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A few days ago

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, Neil Walker of the Pirates drove in all 5* of his team’s runs in a 5-0 win over the Cubs, hitting a grand slam and driving in another run on a sac fly. In this post, I look at some of the greatest performances by players who drove in all the runs their team scored in a game.

* It was very nearly all 6 runs; Walker also hit into a fielder’s choice in which teammate Andrew McCutchen was thrown out at the plate. And of course, since the Cubs didn’t score, Walker drove in all the runs scored by either team, placing him in an exclusive subset of players in this post.

Knocking in 5 runs while your team scores 5 is fairly rare (more on that later), but it’s not close to the record. In the boxscore era (since 1918), the most RBIs while driving in all of a team’s runs is, amazingly, 9:

Rk Player Date Tm Opp Rslt PA R H HR RBI WPA BOP Pos
1 Mike Greenwell
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1996-09-02
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BOS
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SEA
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W 9-8 5 2 4 2 9 1.051 8 LF
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com
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Generated 8/3/2012.

Greenwell’s game went like this:

  • Flyout in the 3rd (-0.03 WPA)
  • 2-Run HR in the 5th to cut the Red Sox’ deficit to 5-2 (+0.08 WPA)
  • Grand Slam in the 7th to give the Red Sox a 6-5 lead (+0.33 WPA)
  • 2-Run double in the 8th to tie the game 8-8 (+0.32 WPA)
  • RBI single in the 10th to give the Red Sox a 9-8 lead (+0.35 WPA)

Put all that together and Greenwell’s game is probably the greatest combination of production (i.e., RBIs) and timing (i.e., clutch hits) in baseball history. The reason for this is that most games in which a player drives in a huge number of runs end up being blowouts. In all, 33 players (since 1918) have had at least 9 RBIs in a game; only 3 of those games were decided by fewer than 6 runs. Thus, those high-RBI guys had few opportunities to drive in important runs; many of their RBIs were all-but-useless insurance runs.

Greenwell’s 1.051 WPA is by far the highest of any player with 9+ RBIs in a game*. It is no coincidence that the next-highest came from the only other games that weren’t blowouts. Vladimir Guerrero had 9 RBIs and a +0.648 WPA in a 10-7 Angels win

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over the Red Sox in 2004 and Erubiel Durazo had 9 RBIs and a +0.622 WPA in a 12-9 Diamondbacks win
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over the Phillies in 2002.

* With the caveat that WPA has only been tracked since about 1950; however, since none of the pre-WPA games were close, I feel confident that Greenwell would still be on top. Greenwell’s WPA mark is actually the highest even if you lower the RBI requirement to 8. Dave Kingman came close, though, with 8 RBIs and a +1.031 WPA in this game

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.

That game marked Greenwell’s last hurrah as a MLB slugger. It came in his final season, in which he drove in only 44 runs total (so over 20% of his yearly total came in one game), and he had just 10 RBIs in his career after that game. He didn’t drive in more than 3 runs in any other game that year. His previous career high had been 6 RBIs in a game, which he did in both 1991

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and 1989
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.

Next up, a couple players have driven in all 8 of their team’s runs… though it hasn’t happened in a while:

Rk Player Date Tm Opp Rslt PA R H HR RBI WPA BOP Pos
1 Bob Johnson
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1938-06-12
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 (1)
PHA
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SLB
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W 8-3 4 2 3 2 8 ??? 5 2B
2 High Pockets Kelly
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1924-06-14
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NYG
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CIN
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W 8-6 5 3 4 3 8 ??? 4 1B
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Generated 8/3/2012.

Mostly an outfielder, “Indian” Bob Johnson played only 28 games at 2nd base in his career (and just 1 after the game above). He had 18 career multi-homer games, but 2 of them came as a 2nd baseman (both in the 4 games he played at that position in 1938). High Pockets Kelly is a Hall of Famer; however, the only thing Hall-worthy about him was his name. He was a first baseman who had a 109 OPS+ and had just 8 years with 400 or more PAs. A couple of those years were very good, but High Pockets was sort of his generation’s Carlos Pena–if Pena’s career ended tomorrow.

Next up, there have been 15 games in which a player has driven in all 7 of his team’s runs (a surprising number of them resulting in losses):

Rk Player Date Tm Opp Rslt PA R H HR RBI WPA BOP Pos
1 Jason Giambi
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2011-05-19
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COL
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PHI
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W 7-1 5 3 3 3 7 0.414 5 1B
2 Albert Pujols
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2006-08-22
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STL
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NYM
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L 7-8 4 2 2 2 7 0.255 3 1B
3 Ryan Howard
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2006-06-20
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PHI
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NYY
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L 7-9 5 2 3 2 7 0.606 5 1B
4 Garret Anderson
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2003-05-08
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ANA
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CLE
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W 7-1 4 1 3 1 7 0.262 4 LF
5 Richie Sexson
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2002-04-18
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MIL
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STL
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W 7-5 4 2 3 2 7 0.741 4 1B
6 Mark McGwire
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2000-05-18
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STL
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PHI
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W 7-2 5 3 3 3 7 0.344 4 1B
7 Rondell White
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1994-07-24
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MON
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LAD
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W 7-4 5 1 4 1 7 0.341 6 LF
8 John Kruk
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1987-08-04
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SDP
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ATL
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L 7-12 5 2 3 2 7 0.268 4 1B
9 Larry Parrish
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1980-04-25
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MON
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ATL
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L 7-8 5 3 3 3 7 0.693 5 3B
10 Eddie Murray
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1979-08-29
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 (2)
BAL
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MIN
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W 7-4 5 3 3 3 7 0.595 4 1B
11 Brant Alyea
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1970-09-07
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 (1)
MIN
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MIL
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W 7-6 4 2 3 2 7 0.323 5 LF
12 Ken Harrelson
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1968-06-14
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BOS
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CLE
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W 7-2 5 3 3 3 7 0.518 4 1B
13 Roberto Clemente
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1967-05-15
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PIT
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CIN
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L 7-8 5 3 4 3 7 0.609 3 RF
14 Del Ennis
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1955-07-23
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PHI
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STL
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W 7-2 4 3 3 3 7 0.350 4 LF
15 Hank Greenberg
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1946-09-14
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DET
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NYY
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W 7-4 4 2 3 2 7 ??? 4 1B
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com
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: View Play Index Tool Used
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Generated 8/3/2012.

Throughout history, teams have generally won around 75-85% of the games in which they’ve scored exactly 7 runs, so that 10-5 record (.667 win%) is definitely a bit of an underperformance. Weirdly, 2 of the 5 losses came in the 2006 season. Jason Giambi’s feat is made all the more impressive by the fact that he was 40 at the time.

There have also been 30+ games in which a player drove in all 6 of his team’s runs, including one earlier this season:

Rk Player Date Tm Opp Rslt PA R H HR RBI WPA BOP Pos
1 Carlos Beltran
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2012-05-08
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STL
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ARI
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W 6-1 4 2 2 2 6 0.299 2 RF
2 Adam Dunn
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2010-08-06
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WSN
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LAD
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W 6-3 5 2 2 2 6 0.316 4 1B
3 Ryan Spilborghs
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2007-06-10
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COL
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BAL
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W 6-1 5 2 3 2 6 0.368 6 RF
4 Torii Hunter
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2005-06-01
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MIN
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CLE
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W 6-2 5 1 5 1 6 0.476 5 CF
5 Manny Ramirez
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2005-04-16
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BOS
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TBD
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W 6-2 4 2 2 2 6 0.337 3 LF
6 Rafael Furcal
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2004-07-09
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ATL
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PHI
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L 6-7 5 2 3 2 6 0.324 1 SS
7 Sammy Sosa
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1998-07-27
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CHC
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ARI
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W 6-2 4 2 2 2 6 0.378 3 RF
8 Benito Santiago
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1996-09-15
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PHI
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CHC
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W 6-1 4 3 3 3 6 0.383 4 C
9 Von Hayes
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1989-08-29
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PHI
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SFG
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W 6-1 4 3 3 3 6 0.414 5 RF
10 Tony Pena
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1984-08-31
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PIT
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CIN
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W 6-2 4 2 2 2 6 0.355 5 C
11 Joe Carter
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1984-08-12
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CLE
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NYY
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W 6-0 5 2 3 2 6 0.294 2 LF
12 Johnny Bench
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1974-09-12
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 (2)
CIN
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ATL
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W 6-2 4 2 2 2 6 0.423 3 C
13 George Scott
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1973-07-29
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 (2)
MIL
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NYY
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W 6-3 4 1 2 1 6 0.158 4 1B
14 Rico Petrocelli
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1972-08-05
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BOS
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BAL
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W 6-3 4 1 3 1 6 0.453 5 3B
15 Alex Johnson
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1970-04-11
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CAL
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KCR
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W 6-3 4 2 2 2 6 0.245 4 LF
16 Frank Howard
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1967-05-30
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 (1)
WSA
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KCA
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W 6-2 4 2 2 2 6 0.228 4 LF
17 Joe Adcock
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1963-05-19
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 (2)
CLE
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MIN
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L 6-7 4 2 3 2 6 0.993 6 1B
18 Roy Sievers
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1961-05-07
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 (1)
CHW
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DET
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L 6-8 4 2 2 2 6 0.309 4 1B
19 Ernie Banks
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1960-04-29
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CHC
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STL
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L 6-16 5 2 3 2 6 -0.010 4 SS
20 Eddie Mathews
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1959-09-17
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MLN
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SFG
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L 6-13 5 2 2 2 6 0.021 2 3B
21 Yogi Berra
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1958-08-02
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NYY
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CHW
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W 6-1 4 1 3 1 6 0.411 4 RF
22 Willie Mays
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1955-06-29
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NYG
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BRO
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W 6-1 5 2 3 2 6 0.283 3 CF
23 Gus Zernial
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1952-07-13
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 (1)
PHA
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CHW
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W 6-0 4 2 3 2 6 0.288 4 LF
24 Ken Wood
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1950-04-23
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 (1)
SLB
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CLE
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L 6-9 4 2 3 2 6 0.615 5 RF
25 Joe DiMaggio
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1948-05-23
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 (1)
NYY
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CLE
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W 6-5 4 3 4 3 6 0.631 4 CF
26 Babe Young
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1947-06-18
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CIN
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BSN
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W 6-0 5 2 2 2 6 ??? 4 1B
27 Dolph Camilli
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1942-08-23
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 (1)
BRO
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NYG
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W 6-4 5 1 2 1 6 ??? 4 1B
28 Harlond Clift
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1941-08-17
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 (2)
SLB
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DET
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W 6-1 4 1 2 1 6 ??? 1 3B
29 Wes Ferrell
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1936-08-12
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 (1)
BOS
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PHA
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W 6-4 4 2 3 2 6 ??? 9 P
30 Chuck Klein
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1933-06-29
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PHI
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PIT
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W 6-4 4 2 4 2 6 ??? 3 RF
31 Al Simmons
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1933-06-11
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 (1)
CHW
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DET
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W 6-1 4 2 4 2 6 ??? 4 LF
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com
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Generated 8/3/2012.

These teams went 25-6 (.806 win%), a much better record than the 7-run teams above. The 6-run teams are 15-1 since 1963, which is certainly much better than one would expect. Incredibly, the 6-run team has won all of those games by 3 runs or more (except the lone loss, of course). That’s some fantastic pitching to go along with the one-man-RBI-shows.

Three players on the list above knocked in their 6 runs while the opposition was shut out, meaning that each of them drove in all the runs in the game. That makes Joe Carter (in 1984), Gus Zernial (in 1952), and Babe Young (in 1947) the only 3 players to drive in all the runs in a game in which 6+ runs were scored. That’s a fun record to have.

No one appeared more than once on the lists above. Perhaps Adam Dunn, Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard, or Carlos Beltran can do it again before they retire (though all are on the wrong side of 30).

Also of note: Wes Ferrell made the list as a pitcher, which is pretty impressive, though if I had to pick a pitcher to appear on a list like this, I would’ve picked Ferrell without hesitation. He was a genuinely good hitter. Ferrell batted 9th, making him the only player other than Greenwell (who hit 8th in his 9-RBI game) to bat lower than 6th in the lineup. Harlond Clift in 1941 and Rafael Furcal in 2004 managed to make the list while hitting leadoff, which is nearly as impressive.

Furcal and Ernie Banks are the only shortstops on any of the lists. Banks, incredibly, had a slightly negative WPA despite driving in all 6 of his team’s runs! He hit two 3-run homers, but both were with the Cubs far behind, so he got little WPA credit for them. Only one 2nd baseman appeared on one of the lists: Bob Johnson from the 8-RBI group (and as mentioned above, he wasn’t really a 2nd baseman).

Speaking of second basemen, let’s get back to Neil Walker, who inspired this list. He’s the second player this year to knock in all 5 of his team’s runs. The other was Logan Morrison of the Marlins, who actually lost 7-5 to the Red Sox

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that day. Two players did it last season: Geovany Soto in a 5-2 Cubs win
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and Josh Willingham in a 9-5 A’s loss
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. Three of the four players who did it in 2010 lost (Derrek Lee of the Braves, Adrian Beltre of the Red Sox, and Adam LaRoche of the Diamondbacks); the only one who came out victorious was Willingham, whose Nationals beat the Mets 5-2
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. So in the last 3 years, teams who had one player knock in all 5 of their runs are just 3-5. That’s much worse than the .645 win% posted by teams scoring exactly 5 runs over that span.

The moral of the story, I suppose, is that big-RBI games tend to go better if someone else helps out either by pitching well or by driving in a few more runs. That’s a real shocker, I know. Still, it must be a weird feeling to be one of the guys driving in 5-7 runs in a loss.

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3 Responses to Most RBIs While Driving In All Of A Team’s Runs

  1. Tommy Walker
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    says:

    As a Mariners fan I kinda remember Greenwell’s game (in print), and seem to remember him as being a Mariners killer even before that game.

    I kept hoping to see a ’0′ in the HR column for someone down the list. Maybe if we took it down to 5 RBI?

    Wondering aloud (nudge) what the record might be for most RBI in a game without benefit of a home run.

    Reply
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    • Tommy Walker
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      says:

      Oo, and related but not quite the same: most RBI in a game without also scoring a run.

      Thanks for another fun post.

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  2. Tommy Walker
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    says:

    Some more for that distant day when you run out of inspiration, as inspired by my simulation:

    Do the flipside, of players who *scored* all a team’s runs. And better yet– all the team’s runs were scored by one player and knocked in by another. The tandem Henderson-Mattingly might make such a list. (I browsed a game in my developmental simulation league today in which a team scored three runs, all scored by their #3 hitter and knocked in by #6. Only trouble was that they lost 15-3; I’d rather they’d have been victorious.

    Another game, way off topic, saw one team win 4-3 despite being outdone in baserunners by a 16-7 margin. I’m sure no big historically, but it would be an interesting theme to take up one of these days.

    Reply
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