Embree earns 'W' without throwing pitch
Rockies reliever first hurler to accomplish feat since 2003
DENVER -- Call Rockies left-hander Alan Embree the winning picker.
Embree entered Tuesday night's game against the Nationals with two out in the eighth, Austin Kearns the runner on first and the score tied at 4. Seconds later, the reliever was applying a tag to Kearns to end an odd rundown, which started with his pickoff throw.
The Rockies scored in the bottom of the eighth and won, 5-4, which made Embree the first Major Leaguer in six years -- and the second one in at least 23 years -- to earn a win without throwing a pitch.
Embree, 39, is sixth among active pitchers in appearances and second among left-handers. He is 30th on the all-time list. Yet, when his teammates placed the baseball in a sandwich bag for safe keeping, he could truly say it commemorated a unique experience.
"It was a fun play for me, because I'd never seen it," Embree said.
Embree joins Jays pitcher B.J. Ryan, who beat the Tigers without throwing a pitch on May 1, 2003, as the only players to accomplish the feat since STATS Inc. began tracking pitches in 1986. As of Tuesday night, no one had dug up an instance in the game's long history in which a pitcher didn't throw a pitch, was credited with a putout and earned a win.
Kearns reached on a single off Joel Peralta. Manager Jim Tracy went to Embree to face Nyjer Morgan. But Morgan wound up having nothing to do with it.
Embree has a deliberate move out of the stretch, which makes it dangerous for runners to take off on first movement. Yet, Nationals manager Manny Acta said, "That was the plan all the way."
Embree threw to first baseman Todd Helton, who dropped the ball. Kearns' only solution was to take off for second, but he fell in the basepath. A rundown ensued. Helton threw to shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who threw to Embree.
"Then I end up with the ball somehow, and I'm going, 'What just happened?'" Embree said. "And then I came in and they went, 'You're done. Do you think you can go tomorrow?'
"I'm still in a daze."
But something was in the air, according to right-hander Jason Hammel, who started the game but had long been in the clubhouse, sitting with fellow starter Aaron Cook and injured pitcher Jeff Francis.
"We all thought, 'This guy's got a chance to come in and get a 'W' without throwing a pitch,'" Hammel said. "It was before he came in, but it kind of was just a fluke thought. Then when he got the out, it was like, 'Wow.'"
Clint Barmes' sacrifice fly in the bottom of the eighth evened Embree's record at 2-2, and made him a trivia answer.
Interestingly, Rockies pitchers worked on pickoff moves Tuesday afternoon. But those were to second base.
"I don't think that they planned on me doing that," Embree said.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Cheng Sio contributed. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.