Earlier this week, the Yankees faced the sensation that is Shohei Ohtani. It did not take Ohtani long to make an impact in his return to the Bronx, homering in his first at-bat in the series opener, and following that with two the next day. We also got to see both sides of his two-way player game, as he pitched for the first time against the Yankees on Thursday, although that didn’t go nearly as well for him.
Naturally, seeing him do both gets us thinking about things like Yankees pitchers hitting. With the DH, it’s a thing we don’t see much anymore. When we do, it often isn’t them swinging away. If runners are on, the at-bat is almost certainly leading to a bunt attempt. When there’s not, pitchers aren’t exactly launching extra-base hits.
However, there was a time before the DH. Even now, there’s still a chance that a Yankee pitcher can do something in an interleague game. So, let’s go back in time and look at some of the best and most important Yankees’ pitchers’ hitting moments.
In terms of importance, it’s hard to look past a Vic Raschi at-bat in Game 6 of the 1952 World Series. The Yankees were down 3-2 in the series and had just evened the game at one when Raschi stepped to the plate in the seventh inning. With a runner on second and two outs, he singled to score the go-ahead run. The Yankees eventually won the game 3-2, and won the series the next day. In terms of Championship Win Probably Added, Raschi’s single contributed 9.2 percent to the Yankees’ chances of winning the World Series.
It wasn’t as important in a championship sense, but the biggest hit from a Yankee pitcher in a single game came from Red Ruffing in 1931. Down 3-2 with two outs in the top of the ninth, Ruffing came to the plate with a runner on. Even though Ruffing was a decent hitting pitcher, it seemed like a pretty good spot to send up an actual hitter, but letting him swing away turned out well enough. Ruffing hit a two-run home run, putting the Yankees in front. In terms of Win Probability, the home run took them from just 12 percent to 88 percent. Despite that, Ruffing and Lefty Gomez combined to actually blow the lead in the bottom of the ninth, and the Yankees ended up losing 5-4 in 11 innings.
Let’s take a look at some of the Yankee pitchers that sit atop various pitcher only categories. Three pitchers, the most notable of which was Mel Stottlemyre on September 26, 1964, have recorded five hits in a game. Raschi makes another appearance, holding the Yankee pitching record for most RBI in a game, driving home seven in a 1953 game. Not counting a game where Babe Ruth did it and then later came in to pitch, three times a Yankee pitcher has had a multi-home run game. Ruffing did it twice, and Spud Chandler once.
And of course, any mention of Yankees’ pitchers hitting can’t go by without bringing up the time that Mariano Rivera drew a bases-loaded walk off Francisco Rodríguez.
That would remain the first and only time Rivera recorded an RBI. Naturally, he closed things out on the mound after that for the 500th save of his career. While all of those were probably fun to watch, I still think I’d rather watch Ohtani hit.