Carleton: Have there ever been two baseball games that unfolded in exactly the same manner?

From Russell Carleton at Baseball Prospectus on August 26, 2013:

They say that if you stick around long enough at a baseball game, you’ll see something that you’ve never seen before. Something odd and surprising like a double play where the catcher records both outs at third base or an invisible home run or Teddy Roosevelt winning the President’s race. While I was thinking about that particular baseball axiom, another question popped into my head. If I stick around long enough at a baseball game, would I see something that had happened before?

The phrase “something that has happened before” in the context of baseball might seem a little strange. After all, there will be plenty of strikeouts and walks and singles and routine grounders to third each night. Each game is composed of the same small suite of basic events that, when added together, produce a final score. But I got to wondering the following: Have there ever been two games that have unfolded in exactly the same manner?

Here it becomes an issue of resolution. There have been plenty of 5-4 games in baseball history, so if our only notation of a baseball game is the final score, then we run into the problem of not having very many unique events. Since 1901 (through 2012), the most common final score of a game has been 3 to 2 (10,507 times), followed by 4 to 3 for the home team (10,106 times).

Still, unique final scores pop up every now and then. In 2010, Milwaukee and Pittsburgh played the first 20-0 game in MLB history. As you might imagine, all of the unique scores involve at least one team putting up at least 18 runs (an 18-13 game between the Cardinals and Phillies in 1932 holds the record for the lowest number of runs by a winning team in a unique game.) There have been 41 games in MLB since 1901 whose final score has never been duplicated. Baseball trivia junkies love that kind of stuff.

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Originally published: August 26, 2013. Last Updated: August 26, 2013.