On this date 37 years ago, Bob Welch had one of the most memorable games in Dodgers history. Baseball is a team sport, so no player ever truly does it all on their own, but Welch came close on this day.
He pitched a shutout against the Reds, and hit a home run for the game’s only run.
The Dodgers entered play on June 17, 1983 three and a half games up in the National League West on Atlanta, who they just took two out of three from. The Reds were in Los Angeles next, and Welch opposed Mario Soto on the mound in the series opener at Dodger Stadium.
Welch, the former first-round pick, would have his finest season to date in 1983, and even got a pair of Cy Young votes for the first time (they were third-place votes, and Welch finished a distant eighth in balloting). But he lost three of his previous four starts coming into this start. At the plate, after grounding out in the third inning Welch was 3-for-27 (.111) on the season, with eight strikeouts.
Soto would finish second in NL Cy Young voting that season, winning 17 games with a 140 ERA+. He pitched three shutouts and led the league with 18 complete games, but he also led the league in home runs allowed, with 28.
That came into play in a scoreless tie in the sixth inning, when Welch took Soto deep for his first career home run, in his 312th plate appearance.
“I can’t recall ever hitting a home run,” Welch told UPI. “I may have had one in Little League. I don’t think anyone was more surprised than I was. I didn’t watch the ball go out, I just hit it and started running. I hadn’t hit a ball that far in my life.”
After hitting the home run, Welch allowed only a single and a walk the rest of the way, completing his third shutout of the season, with four strikeouts in the game. He even added an infield single in the eighth inning for good measure.
A solo home run and shutout combination in a 1-0 game is very rare. We often remember Clayton Kershaw on opening day in 2013 as achieving this, as his eighth-inning home run broke a scoreless tie. But the Dodgers rallied for three more runs after the home run, taking him out of consideration for this.
Odalis Perez nearly pulled this off in 2002 at home against Arizona, but he was pulled after eight innings of a 1-0 game. It pays to have peak Eric Gagne at the ready.
Across MLB, Welch’s game is one of only four in the last 60 seasons in which a pitcher threw a shutout and hit a home run in a 1-0 game.
The only pitcher since Welch to pull off the homer/shutout combo in a 1-0 win was Noah Syndergaard last year against the Reds.
Four homer/shutout 1-0 games in the last 60 years, and three of them were at the Mets’ home stadium. The only other one was in Los Angeles, by Bob Welch on this day in 1983.