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The one-game Cubs of the 2010s

These men appeared in just one Cubs game in the decade that’s about to end. Some of these were memorable.

Pierce Johnson makes his MLB debut for the Cubs, May 19, 2017
Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

The player who appeared in the most games for the Chicago Cubs during the 2010s was, as you might guess, Anthony Rizzo. The Cubs first baseman played in 1,158 games for the team during that period, leading all Cubs even though he played in only eight of the 10 seasons for the North Siders. Starlin Castro was second, with 891 games in six Cubs seasons.

For pitchers, Pedro Strop led the way with 393 games during the decade. James Russell was second with 347.

You know those names well. Here are six you might not remember. They are Cubs who played in exactly one game for the team during the period 2010 through 2019. Some played in more games for other teams, but their Cubs game tenure was singular. And we have video evidence of some of these appearances!

Alex Burnett, May 29, 2013

Burnett pitched in 174 games for the Twins from 2010-12, then got waived from the Twins to the Blue Jays to the Orioles to the Cubs over a two-month period in 2013.

Two days after he was claimed by the Cubs May 27, he pitched in garbage time in the ninth inning of this game against the White Sox at Wrigley Field. He allowed a single and no runs in posting a scoreless inning in that 9-3 Cubs win.

The next day he was optioned to Triple-A Iowa. He pitched in just three games for Iowa, hinting he must have been injured. The Cubs released him at the end of the season, and he played in indy ball in 2014 and in the Mexican League in 2015.

Donn Roach, June 27, 2015

Roach was called up from Triple-A Iowa (where he’d made 15 pretty good starts) to be an emergency starter for the Cubs June 27, 2015 in St. Louis. He threw three scoreless innings, then got lit up for four runs in the fourth.

Two weeks later he was claimed on waivers by the Reds. That began this odyssey:

The only major-league time he got from all that was four games for the Mariners in 2016.

Roach actually had a hit in that 2015 game for the Cubs. Not only that, at the time it gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead and there is actually video!

That wasn’t his only big-league hit, as he had previously had one for the Padres in 2014. But Roach and Brian Schlitter (also 1-for-1) are the only Cubs to have posted a 1.000 batting average for the decade while playing for the team. Schlitter, who actually pitched in the big leagues in 2019 (three games for the Athletics), still has that perfect BA.

Brian Matusz, July 31, 2016

You almost certainly remember his only game with the Cubs, as it’s long been termed “The Matusz Game.” Again, this was a emergency start. And he was bad. He allowed two-run homers in each of the first three innings (Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano, Dae-Ho Lee) and then left for a pinch-hitter (Jason Hammel!) with the Cubs trailing 6-0.

The Cubs tied and won this game in dramatic fashion, the latter on Jon Lester’s walkoff bunt in the 12th inning.

But hey! Matusz can always say the Cubs won the only game he started for them. And he got a World Series ring out of it.

And he was still pitching in indy ball as recently as last summer.

Pierce Johnson, May 19, 2017

Johnson was a supplemental first-round pick (43rd overall) for the Cubs in 2012 and at one time was considered a pretty good prospect.

His MLB debut was May 19, 2017 against the Brewers at Wrigley Field, a miserable, cold, rainy afternoon. (You might remember the next day was when the Cubs postponed a game and then it stopped raining, leading to endless whining from the Brewers, particularly manager Craig Counsell.) Johnson entered to throw the sixth inning and allowed a single to Eric Thames. Then this ridiculous play happened [VIDEO].

As you can see in the video, a rain delay was called right after that happened. Johnson remained in the game after the delay, which lasted nearly two hours. When the game resumed, Domingo Santana singled in both runners. The runs were unearned, so Johnson’s lifetime Cubs ERA is 0.00.

Johnson pitched in 37 games for the Giants in 2018, spent 2019 in Japan where he had a dominant year (58 games, 1.84 ERA, 91 strikeouts in 58⅔ innings) and recently signed a two-year deal with the Padres.

Seth Frankoff, June 9, 2017

The Cubs put Frankoff into a 2-2 tie game June 9 against the Rockies, trying to piggyback Mike Montgomery, who had started, until the team could get into the better end of the bullpen.

It didn’t work. Former Cub Chris Rusin was the first hitter against Frankoff. Rusin singled and Charlie Blackmon homered, and that, as they say, was that. The Cubs lost 5-3.

Frankoff was optioned back to Iowa the next day and this is his only big-league appearance (so far). He’s been pitching for Doosan in KBO since 2018.

Just so you know that Frankoff did something good in that game (his only MLB game to date), here’s his first (and so far only) major-league strikeout [VIDEO], of DJ LeMahieu.

Jack Leathersich, July 6, 2017

Leathersich had struck out tons of people in the Mets farm system (more than 15 per nine innings in 2013-14), but they had apparently tired of his high walk rate, so they let him go after 2015 and he signed with the Cubs.

He missed a lot of 2016 with injuries, but in 2017 threw well enough at Iowa that the Cubs shuttled him up for bullpen duty.

After Montgomery got pounded in less than three innings against the Brewers July 6 (this was the makeup game for the rainout noted above), Leathersich entered with runners on first and third and one out for his Cubs debut.

He walked the first three batters he faced, forcing in two runs that were charged to Montgomery, then allowed a sacrifice fly and a double plating two more runs charged to himself. After another walk, he struck out Jesus Aguilar to end the inning. Here is that strikeout [VIDEO].

The Cubs wound up losing the game 11-2.

Leathersich was optioned back to Iowa the next day and the Pirates claimed him on waivers in September. He was last seen in a big-league uniform in spring training 2019 with the Rangers, who let him go at the end of camp.