IBB with a man on 1st? Yordan gets the Bonds treatment

October 15th, 2022

Only the scariest hitters get intentionally walked with a runner on first. In the postseason, with baserunners at a premium, it’s even rarer. In the overwhelming majority of cases, it just doesn’t make sense to willingly put a runner into scoring position.

But it has happened. Baseball fans will recognize every name that teams were too afraid to pitch to, instead opting to put a runner on second and face the next batter. It’s happened six times with runners on first and second, but in those situations, a runner was already in scoring position. An IBB with only a runner on first is the only situation that actually creates a runner in scoring position.

On Thursday, Yordan Alvarez became the latest one. The Astros slugger came to the plate in the bottom of the 8th inning with a runner on first and Houston clinging to a one-run lead.

Alvarez became the 5th player in postseason history to get intentionally walked with a runner on first base (and no runner on second or third). Here are all six times it’s happened and how they turned out.

Yordan Alvarez, 2022 ALDS, Game 2

Two innings earlier, Alvarez hit his second go-ahead home run in as many days, becoming the only player in postseason history with multiple go-ahead homers in the 6th inning or later with his team trailing.

So when he came to the plate in the 8th inning, Mariners manager Scott Servais wanted no part of him. Seattle gave Alvarez the free pass to bring Alex Bregman to the plate with a chance to extend Houston’s lead heading into the 9th.

It didn’t go as planned for the Mariners. On the first pitch, Bregman lined a single into right field to score Kyle Tucker from second base, upping the Astros’ lead to two. Closer Ryan Pressly would come in to pitch a scoreless ninth inning, sealing the win and putting Houston on the brink of the ALCS.

Barry Bonds, 2003 NLDS, Game 3

You knew you’d see this name on the list. Bonds has more than twice as many intentional walks (688) as anyone in baseball history. The home run king got the same treatment in the postseason.

With the game tied 2-2 in the top of the 7th inning, Bonds came to the plate with Marquis Grissom on first and one out. Instead of pitching to perhaps the best power hitter of all time, Marlins pitcher Chad Fox intentionally walked Bonds to push the go-ahead run into scoring position.

Two pitches later, Grissom was caught stealing at third. The Marlins escaped the threat when Andres Galarraga struck out on three pitches to end the inning. Ivan Rodriguez would eventually hit a walk-off single in the bottom of the 11th to put the Marlins one win away from the NLCS.

Barry Bonds, 2002 WS, Game 6

Bonds is the only player in baseball history to be intentionally walked twice with a runner on first (and no runner on second or third). With the Giants up 3-2 in the series, the Angels didn’t mess around with Bonds, who came up in the top of the first inning with two outs and a runner on first.

One batter later, Benito Santiago popped out to end the inning. San Francisco would go up 5-0 into the 7th inning before their bullpen squandered the lead, giving up three runs in the bottom of the 7th and 8th.

After losing Game 6 in a heartbreak, the Giants would drop Game 7 in what would be Bonds' only World Series appearance.

Willie Stargell, 1979 NLCS G2

Stargell did it all for the Pirates during their 1979 World Series run. He became the first player to be named the MVP of the LCS and the World Series in the same season, and is still only one of eight today.

That’s why, when Stargell came to the plate in the top of the 10th inning in a one-run game, the Reds opted to send him to first. Pittsburgh had already taken a 3-2 lead a batter earlier when Dave Parker hit an RBI single. But Cincinnati couldn’t stomach any more.

It worked out in that inning thanks to some clutch pitching from Doug Bair, but that’s about all that went right for the Reds in the 1979 NLCS. The Pirates held on to win Game 2 and took Game 3 two days later to sweep the series.

Frank Robinson, 1970 ALCS G3

Fresh off a second-straight 108+ win season, Robinson and the Orioles went into the 1970 postseason looking to bounce back from a World Series loss to the Mets in 1969. And boy, did they.

On their way to winning the 1970 World Series crown, the Orioles had to go through the Twins, led by Harmon Killebrew. The Orioles took the first two games of the series against Minnesota. After allowing at least 10 runs in both games, and already down 2-0 in this game, the Twins didn’t want to risk going down even more.

First-year Twins manager Bill Rigney gave the four-finger signal to put Robinson on with Jim Kaat on the mound. The move paid off when Boog Powell lined out one batter later to end the inning, but the Orioles would win the game 6-1 on their way to the championship.

Mel Ott, 1937 WS G5

One of baseball’s all-time great sluggers fittingly became the first hitter to be intentionally walked with a runner on first and no one on second or third during the deciding game of the 1937 World Series.

With his team down by two, Ott came to the plate in the 7th inning having hit a home run four innings earlier, accounting for the Giants’ only runs. Instead of giving him a chance to tie up the game, Lefty Gomez chose to face Jimmy Ripple.

It played out perfectly. Gomez would retire Ripple via groundout to put the Bronx Bombers six outs away from another World Series title, which they ultimately sealed.