By retiring 24 straight batters Monday, Marlins relievers equaled the major league record for most consecutive batters retired by a bullpen over the past 40 seasons. According to info provided by Stats Pass, the Oakland A's bullpen also retired 24 straight in a 2011 game against the Cleveland Indians.
No bullpen since 1974 (which is as far back as the Stats Pass records go with that statistic) has pitched the equivalent of a perfect game (27 straight), and the previous Marlins record for consecutive batters retired by the team's bullpen was 18 in a 2005 game.
After the Braves' Jason Heyward tripled to lead off the sixth inning last night, the bullpen conglomerate of Dan Jennings, Ryan Webb, Chad Qualls, Mike Dunn and Steve Cishek did not allow a base runner through the 13th inning. It wasn't until Chris Hatcher walked Reed Johnson to lead off the 14th that the streak was broken.
Dunn and a few of his teammates downplayed the feat, saying they felt it was still much more difficult for a starter to pitch a perfect game than for a combination of relievers to do so. There have been 21 perfect games by starters in the majors since 1900, including three last season.
Dunn said the rare feat is more difficult for a "starter because there's a fatigue factor, and batters see the starters more than once. All it takes is one hitter on his third time (facing the pitcher) to see how fast his fastball is to time it up."
A large part of the difficulty in retiring 27 straight for a one team's relief corps, obviously, is the infrequency of games in which a bullpen is even required to cover nine full innings.
There was, of course, Ernie Shore's famous near perfecto in 1917 for the Boston Red Sox when he took over in relief of Babe Ruth and retired 26 straight. Ruth was ejected after walking the first batter, who was thrown out stealing after Shore entered. But that was one reliever, not a whole handful of them.
Interestingly, both the Marlins and Oakland A's of 2011 ended up losing their games.