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June 10, 2008
Four In a Row
Over this past weekend, the San Diego Padres completed a run of four consecutive 2-1 victories. This was ballyhooed as the first time any team has ever done that, which isn't too surprising. In fact, I started to wonder how many times teams were involved in four consecutive games with the same score--2-1 or otherwise. I asked Bil Burke to check our database, which goes back to 1957. Not surprisingly, the examples are sparse. The Padres are the only team to win four straight games by the same score, period. I would be very surprised if research were done prior to '57 and it was discovered that any team ever won five in a row by the same score or if there were too many other examples of four straight. (Bil reports there were plenty of threepeats.) One could imagine the chances being greater in the Deadball Era, when low-scoring games limited the number of outcomes in ways not possible in higher-scoring eras. Even with that, though, I would guess that four is the upper limit.
The Pads are the only team to have won four same-score games in the last 50 years, but in that time, there have been two instances when a team lost four consecutive games by the same score. I wonder if the managers involved, Cookie Lavagetto and Alvin Dark, reacted as Mets manager Willie Randolph did after his team's third straight 2-1 loss to San Diego when he said, "We have to find some consistency in our offense." Point of order, Mr. Randolph: consistency is clearly not the issue here!
What follows are rundowns of those two previous same-score streaks:
Dateline 1958: Washington Senators lose four consecutive 2-0 games
September 19: The Senators dropped a 5-1 contest in Cleveland the day before and moved on to Boston for a three-game series. In the opener, they managed 10 baserunners off of Boston starter and winner Tom Brewer. Two of them got as far as third base. Jackie Jensen and Ted Williams drove in the Red Sox runs.
September 20: Frank Sullivan shut the Sens down on four hits and one walk while Vito Valentinetti went the route for the losing side. The game was scoreless until the bottom of the eighth when Jensen drove in two with a bases-loaded single.
September 21: It was Ike Delock's turn to blank Washington, which he did, allowing seven singles and two walks in the process. The Senators had two men on three different times, but a double play killed one of those chances, and Clint Courtney was caught off second after a single by Julio Becquer. Pete Runnels had three hits for Boston and drove in the go-ahead run; Williams had the other RBI. Total attendance for the series at Fenway Park was 26,519, or less than capacity for one game.
September 22: It was on to Baltimore, where Skinny Brown shut down the Senators on six hits and three walks. He also scored the first run after walking and coming around on a two-run double by Bob Nieman. The Senators got two men on twice, but couldn't capitalize. For the four games, they hit a combined .180/.248/.188.
Breaking it: The Senators broke the string the next day when they scored in the first inning. Singles by Albie Pearson, Ed Fitz Gerald, and Roy Sievers provided their first run in 38 innings. They added another in the second when Johnny Schaive singled home Harmon Killebrew. Pedro Ramos couldn't hold the 2-0 lead, though, and the Orioles, behind a complete game by Jack Harshman, prevailed 3-2. Washington was back at it the next day, dropping yet another 2-0 contest to the Orioles, giving them five losses by that score in six games. This same-score streak was part of a larger schneid that saw them drop the final 13 games of the '58 season.
Dateline 1961: Giants lose four consecutive 3-2 games
July 4: In the first game of the holiday doubleheader at Wrigley Field, the Giants drubbed the Cubs 19-3 as Orlando Cepeda went 5-for-5 with eight runs driven in and Willie Mays was 4-for-4, scoring all four times he reached base. Mays homered in the nightcap to give the Giants a 1-0 lead in the fourth and they added another run as well. The Cubs answered with two of their own in the home half as George Altman and Ron Santo did the driving in. Santo then popped a game-winning solo homer in the eighth off of reliever Dick LeMay. The Giants got the first two men on in the ninth, but a double-play grounder by Jim Marshall left it up to pinch-hitter Willie McCovey, who was caught looking by Bob Anderson.
July 5: Back home to San Francisco to face the Reds. Vada Pinson and Gordy Coleman homered for Cincinnati, and Mike McCormick also walked Pinson with the bases loaded. The Giants got their first run without benefit of a hit when Roadblock Jones walked Matty Alou, hit Harvey Kuenn, and then uncorked a pitch that was apparently so wild that it allowed them both to move up two bases. The Giants came very close to tying the game in the ninth: after Mays struck out, Cepeda and Hobie Landrith singled, bringing in Jim Brosnan to replace Jones. He whiffed Tom Haller, but Felipe singled to load the bases. Brosnan walked Jim Davenport to force in a run and was replaced by Bill Henry, who retired Ed Bressoud to preserve the 3-2 win.
July 6: Juan Marichal started for the Giants, but was trailing 2-0 when he left after five, allowing eight hits including a home run to Coleman. Felipe Alou singled home Davenport in the home seventh to make it 2-1, but the Reds got the run back the next inning when Frank Robinson led off with a triple and scored on a single by Gus Bell. Jim O'Toole went the distance for Cincinnati, surrendering a solo homer to Ed Bailey in the ninth to get the game to the now-familiar 3-2 count.
July 7: It took three teams to put San Francisco into this august category. Next into town were the Cardinals. The Giants built a 2-0 lead on starter Al "Bozo" Cicotte as Bailey homered in the second and Mays drove in Matty Alou with a double in the sixth. Stan Musial hit a sacrifice fly to score Bill White in the seventh. In a very modern turn, Giants manager Dark used four pitchers in the ninth, but the Cards scored twice to take the lead. The big hit was a triple by Don Taussig which scored Musial to tie the game. Taussig scored on a groundout by Red Schoendienst. In the home ninth, Craig Anderson--who would go 3-17 for the expansion Mets the next year--retired Matty Alou, Mays, and McCovey in order to close it out.
Breaking it: The possibility of a fifth straight 3-2 loss vanished in the third inning the next day when Mays hit a three-run bomb to put the G'ints up 5-0. The Cardinals eventually won 9-7, however. It's hard to conceive of a team with Mays, McCovey, Cepeda, and Felipe Alou going four straight games only scoring eight times, but that is one of the game's charms. The Giants scored the most runs in the National League in 1961 (just under five per game), but they did have six (6) four-game streaks where they scored eight or fewer runs (some of which were mutually inclusive, of course).
There is a tendency to overhype achievements by not qualifying them enough. In the case of what the Padres did, I believe it was qualified too much; winning four straight games by any score is an incredibly rare feat.