May 25, 2024

Opposite day for Yankees, Diamondbacks, Marlins. New lows for White Sox, Rockies


Today, Eric Stangel, former head writer for David Letterman, stops by to give a Weird and Wild opening monologue, trying to make sense of a crazy couple of weeks in the baseball world. Check it out here before or after diving into the full column below. 

Boy, has there been some Weirdness (and Wildness) since the last time this column appeared on this site. Bees swarmed in Phoenix. A sausage stunk up the hottest dugout in baseball. And the White Sox ran out a starting lineup in which everybody on the field hit like Mario Mendoza.

And that’s not the half of it. So this week in this column, it’s time to remind you of something really important …

Baseball is weird!

Here at the Weird and Wild column, you know our motto: The best thing about baseball is … It. Makes. No. Sense.

Then, every week of every season, stuff happens that proves that motto. And since it keeps this column in business, I need to send a thank-you card!

So here’s this week’s edition of Baseball Is Weird. Only in baseball can a team go out one day and annihilate its opponent, or look like it might never get a hit, or make you think it was capable of blowing any lead, from one run to 20. And then …

Like 15 minutes later, that same team is doing the exact opposite thing. For evidence, let’s look in on the Yankees, Diamondbacks and Marlins.


The Yankees’ bats were booming on Saturday and Sunday. And then … (Michael McLoone / USA Today)

Exhibit A — the Yankees

The Yankees on Saturday: Score 15 runs in Milwaukee.

The Yankees on Sunday: Score 15 more runs in Milwaukee. So that’s 15 (or more) two games in a row … for only the second time in any season when Lou Gehrig wasn’t in their lineup. Fun fact! But we digress. So back to our regular programming …

The Yankees on Monday: Score zero runs in Baltimore!

So What’s Up with That? Does it seem challenging to have a three-day run output of 15 … 15 … 0? It should! It had been done by only two teams in the last 140 years (and four all-time)! Here’s every other team to do it, according to our friends from STATS Perform:

Kevin Mench’s 2002 RangersWent 17 … 19 … 0 against the Yankees and Red Sox from July 31 to Aug. 2.

Scott Hatteberg’s 1998 Red Sox — Went 15 … 15 … 0 against the Expos and White Sox from July 2-4.

Dupee Shaw’s 1884 Boston Reds — went 22 … 17 … 0 against the old Kansas City Union and Chicago Browns of the late, not that great United Association from July 4-7.

John (Don’t Call Me Rocket Man) Glenn’s 1876 Chicago White Stockings — Went 19 … 18 … 0 against the Philadelphia Athletics and Hartford Dark Blues from June 29 to July 4.

So that was some weird, but also wild, name-dropping. But moving along to …

Exhibit B – the Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks on April 18: Get hits off Logan Webb from their first two hitters of the game … and then get zero hits from the next 19 guys to come to the plate (and one hit from the last 28).

The Diamondbacks on April 19: Have a slightly different kind of night. By which I mean they get 22 hits, in a game started by Blake (Cy Young) Snell.

So What’s Up with That? Only two other teams in the last 50 years, according to STATS, have made at least 18 consecutive outs one game, then had at least 22 hits the next game.

One was Dave Kingman’s 1979 Cubs, in a Steve Carlton shutout, followed by that all-time Wrigley classic, The 23-22 Game.

The other was Bernardo Carbo’s 1975 Red Sox, in two September games in old County Stadium in Milwaukee — the second one a 20-6 blowout against a bunch of Brewers hurlers who included the only Lafayette to play in the big leagues since World War 2, Lafayette Currence!

So we’ve got more weirdness there. But nothing tops this one …

Exhibit C — the Marlins

The Marlins on Sunday Score six runs in the first inning … and lose!

The Marlins on Tuesday: Give up five runs in the first inning … and win!

What’s Up with That? Does that seem hard? It’s so hard, according to STATS Perform, that the Marlins are the first team to blow a first-inning lead that big and then make up a first-inning hole that huge, in a span of three games, in the entire modern era (123 seasons). Baseball! It’s weird. But wait …

Special bonus What’s Up with That? If you thought that was hard, spend a few moments thinking about how the Marlins won that game Tuesday. They trailed the Rockies by five in the bottom of the ninth. They trailed again (6-5) in extra innings. And they still won. How short is the list of teams in the modern era to win a game after doing that? So short that they’re the only team on it, according to STATS. But also …

One more bonus What’s Up with That? There were five runs scored in the top of the first inning. There were five runs scored in the bottom of the ninth. There were no runs scored in any of the 16 half-innings in between. Ever seen a game like that before? No, you haven’t, because, according to STATS, this was the only game in the modern era where that’s happened, too. Except that …

Yep, yet one final bonus What’s Up with That? Because the Rockies were also in attendance at that game Tuesday. And by losing it, they set yet another modern-era record, by trailing in every one of their first 29 games of a season — wiping out a record held for 114 years by Hub Northen’s 1910 St. Louis Browns. But that’s not even the Weird and Wild part.

Ready? The Rockies threw 132 pitches in this game — and never trailed when any of them left the pitcher’s hand. The only time they trailed all night was after Dane Myers’ walk-off single hopped through the infield in the 10th inning. So how about that for Hard To Do:

A team that set the modern record for most consecutive games trailing did that in a game in which it didn’t throw a single pitch while trailing all night. It’s hard to know how to explain the sheer impossibility of that. Except for one thing. I just remembered. It’s …

Baseball!

This Week in Useless Info


Shota Imanaga’s sizzling start has produced a rare stat line. (Brad Penner / USA Today)

HE’S NOT THROWING AWAY HIS SHOTA — Shota Imanaga, Cubs ace. That’s not a sentence I thought I’d be typing a couple of months ago. But here we are. Check out this guy’s astonishing line after the first six starts of his Cubs (and big-league) career:

5-0
5 runs allowed
4 walks allowed

So ponder this. Fewer walks than wins? As many runs as wins? Hey Chicago, what do you say? Amazing, right?

It’s so amazing, in fact, that I could only find two other starting pitchers in the expansion era (1961-2024) whose walk and run totals didn’t top their win totals in their first six starts of a season … let alone their first six starts ever.

Cliff Lee, 2008 Indians

6-0
5 runs
2 walks

Frank Viola, 1990 Twins

6-0
5 runs
5 walks

If I changed the qualifications from “runs” to “earned runs,” we could also add another iconic name — Juan Marichal, 1966 (6-0, 5 ER, 5 BB). But whatever. If that’s the crowd Shota Imanaga plans to hang out with all year, or for the rest of his career, he’s going to be a star.

BOSTON UNCOMMON — I don’t know what the mind-boggling Red Sox rotation has planned for the final five months of 2024. But I think I found a way to sum up how spectacular that rotation was in the first month.

1986 Red Sox: Made it all the way to Game 7 of the World Series. (I can’t recall what happened then, can you?) Had a rotation that included Roger Clemens, Bruce Hurst, Tom Seaver and Oil Can Boyd (the good version) … and threw six shutouts all season.

2006 Red Sox: Won 95 games, behind a rotation that included Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe and Tim Wakefield … and threw six shutouts all season.

2024 Red Sox: Traded away Chris Sale, put four starters on the injured list … and threw six shutouts before May.

Andrew Bailey: pitching coach of the year?

THEY FILLED UP THE END ZONE — And before we jump on the Mass Pike to exit Boston … this happened last Saturday at Fenway:

Red Sox 17
Cubs 0

It was the biggest Red Sox shutout win at Fenway since 1950. … It was the worst Cubs shutout loss since 1988. … And it was the first Red Sox shutout of the Cubs anywhere since a 1-0 Babe Ruth gem in Game 1 of the 1918 World Series. (Hat tip: Ethan Cooperson.) There’s only one thing it was not …

Don’t call that a football score! Want to know how many 17-0 victories those New England Patriots have run up in the entire history of their franchise? Yep. Guess zero. You’ll be happy you did.

BLUE ANGELS — Let’s sum up the current state of the L.A. Angels:

Ouch!

Stop me if this sounds vaguely familiar, but … Mike Trout: on the IL. … Anthony Rendon: on the IL.

Now let’s translate.

2022-24

Games Trout and Rendon have started together: 111 (out of 355)
Games Luis Rengifo and Taylor Ward have started together: 181

Combined salary of Trout and Rendon, 2022-24: $216.35 million
Combined salary of Rengifo and Ward, 2022-24: $15.67 million

So when the bargains stay healthier than the stars, is that considered money well spent? Discuss!

FRANKIE’S SOMBRERO GRANDE — In case you hadn’t noticed, it was One of Those Aprils for scuffling Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor (.197/.280/.359). But that was almost the good news — because on Saturday afternoon, he had himself a rough day for the ages.

His first four trips to the plate:

K
K
K
K

So that went well. But sometimes, after a guy has put up a Golden Sombrero, the game keeps going. And whaddaya know, who was that coming up with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth? Yep, it was Lindor, with a chance to be a hero. And then … oh, no!

So that got me thinking, which usually creates a lot of work for somebody. And in this case, it was the great Katie Sharp of Baseball Reference/Stathead renown. She blitzed through Baseball Reference’s play-by-play database, back to 1912, to see if anyone had ever had That Game:

Four whiffs in his first four trips to the plate … then got one more shot and made the last out of a loss with the bases loaded.

Hey, at least Lindor wasn’t the only one. But Katie found just three other hitters who met Lindor’s fate:

Dave Kingman (of course!) — also piled up four straight whiffs for the Mets, against the Astros, on May 28, 1982. How’d that fifth at-bat go? He did what Dave Kingman often did: Struck out a fifth time!

Ed Sprague four-K’d for the Blue Jays, versus Cleveland, 13 years to the day after Kingman, on May 28, 1995. How’d his fifth at-bat go? Yikes! With a game-ending bases-loaded double-play ball. Oops.

Alex Avila put up his strikeout four-pack for the Diamondbacks, against the Giants, on April 18, 2018. But then he got his chance to make the world forget those four punchouts thanks to the miracle of extra innings and … grounded out in the 10th to strand everybody.

NOW THAT’S GOOD SET-UP WORK — If the job of a trusty set-up man is to get the ball to the closer so he can finish the game and get the save, then the work done by Phillies reliever Ricardo Pinto, in a 9-5 win over the White Sox on April 20, was impeccable.

But hmmm. Was that the right word?

You see, when Pinto took the mound that day, his team was winning, 9-0. Then Pinto went: Walk, single, out, double, double, out, walk, single, single, hit batter, tying run coming to the plate. And then … he’d somehow created a save opportunity for his closer, José Alvarado.

Alvarado finished off that save with one pitch. But that’s not the Weird and Wild part. That part was trying to answer this question:

Who the heck has ever done that — taken a lead that large, and a shutout, into the last inning and turned it into a save for the closer (of fewer than three outs)?

This time, Katie Sharp looked at games since 1975, when the most recent definition of a save like this came into our lives. Incredibly, it’s been done four other times:

June 9, 2009 — Three Twins turn a 10-0 game into a 10-5 game. Joe Nathan with the save.

Sept. 20, 1995 — Todd Stottlemyre and Rick Honeycutt take a 9-0 game and create a 9-6 game. Dennis Eckersley has to power up to save that one.

July 17, 1994 — Fernando Valenzuela, Paul Quantrill and Larry Anderson transform a 9-0 game into a 9-7 game. But hey, it works out well for Doug Jones’ save total.

May 5, 1981 — Billie Jean King’s brother, Randy Moffitt, and Fred Breining spin a 9-0 lead into a 9-7 lead. But Greg Minton cleans up their mess.

What other column works Ricardo Pinto, Fernando Valenzuela and Billie Jean King into the same baseball note, huh? It’s what we do here at Weird and Wild World HQ!

THE UNITED NATIONS — First off, here’s a big hand for Shohei Ohtani, to celebrate his climb to the top of the all-time home run ladder for players born in Japan. But now it’s time for this important Weird and Wild announcement:

We’re overlooking a few countries!

I found a bunch of other active players who have also ascended to No. 1 on the list from their country. And it feels like their long ball heroics got slightly less attention. But we can rectify that!

Aruba — Congrats to Xander Bogaerts, currently outhomering also-active Aruba runner-up Chadwick Tromp, 177-5!

Germany — Max Kepler might not exactly be Franz Beckenbauer. But he leads all German-born players in home run trots, with 154.

Brazil — There’s Neymar … and then there’s Yan Gomes. How many home runs has Neymar hit, huh? Well, Yan has launched 136 of them.

Bahamas — It’s better in the Bahamas. But back here in the States, Jazz Chisholm Jr. has 57 home runs and counting. That’s the most ever, not counting Wiffle Ball homers on the beach at Atlantis.

Honduras — Mauricio Dubón is the Babe Ruth of Honduras, because of course he is. His 29 homers lead all Hondurans. Of course, you might be thinking that it helps that there have only been two Honduras-born major leaguers in history. But don’t quibble!

France — OK, so it’s a stretch to call Bruce Bochy “active.” But is he in uniform every day? Oui! And his 26 big-league home runs are the most by any player born in France — not to mention 26 more than Rudy Gobert and Kylian Mbappé.

This Week in Strange But Trueness


The White Sox are making a strong case for a weekly segment in the Weird and Wild column. (Kamil Krzaczynski / USA Today)

NO LONGER SWEEPLESS ON THE SOUTH SIDE — Why do I have a feeling I’m going to get a lot of Strange But True material from the White Sox this season? Except we interrupt their slog toward 120 losses with this Strange But True bulletin we didn’t see coming:

They swept the Rays last weekend!

Before that series began, reliable sources swear that the White Sox were a sparkling 3-22 this season. That’s an inspirational winning percentage of … .120!

So when they finished off that sweep, it wasn’t long before I heard from you loyal readers, looking for the answer to a question I’d already posed to Katie Sharp:

Has a team with a winning percentage that low ever swept a series of at least three games from anybody this late in a season?

Shockingly, that answer was … yes. It happened one other time … a mere 130 years ago.

Back then, White Wings Tebeau’s 1894 Washington Senators surged to a 3-25 start. So they had a .107 winning percentage when Jock Menefee’s 1894 Louisville Colonels came to town. And yep, those Senators swept them. How ’bout that. Then again, it’s always hard to bet against any team with White Wings Tebeau.

THE ALL-MENDOZA TEAM — You think we’re through with the White Sox? You’re reading the wrong column. Check out the lineup they ran out there April 21 in Philadelphia.

I’ll admit that screenshot actually looks worse than it was when the game started — since Kevin Pillar’s average was exactly .200 heading into the action. Still, that’s a real big-league team, playing its 21st game of the season, fielding a lineup in which one guy had a batting average over .200?

Could that ever have happened this far into a season? I asked my friends from STATS. Turns out that answer is … yes — but only one other time in the modern era. That came when the 2003 Tigers rolled out this group in its 22nd game:

Bobby Higginson: .197
Shane Halter: .191
Carlos Pena: .193
Dmitri Young: .159
Dean Palmer: .145
Eric Munson: .160
Craig Monroe: .167
Brandon Inge: .115
Omar Infante: .229

And what’s the Strangest But Truest thing about that lineup? The only guy in it who was hitting over .200 was batting ninth. Beautiful. What a sport.

EASY AS 1-2-UH-OH — In baseball, it’s always been helpful to have one basic math skill:

The ability to count to three.

Three strikes? Check. Three outs? Check. For 140 years, it was a really good idea to keep track of both of those.

But nowadays, in this complicated, newfangled baseball world we live in, there’s one more countdown to three that’s entered the mix:

One … two … three pickoffs … is one too many.

You could ask Angels pitcher Griffin Canning. He could tell you way more about it than you even want to know — thanks to, well, this …

What you just saw was Canning making his third throw to first in one at-bat Monday night, to try to keep Trea Turner from taking off and winning another heat of the 30-yard dash. Remember that part about one too many? Whoops.

And in this case, it was double whoops, because there was also a runner on third. So Griffin Canning had just balked in a run because he forgot to count to three.

“That’s the first time we’ve seen that,” said Tom McCarthy, voice of the Phillies — but guess what? That’s the first time anybody had seen that.

According to the Wizard of Statcast, Jason Bernard, Canning became the third pitcher to balk in a run by exceeding his disengagement limit with runners on first and third. But he’s the first to do it that way, by accidentally throwing over to first a third time. (The other two were stepoffs.)

But hey, it happens. It’s as easy as one, two, uh-oh!

PARTY OF FIVE — Travis d’Arnaud hit five home runs last year … after the All-Star break. But that was last year. Then this year, Sean Murphy got hurt on Opening Day. And d’Arnaud became the Braves’ primary catcher. And then … this happened.

That’s five home runs in eight at-bats. And that’s incredible. But it’s not the Strange But True part. The Strange But True part is who hasn’t hit five home runs in eight at-bats.

Catchers who never hit 5 HR in 8 AB

Johnny Bench
Mike Piazza
Yogi Berra

Atlanta Braves who never hit 5 HR in 8 AB

Chipper Jones
Dale Murphy
Freddie Freeman

Baseball. It’s amazing.

THE BIG 3-0 – Elly De La Cruz. He has the makings of a Weird and Wild column superstar. If I go a week without working him in there somewhere, something will have gone wrong. That’s for sure. Probably with me.

But here comes an Elly De La Cruz note that doesn’t involve him hitting a baseball 460 feet … or stealing three bases in one inning … or even throwing a baseball so hard it pretty much tears the glove off his first baseman’s hand.

Nope. This happened in an April 20 game against the Angels. Here’s how his at-bats went that day:

1st inning — runs a 3-0 count (walks)
4th inning — runs a 3-0 count (walks)
5th inning — runs a 3-0 count (walks)
7th inning — runs a 3-0 count (walks)

So … that’s a good day. But what made it a Strange But True day is that Cincinnati stats genius Joel Luckhaupt asked himself the same question I just asked about Travis d’Arnaud:

Who hasn’t done that?

You won’t believe it. I didn’t. Joel didn’t. But he checked pretty much every active on-base machine. And here’s who has never had a day with four 3-and-0 counts (or more):

Joey Votto
Juan Soto
Mike Trout
Aaron Judge
Andrew McCutchen

Among the usual on-base suspects currently playing, only Bryce Harper did it. But that was back on May 8, 2016, as part of that crazy stretch when Joe Maddon decided one week that he wasn’t going to pitch to him until possibly 2017. So can we apply an asterisk?

Either way, that’s it. So Elly De La Cruz, man. He isn’t merely the next Ronald Acuña Jr. He just had a day where he looked like the next Barry Bonds.

ALLERGIC TO K-SEEDS — It was just last Sunday that those Arizona Diamondbacks played a game in Seattle … and their pitchers struck out 15 Mariners. Yeah, that can happen.

But remember the part of this column where I mentioned that the weirdest thing about baseball is that the thing you did one day can be the exact opposite of that thing you did 15 minutes later? All right, now let’s talk about what the Diamondbacks did the next day.

They played the Dodgers on Monday in Chase Field. The bee swarm hadn’t attacked yet. But the Dodgers swarm? It was buzzing, all right.

That night, 44 Dodgers came to bat. They saw 162 pitches. They walked eight times … but they struck out zero times! Against the same staff that had put up 15 K’s the day before.

The pitch-count era goes back to 1988. You know how many other National League offenses have had a day like that? Batted in all nine innings … saw that many pitches … had that many hitters dig into the box … and walked at least eight times … but didn’t strike out once?

That would be exactly one: Tony Gwynn’s 1998 Padres, in a June 17 interleague game in Texas, when they hung up 17 runs, 15 hits and nine walks — in a game started by Bobby Witt Sr. — but struck out zero times in 166 pitches.

But that’s all … until the Dodgers showed up in the desert. So are we sure that bee delay was the Strangest But Truest thing that happened that series? I’m not so sure it was … because that zero-strikeout game, in this day and age, seems just about impossible.

LET’S GO STREAKING — Finally, have I mentioned that in baseball, all things are possible … especially if you decide not to count Those Other Things that make them impossible? True! We have two very special examples for you.

The Orioles’ “historic” streak — Every few days, we keep hearing that those Baltimore Orioles are sweep-proof. They’ve now gone 101 regular-season series in a row without getting swept. And that’s incredible. It’s also the most consecutive sweep-less series in the history of the American League. There’s just one little thing I can’t stop thinking about:

In the middle of their streak of not getting swept … they got swept!

That, of course, was in October, when the Rangers swept them in the ALDS. But if it makes them feel better, let me tell them about …

Trea Turner’s “historic” streak — When the Phillies’ sprint-champ shortstop got caught stealing last week against the Reds, you may have heard that it ended his streak of 41 straight stolen bases without getting caught. It will go down as the third-longest streak in history, at least since “caught stealing” became an official stat in both leagues in 1951.

There’s just one little aspect of Turner’s streak I can’t stop thinking about. Guess what it is.

In the middle of Turner’s streak of not getting thrown out stealing … he got thrown out stealing.

That, of course, was also last October, when Diamondbacks pitcher Joe Mantiply picked him off first, so he broke for second and got (yep) caught!

So one streak lives. The other will live only in the record books. But it’s OK. We’re all just willing to forget Those Other Things even happened. And why is that, you ask? Easy. Because it’s …

Baseball!

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

Weird and Wild: Boone’s ejection, a bee swarm and unrefrigerated sausage

(Top photo of the Marlins celebrating their wild walk-off win over the Rockies on Tuesday: Rhona Wise / USA Today)





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