
Final line: 9 IP, 0 ER, 4 H, 11 K, 4 BB

Tiant was dominant in his MLB debut against the Yankees. He pitched a shutout and struck out 11 batters against a Yankees lineup that included Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle and All-Stars Roger Maris and Tom Tresh. Tiant also outdueled one of the game's best pitchers, Whitey Ford. Tiant finished his career as a three-time All-Star with 229 wins and 2,416 strikeouts.

Video: SF Retired Number: No. 27, Juan Marichal

Juan Marichal, Giants RHP (vs. Phillies, July 19, 1960)
Final line: 9 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 12 K, 1 BB

Marichal opened a sensational career with a sensational debut at Candlestick Park, dominating against the Phillies in the first of 11 rookie starts (2.66 ERA) for the right-hander in 1960. Marichal had a no-hitter for 7 2/3 innings before pinch-hitter Clay Dalrymple singled to center field. In a sign of things to come, Marichal retired the next four Phillies to complete San Francisco's 2-0 victory. Marichal posted a 2.89 ERA over a 16-year Hall-of-Fame career, and was inducted in Cooperstown in 1983.

Karl Spooner, Dodgers RHP (vs. Giants, Sept. 22, 1954)
Final line: 9 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 15 K, 3 BB

Spooner pitched just two seasons in the Majors -- totaling 31 starts -- but his first was memorable. The left-hander struck out a record 15 batters for the Brooklyn Dodgers against the crosstown-rival Giants in a mop-up game toward the end of the season. Spooner's highmark of punchouts has been matched just once since by a pitcher in his debut (Richard on Sept. 5, 1971). For context, the Giants, who went on to sweep the Indians in that year's World Series, had already clinched the National League pennant, and had pulled most of their star starters early, including Mays.

Al Jurisich, Cardinals RHP (vs. Reds, Apr. 26, 1944)
Final line: 12 2/3 IP, ER, 8 H, 7 K, 4 BB

Jurisich, making his big league debut at age 22, dueled 35-year-old veteran Bucky Walters in a game that was scoreless into the bottom of the 13th inning at Crosley Field. Jurisich opened the frame with a pair of strikeouts, retiring Woody Williams and Gee Walker before Frank McCormick ended the game with a walk-off homer. Despite taking the loss, Jurisich's 12 2/3-inning effort is the second-longest by a pitcher making his debut since at least 1908 -- only Pete Henning's debut for the Kansas City Packers against the Chicago Chi-Feds on Apr. 17, 1914, was longer, at 13 innings (3 ER, 12 H, 5 SO, 10 BB).

Jurisich would pitch four seasons in the Majors, for the Cardinals from 1944-45, and the Phillies from 1946-47. He had a career 4.24 ERA in 104 appearances (42 starts).

Bumpus Jones, Reds RHP (vs. Pirates, Oct. 15, 1892)
Final line: 9 IP, 4 BB, 3 K, one unearned run, no hits allowed

After well more than a century of Major League Baseball games, Jones stands alone as the only pitcher to twirl a no-hitter in his debut. Jones was not perfect on this autumn afternoon -- he issued four walks and allowed an unearned run -- but the Pirates were unable to land a hit off the righty nonetheless. Jones' magical debut is all the more unique because the rest of his career was so imperfect; he allowed 37 earned runs on 42 hits and 33 walks over his next seven appearances and was out of the Majors by 1893.

The only other pitchers to throw a no-hitter in their first Major League starts are Ted Breitenstein (1891) and Bobo Holloman (1953), though each of them made a handful of relief appearances before etching their names into the record books.

Video: COL@ARI: Story hits two home runs in his MLB debut

Trevor Story, Rockies SS (vs. D-backs, April 4, 2016)
Final line: 2-for-6, 2 HR, 4 RBIs

The Rockies' shortstop homered twice on Opening Day in 2016, spoiling the D-backs debut of Zack Greinke, coming off a '15 season in which he compiled the Majors' lowest ERA (1.66) in 20 years. Story is one of just five players to homer twice in his big league debut -- with J.P. Arencibia (2010), Mark Quinn (1999), Bert Campaneris (1964) and Bob Nieman (1951) -- and is the only to do so while making his big league debut on Opening Day. Story went on to homer seven times in his first six games, which remains a Major League record. Other than Story's seven, the most homers through a player's first career six games is four, done five times.

J.P. Arencibia, Blue Jays C (vs. Rays, Aug. 7, 2010)
Final line: 4-for-5, 2 HR, 3 RBIs

One of the other five players to homer twice in his big league debut was Arencibia, as part of a 4-for-5 day for the Blue Jays' catcher in their 17-11 win over the Rays on Aug. 7, 2010. Arencibia is the only player in MLB history to collect four hits in his debut while also homering. The 2007 first-round Draft pick by Toronto was out of the game less than six years later, announcing his retirement after finishing with a career .212 batting average, 80 home runs and 245 RBIs over 466 games.

Video: CHC@CIN: Castro hits a three-run shot in his debut

Starlin Castro, Cubs SS (vs. Reds, May 7, 2010)
Final line: 2-for-5, 3B, HR, 6 RBIs

Castro set a Major League record for most RBIs in a debut when he drove in six against the Reds at Great American Ball Park on May 7, 2010. The 20-year-old shortstop launched a three-run homer off Cincinnati starter Homer Bailey in the second inning to put Chicago ahead, and then hit a bases-clearing triple off reliever Micah Owings in the sixth. The Cubs won the game, 14-7, and Castro would go on to slash .300/.347/.408 in 125 games, finishing fifth in NL Rookie of the Year voting.

Kazuo Matsui, Mets 2B (April 6, 2004 vs. Braves)
Final line: 3-for-3, 2 2B, HR, 3 RBIs, 2 BB (1 IBB)

The name Kazuo Matsui still reverberates among the Mets faithful. Matsui hit a home run in his first plate appearance for three consecutive seasons (2004, 2005, and 2006) and is one of a handful of players to homer in his MLB debut. Against the Braves, he crushed a leadoff home run and followed that up with two doubles and two walks. Matsui finished his career with a .267/.321/.380 slash line and 102 steals over seven seasons.

Mark Quinn, Royals OF/DH (Sept. 14, 1999 vs. Angels)
Final line: 3-for-4, 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBIs

Though his Major League career would only last four seasons, Quinn had a debut to remember, becoming the third player since at least 1908 to homer twice in his first big league game (with Story and Arencibia, there are now five). In the second game of a doubleheader against the Angels, Quinn batted fifth in Kansas City's lineup, as the designated hitter. In his first plate appearance, he popped out to third base in the first inning. But in the fourth, he doubled to left off Angels starter Mike Fyhrie for his first career hit. He then belted a two-run homer to left-center off Fyhrie in the sixth, and hit another two-run shot in eighth, this one off reliever Shigetoshi Hasegawa.

Bert Campaneris, A's SS (July 23, 1964 vs. Twins)
Final line: 3-for-4, 2 HR, 3 RBIs, BB

Before becoming a six-time All-Star and three-time World Series champion, Campaneris announced his presence on the Major League scene with a two-home-run debut against the Twins in Minnesota. Both came off Twins left-hander Jim Kaat, the first a solo shot to left in the first inning, and the second a two-run shot to left in the seventh. Campaneris' homers accounted for all of Kansas City's offense until a Doc Edwards home run in the top of the 11th lifted the A's to a 4-3 win.

The speedy Campaneris would go on to lead the AL in steals six times, including four consecutive years, from 1965-68. But despite his power demonstration in his big league debut, Campaneris would never have more than eight homers in a season outside a 22-homer campaign in 1970.

Video: MLB Network takes a look back at McCovey's career

Willie McCovey, Giants 1B (July 30, 1959 vs. Phillies)
Final line: 4-for-4, 2 3B, 2 RBIs

McCovey didn't debut until the Giants' 101st game of the year, yet he still went on to win the National League Rookie of the Year Award after hitting .354/.429/.656 with 13 homers and 38 RBIs. Not known much for his speed -- he had just 26 stolen bases over his 22-year career -- McCovey legged out two of his career 46 triples in his debut as a 21-year-old, and remains one of just four players to hit that many in his first career game. His immediate impact was a sign of many remarkable things to come over a Hall of Fame career.

Bob Nieman, Browns LF (Sept. 14, 1951 vs. Red Sox)
Final line: 3-for-5, 2 HR, 4 RBIs

The Browns wound up losing to the Red Sox, 9-6, in Nieman's debut, but he drove in four of St. Louis' six runs behind a pair of homers. Both came off Boston starter Mickey McDermott -- a solo shot in the second inning, and a two-run blast in the third.

Nieman went on to hit 123 more homers over a 12-season career during which he also played for the Tigers, White Sox, Orioles, Cardinals, Indians and Giants. He finished with a career slash line of .295/.373/.474.


Video: CWS@TEX: Gallo gets doused while discussing MLB debut

Joey Gallo: The Rangers slugger went 3-for-4 with a homer and four RBIs to finish a triple shy of the cycle on June 3, 2015.

Daniel Nava: Nava's debut with the Red Sox quickly left a great impression. He hit a grand slam in his first at-bat, against the Phillies on June 12, 2010.

Video: CHC@ATL: Heyward hits three-run homer in first at-bat

Jason Heyward: The dynamic outfielder went 2-for-5 with a homer and four RBIs as a member of the Braves on April 5, 2010. Ironically, his breakout MLB debut came on Opening Day against his current team, the Cubs.

• Will Clark: The longtime Giants' first baseman took Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan deep on his first career swing on April 8, 1986.

Matt Kelly is a reporter for based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.

Daniel Kramer is a reporter for based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @DKramer_.

Manny Randhawa is a reporter for based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB.

Jaylon Thompson is a reporter for based in Atlanta. Follow him on Twitter at @jaylonthompson.