I’ve got a personal story about this game, so let me lead this article with it.
I missed this game. I had a business meeting out of town that weekend. The meeting had wrapped up early that afternoon and so I was sitting in the airport waiting for my flight back to Chicago and following the game online on my laptop. There was no MLB.TV then (it didn’t start until 2002), so I just had the play-by-play.
I had to stop following in the bottom of the sixth inning because my flight was boarding. The Cubs were leading 4-1 on a pair of two-run homers by Sammy Sosa and Todd Hundley in the fourth. At the time there was no airplane wifi, so I was incommunicado about the game during the flight. With no smartphones at the time either, I got in my car and put on WBBM Newsradio to see if I could find the final score.
“The Cubs defeated the Dodgers 20-1 at Wrigley Field this afternoon...”
Wait, what? 20-1? How was that possible? It was 4-1 in the sixth inning...
Sure enough, the Cubs put eight runs on the board in the seventh and eighth innings and crushed the Dodgers 20-1 that Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field.
The Dodgers had pinch-hit for Darren Dreifort in the seventh; he’d thrown a decent six innings, allowing four runs on six hits with eight strikeouts and, you know, a team has a shot at coming back from a three-run deficit in the seventh.
But L.A. relievers just got pounded by Cubs hitters. First up was former Cub Terry Adams. He faced seven batters and all of them reached base, six on hits and one on a fielder’s choice, with five of them scoring. He was relieved by Jose Nunez, who struck out Hundley. Julio Zuleta then smashed a three-run homer off him [VIDEO] and there’s the first eight-run inning.
Nunez wasn’t any better in the eighth. Here is the sequence of the 13 batters he faced that inning, beginning the frame down 12-1: strikeout, double, walk, single, walk, strikeout, walk, single, single, reached on error, single, walk, walk. The last walk, to Sosa, forced in the Cubs’ 20th run and Dodgers manager Jim Tracy then had mercy on Nunez and replaced him with infielder Chris Donnels, who got Gary Matthews Jr. to ground out to end the inning.
At the time, Donnels was the first position player to pitch against the Cubs at Wrigley Field since Mike Anderson of the Phillies June 27, 1979. It’s happened just three times since that 2001 game, despite more position players pitching in general in recent years: Luis Sardinas of the Mariners July 29, 2016; Daniel Descalso (!), then of the Diamondbacks August 1, 2017 and Scooter Gennett of the Reds August 14, 2017.
As for Nunez, he had been a Rule 5 pick by the Dodgers from the Mets the previous winter. This outing for him was so bad that he never pitched for the Dodgers again. He was waived and claimed by the Padres six days later. After 52 appearances for San Diego that year — and not awful, 3.31 ERA, 1.316 WHIP, 1.1 bWAR — he pitched in one game for them in 2002 but never appeared in the majors after that.
And 20 runs by a Cubs team? It hasn’t happened since this 2001 game, though that many runs have been put up in 51 other games since.
As noted, I wasn’t at this game, so here is Mike Bojanowski’s scorecard.