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D-backs make position-player history on mound

Descalso, Avila combine for 4 2/3 innings in loss to Rockies
MLB.com

Coors Field is no stranger to fireworks. But in Wednesday's game between the Rockies and D-backs, there were so many that it caused some true craziness on the field.

With one out in the fourth inning, the Rockies had already scored 14 runs. And so the D-backs did something that often happens in a blowout -- but rarely so early. They brought in a position player to pitch.

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Coors Field is no stranger to fireworks. But in Wednesday's game between the Rockies and D-backs, there were so many that it caused some true craziness on the field.

With one out in the fourth inning, the Rockies had already scored 14 runs. And so the D-backs did something that often happens in a blowout -- but rarely so early. They brought in a position player to pitch.

View Full Game Coverage

Infielder Daniel Descalso took over on the mound for Yoshihisa Hirano, and when he was done after 2 2/3 innings, catcher Alex Avila replaced him and pitched the final two frames. Yes, two position players pitched for Arizona in the same game -- and they recorded more outs than the D-backs' real pitchers. Shelby Miller, Jorge De La Rosa, T.J. McFarland and Hirano combined for just 3 1/3 innings in the 19-2 loss, more than a full inning less than Descalso and Avila's combined 4 2/3.

After such a strange night in Colorado, MLB.com is breaking down all the unique "position-player-pitching" facts and figures from the game.

• Typically when position players pitch, they don't do so until the final inning or two. But that wasn't the case for Descalso, who shifted from second base to replace Hirano in the 14-1 game. It was the earliest a position player had taken the mound in a game in nearly 40 years.

According to STATS Inc., the last player to do so was Sal Bando, who moved from third to the mound in the bottom of the fourth inning for the Brewers at Kansas City on Aug. 29, 1979. Milwaukee was down 12-4 at the time, and Bando tossed three innings in an eventual 18-8 loss.

Video: ARI@COL: Descalso strikes out Parra in the 4th

• Descalso became the first true position player to pitch at least 2 2/3 innings in a game since the Cardinals' Jose Oquendo on May 14, 1988. But the circumstances were far different for Oquendo. St. Louis was hosting Atlanta in a marathon contest, and after seven other Redbirds pitchers had toed the slab, Oquendo entered in the top of the 16th inning of a 5-5 tie. The 12-year veteran infielder -- and current Cardinals third-base coach -- got through three innings unscathed before giving up two runs in the 19th to take the loss.

• Descalso became the first position player in D-backs franchise history to pitch more than one inning in a game. His replacement, Avila, became the second. Wednesday marked the 10th game in franchise history that Arizona used a position player to pitch -- four of those were Descalso. The D-backs had also never before used multiple position players to pitch in the same game.

Video: ARI@COL: Avila finishes off 2-shutout innings

• While this was the MLB pitching debut for Avila, Descalso is no stranger to a big league mound. He's pitched in five games in his career. Before Wednesday, Descalso threw one-third of an inning for the Cardinals in 2014, two innings over a pair of appearances for Arizona last year, and he had another outing of two-thirds of an inning on May 4 against the Astros.

• There aren't a lot of position players who've pitched as often as Descalso. In MLB's divisional era (since 1969), the only other true position players to pitch at least five times -- not counting two-way players like Shohei Ohtani or converted players like Rick Ankiel -- are catcher Chris Gimenez (10 pitching appearances), infielder Vance Law (seven pitching appearances), catcher Drew Butera (six pitching appearances) and infielder Aaron Miles (five pitching appearances).

• Amazingly, Descalso had not allowed a run -- or a hit, or a walk -- in any of his previous four pitching games before Wednesday (in three total innings pitched). In the fifth inning, Descalso served up a home run to Rockies starter German Marquez, whose 447-foot shot into the seats in left-center field is the third-longest homer hit by a pitcher since Statcast™ began tracking in 2015. (Colorado's Jon Gray set the record of 467 feet last July 5, also at Coors Field).

Video: ARI@COL: Marquez belts his 1st MLB homer off Descalso

• According to Elias, the last time a pitcher homered off a position player was June 23, 1986, when the Giants' Mike LaCoss went deep against the Padres' Dane Iorg at San Francisco's Candlestick Park.

• Two position players pitching for the same team in the same game isn't unheard of. Just within the past few years, Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney did it for the Blue Jays in a 19-inning loss the Indians in 2016, while the A's, Indians and Rays all resorted to it in blowout losses in '15.

However, the last time that a team used two pitchers considered to be position players for at least two innings apiece in the same game was way back on July 31, 1956. On that day, the Cardinals led the Pirates 7-0 after five innings, before Pittsburgh turned to Johnny O'Brien and Eddie O'Brien for two scoreless innings apiece to finish off the loss. The O'Briens were twins, and primarily infielders, although Johnny made eight pitching appearances for the Bucs in '56 and 16 more the next year, and Eddie got on the mound five times from '56-58.

Before that, the previous instance involved a Hall of Famer. On July 22, 1945, the Phillies used Rene Monteagudo for 4 1/3 innings and later went to legendary slugger Jimmie Foxx for the last two in Game 1 of a doubleheader at Wrigley Field. Foxx didn't allow a run and in fact posted a 1.59 ERA over 22 2/3 innings that season, at age 37.

Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewSimonMLB.

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.

Arizona Diamondbacks, Alex Avila, Daniel Descalso