Back on April 14th against the Blue Jays, Michael King came into the game in a bit of a jam. Normal Yankees’ closer Aroldis Chapman had one of his games were he has absolutely no idea where the ball is going, as he walked the bases loaded without recording an out in the ninth inning. Leading just 3-0 and now facing the go-ahead run at the plate, Aaron Boone made the move to bring in King.
After recording a strikeout, King and the Yankees’ defense managed a game-ending double play. Despite coming in for a very difficult spot, King not only managed to save the game, but did so without a run scoring.
He also managed to get through an entire inning of work in just two batters faced. That’s not exactly the rarest thing, as his appearance that day became the 75th time in Yankee history where a pitcher has a final line of one inning pitched in two batters faced. The previous instance had come from Jonathan Loáisiga in 2019.
However, it is technically possible for a pitcher to get through an inning in even fewer batters faced. So, let’s dig into the history books and look at the two times a pitcher has a final line of one inning pitched in just one batter faced.
On August 26, 1927, Yankees’ starter George Pipgras came out for the sixth inning against the Tigers in a game tied at two. However, things quickly went awry for him. A walk, three straight singles, and an error gave the Tigers two runs with still no outs recorded in the inning.
At that point, manager Miller Huggins went to the bullpen and brought in Joe Giard. Facing Johnny Bassler, Giard induced a double play, which did score a run, but most importantly got two outs.
Now, officially, Giard is listed as having only faced one batter, but he technically did throw pitches to a second. Detroit’s Lil Stoner (yes, really) stepped to the plate, but Bob Fothergill was out attempting to steal home during Stoner’s at-bat. As Stoner did conclude his plate appearance before that sequence, Giard is credited as only facing one batter in that inning.
In the top of the seventh, the Yankees rallied with four runs, taking the lead. At that point, Huggins brought in Wilcy Moore, who had been having a more trustworthy season than Giard at that point. That sealed the one inning, one batter faced fun fact for Giard, as the Yankees eventually won the game 8-6.
The other instance has no “kinda sorta faced a second batter” caveats, although the three outs came in a similar equation.
Red Ruffing had thrown eight solid innings for the Yankees on September 6, 1934 when he came back out for the ninth against the White Sox. However, in going for the complete game, he allowed a trio of singles to start the ninth. The third single scored a run, cutting what was a 5-2 lead to just two runs. With the tying run now set to come to the plate, Joe McCarthy brought in Johnny Murphy.
With runners on first and second, Murphy came in to face White Sox pinch-hitter Charlie Uhlir. At some point during the at-bat, Chicago’s Jimmy Dykes strayed a little too far off second base and was picked off by catcher Arndt Jorgens. After that, Murphy struck out Uhlir with the other Chicago runner, Marty Hopkins, getting thrown out trying to steal second. The strike ‘em out/throw ‘em out double play sealed a 5-3 Yankees win, and also ensured that Murphy finished with the one inning pitched, one batter faced final line.
It should be noted that there are almost certainly instances where a pitcher did something similar and then continued pitching. Giard and Murphy’s games are the only ones where a sequence like that was the entirety of their play that day.
Three pitchers apparently have a final line of an inning pitched with no batters faced, although all were from 1917 or before. Therefore, there’s no play-by-play listings for any of those games, and it’s unclear exactly what happened there.
In thinking through how baseball works, I believe the maximum amount of innings a pitcher could throw while technically facing one batter is 1.1. In order for that to happen, I believe a reliever would have to come in with the bases loaded and nobody out. All three runners would have to get thrown out before the batter at the plate is retired. The pitcher would then come out for the next inning and get the leadoff hitter out. Needless to say, that sounds fairly improbable, so Giard and Murphy will likely hold that Yankees’ record forever.