A Cincinnati Reds-Pittsburgh Pirates matchup doesn’t evoke much intrigue these days. One team is embracing a complete rebuild that figures to distance it from contention for the foreseeable future. While still competitive, the other is closer to that point than it might be comfortable admitting after trading its two biggest superstars in the offseason.
But the beauty of baseball is that even the most mundane of midseason matchups can give us something to talk about. That’s exactly what these teams did Friday night when they played a nine-inning game that had baseball statisticians scouring through the record books for similarly strange box scores.
Spoiler: They didn’t find many. Only a handful, in fact, and just one over the last 30 seasons.
What made this game strange?
The Pirates defeated the Reds 3-2. That, in and of itself, is not strange considering Cincinnati has the worst record in the National League.
What is unique is that the teams combined for five runs and 13 hits, yet none of those five runs were driven home by one of the 13 hits.
According to ESPN Stats and Info, which cited the Elias Sports Bureau, no game has had more runs score with none coming directly from a RBI hit over the last 30 years.
We had an odd one with the Pirates and Reds tonight. None of the 5 runs came directly from a RBI hit.
The 5 combined runs by the Pirates and Reds tonight are tied for the most in any game in the last 30 years in which there were no RBI hits. h/t @EliasSports
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 16, 2018
We know. That’s a lot to digest. It’s also completely random. Some might even argue it’s completely useless to keep track of such statistical anomalies. We’re not here to argue for or against that. But since someone is keeping track of it, we feel it’s our duty to acknowledge how weird it is.
How did the runs score?
To be clear, there were RBIs in this game. Three of them to be exact. Those three runs scored on sacrifice flies. The others scored on a not-so-productive out and a defensive assist commonly referred to as an error.
Here’s the complete rundown:
• Pittsburgh’s Colin Moran scored on Gregory Polanco’s double play grounder in the second inning.
• Cincinnati’s Scott Schebler score’s on Scooter Gennent’s third-inning sacrifice fly.
• Cincinnati’s Adam Duvall scores on a throwing error by Pittsburgh pitcher Chad Kuhl.
• Pittsburgh’s Elias Diaz scores on Starling Marte’s fifth-inning sacrifice fly.
• Pittsburgh’s Josh Harrison scores on Colin Moran’s fifth-inning sacrifice fly.
Has there ever been five or more runs in a game with no RBIs?
A game? No.
One team in one game? Yes. But only once according to Baseball Reference.
On Aug. 11, 1971, the Reds defeated the Houston Astros 5-1 without a single player being credit with a RBI. Cincinnati scored three runs in the sixth inning on a pair of errors. One inning later, the Reds added two more on errors. Pete Rose scored in the both innings.
Cincinnati finished that game with five hits. Houston finished with four errors.
That game might be able to claim the strangest box score ever. Friday’s game certainly could be the strangest we’ll see this season.
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