So … did you hear the one about the baseball player who got hurt punching his locker after giving up a hit to his brother?… How about the guy who swung at a pitch, on national TV in the postseason, that Statcast estimates would have crossed the plate 2 feet under ground? … OK, what about the team that threw two immaculate innings in the same game with the same three hitters doing all that three-pitch whiffing?
Hey, great news. We’ve brought all of that back to life — and lots more weirdness — in the third and final installment of the Strange But True Feats of the Year trilogy. For one more time in 2022, let’s bask in the always entertaining but barely explicable Strangeness of baseball!
Strangest But Truest Injuries of the Year
First prize: Mound 1, Plesac 0
Is Zach Plesac the new Jeremy Affeldt? He should know I mean that as a compliment by the way, but still …
Affeldt was once such a fixture on these Injury of the Year lists, he actually reached out to me one year and complained that he wasn’t No. 1. Well, that won’t be an issue for Plesac, because he has now topped this list two years in a row. And by Strange But True standards, that’s baseball’s greatest streak since Cal Ripken Jr.’s!
Last year, Plesac fractured his right thumb while “aggressively ripping open his shirt.” And I bet you thought it would be impossible to top that. Nope! This year, he moved up from the Clothing Division to the Field Obstacles Division, threw a right jab at the mound in Seattle after giving up an Aug. 27 home run to Jake Lamb, and fractured his fifth metacarpal. Maybe Affeldt can take him under his wing this winter and offer some tips on creative food-prep mishaps!
Second prize: Brotherhood 1, Phil Maton 0
It was the final day of the regular season, a moment the Maton brothers — Phil (the Astros reliever) and Nick (the Phillies utility wiz) — had been waiting for all their lives. They were going to face each other in a real major-league game. Whereupon Nick would enjoy the thrill of getting a hit off his brother. Heartwarming, right?
Oh, wait. What’s that? Not so heartwarming? What could possibly foil the brotherly fun at a moment like this? Oh, only the pitcher who gave up the hit punching his locker … breaking a bone in his throwing hand … and missing the entire postseason in which his team won the World Series. Yep, and also … now he has to hear about that hit for the rest of his life.
Third prize: The Closer With the Dragon Tattoo
It was such a brutal year for deposed Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman, he couldn’t even throw a strike at the tattoo parlor. Or at least that’s his story and he’s sticking to it. In one of those coincidences that only you tattoo aficionados out there could truly appreciate (or explain), Chapman had to head to the injured list — for almost a month — because of an alleged infected tattoo. And we wouldn’t even think of mentioning that this infection happened to flare up after messy back-to-back August outings in which he threw more balls than strikes. Oh, shoot. That just slipped out.
So if we’re not 100 percent sure that happened quite how he and the Yankees said it happened, why is he still so high on this list? Well, it deserves some kind of award — for being either the most creative injury or the most creative piece of injury folklore we heard all year.
Fourth prize: Don’t mess with Mad Max’s pooch
We all know Max Scherzer always has great bite on his slider. That’s a good thing. But that bite his dog, Rafi, inflicted on his pitching hand this June? Ehhh, not quite that good a thing. So was it lucky or unlucky that Max was already on the IL at the time with an oblique injury, meaning that dog-bite mishap didn’t cost him any more time? Aw, it doesn’t matter. Despite many contenders for this list, DOG BITES CY YOUNG is one of those headlines almost guaranteed to elevate a guy onto the Injuries of the Year list.
— Max Scherzer (@Max_Scherzer) June 4, 2022
Fifth prize: Mr. Basebrawl
Angels reliever Archie Bradley wouldn’t be the first player to make this list by getting injured during a brawl (Angels versus Mariners Summer Slam event, June 28). But we had to award extra credit this time — because he didn’t get hurt in the brawl. He fractured his elbow trying to climb out of the dugout merely to join the brawl, and let’s just say he didn’t quite nail the landing.
Archie Bradley broke his elbow after falling over the railing during the Angels-Mariners brawl the other day
(Video via @Jomboy_’s breakdown) pic.twitter.com/8WTxoYMkkE
— Baseball Quotes (@BaseballQuotes1) June 28, 2022
Special Injury of the Year Postseason Awards
Lance McCullers Jr. — Not everything that happens in those October victory celebrations is as festive as those euphoric champagne-splashed iPhone videos make them look. After the Astros eliminated the Mariners in the American League Division Series, McCullers got bonked on the elbow by a champagne bottle and had to have his ALCS start backed up a day. These guys don’t just need goggles. They need body armor!
David Robertson — But then, other forms of postseason euphoria can be overrated, too. Just ask David Robertson. The Phillies reliever leaped for joy watching Bryce Harper’s mammoth Game 2 homer against the Cardinals in the Wild Card Series … except that joy only lasted until he returned to earth … and forgot to deploy his parachute … which caused him to strain his right calf muscle … and miss the whole NLDS. Next time, we recommend pumping those fists in the air and keeping his calf muscles on land where they belong.
Special Broadcaster Injury of the Year Award
It’s hard not to have a whole new admiration for the athleticism of Bernie Brewer after seeing the carnage Bernie’s slide inflicted on Dodgers reporter David Vassegh of Sportsnet LA. Hey, it seemed like a good idea at the time, when Vassegh attempted to whoosh down Bernie’s slide during the Dodgers’ August visit to Milwaukee. Six cracked ribs and a fractured wrist later, it didn’t seem like the programming idea of the 21st century anymore. But the one thing any media member can always count on after a debacle like that is … at least the players won’t give him any crap at all about it!
#HolyCrap #VasseghsChalet @THEREAL_DV pic.twitter.com/hKrwrAvYQV
— Justin Turner (@redturn2) August 18, 2022
A Strange But True 118th World Series
My five favorite Strange But True World Series tidbits, coming right up …
1. DUSTY! Let’s put aside whatever you might feel about the Astros, OK? Can you do that for a moment? Thanks, because their manager, the legendary Johnny B. (Dusty) Baker, just did something amazing. Once upon a time, in 1968, he got a hit in the big leagues as a teenager. And in 2022, he won a World Series as a manager in his 70s. And you know how many people in the history of his sport have ever done that? Of course, nobody else has done that, because … Dusty!
2. DID YOU HEAR THE ONE ABOUT THE NO-HITTER? Once upon a time in a different universe, of World Series day games and grainy black-and-white “video,” Don Larsen pitched the most famous (and also only) World Series no-hitter of all time. Well, somebody else was bound to join him one of these centuries. And in Game 4 of this World Series, that turned out to be more like somebodies — by which we mean a four-pitcher Astros tag team (Cristian Javier, Bryan Abreu, Rafael Montero and Ryan “Now or Never” Pressly).
We’ll have to save the debate over whether this no-hitter was truly the same feat as Larsen’s, because let’s remember something: This is the Strange But True column. And we have some Strange But Trueness to pass along.
The CBP Strange But Trueness: This was the 1,745th game in postseason history. No-hitters have now been thrown in exactly three of them — Larsen’s 1956 World Series perfect game, this Astros game and Roy Halladay’s 2010 non-World Series (NLDS) no-hitter. But here’s the Strange But True part:
Two of those three games were pitched in Philadelphia’s favorite hitting haven, Citizens Bank Park … and Dusty Baker was managing the visiting team in both of them (2022 Astros and 2010 Reds, who lost to Halladay). What the heck were the odds of that?
The CBP Strange But Trueness Addendum: Oh, wait. There’s one more thing. The Phillies have been playing baseball at Citizens Bank Park for 19 seasons. And how many regular-season no-hitters have they thrown there, while 100 percent of all postseason 21st-century no-hitters have been thrown there? Somehow or other, that answer is … none!
The Cristian Javier Strange But Trueness: Then there’s the dude who started this World Series no-hitter, Cristian Javier. On one hand, he went only six innings, so he’s no Don Larsen. On the other hand, he easily could have been working on his sixth no-hitter in a row (or at least his sixth combined no-hitter in a row).
Check out the number of hits Javier allowed in his last six starts of the year: 0 … 1 … 2 … 1 … 1 … 2. In other words, over those six starts, he gave up a total of seven hits! Former Astros great Dallas Keuchel had a game this year in which he gave up nine hits in one inning … and Cristian Javier gave up seven hits over six starts. Wow.
The Strange But True No-Hitter Bookends: Isn’t it incredible how one night at a ballpark can bear so little resemblance to the next night at that same ballpark, even in a World Series? This no-hitter was living proof.
• What happened in the game before this no-hitter? The Phillies hit five home runs in one game! And how many other teams in history have ever hit five home runs in one game and gotten no-hit in the next game, even including the regular season? Whaddaya think? It’s zero, naturally.
• But then what happened in the game after this no-hitter? Following a night in which no Phillies hitter got a hit, the first Phillies hitter the next night (Kyle Schwarber) hit a home run. But here’s the Strangest But Truest part: Nobody had hit one of those in the game after any no-hitter, regular season or postseason, since … the day after the only other postseason no-hitter since Larsen’s gem (Brandon Phillips for the 2010 Reds, in the game after Halladay’s no-no). Because … baseball!
3. PARTY OF FIVE! OK, now remember that five-homer game we so casually referenced above? It didn’t seem that casual at the time! Possibly that’s because it isn’t every day when a team hits five home runs in the first five innings of a World Series game. Oh, wait. Before Game 3 of this World Series, it hadn’t been any day. There was lots and lots of crazy stuff that went with that. But it doesn’t get any Stranger But Truer than this:
Lance McCullers Jr. in 2022*: 242 batters faced before this game — 4 HR
Lance McCullers Jr., Game 3: 20 batters faced — 5 HR
(*regular season + postseason)
4. CY WHAT? It was Game 1 of the World Series. The Astros led 5-0. A starting pitcher with a 1.75 ERA was on the mound. His name was Justin Verlander. And it has been pretty firmly established that five-run leads don’t disappear when this guy is spinning his Cy Young Award wizardry … ehhh, until this game anyhow … which would somehow end: Phillies 6, Astros 5, on J.T. Realmuto’s 10th-inning Carlton Fisk imitation. So what the heck just happened?
I asked my friends from STATS Perform to look into every other game in Verlander’s career in which his team handed him a lead of five runs or more. Guess how those games went:
• His personal record? How about 99-and-0!
• His team’s record? How about 101-and-2!
• And in the two losses, he’s not the guy who gave back those leads. In both of them — July 10, 2015, and May 14, 2009 (both against the Twins) — late bullpen meltdowns inflicted the damage.
But when you play baseball, stuff happens. And the Stranger But Truer that stuff is, the more likely it is to wind up in this very column!
5. WAIT, HAVEN’T WE ALL BEEN HERE BEFORE? Finally, one of the Strangest But Truest parts about this World Series had nothing to do with anything that happened while it was being played. It all had to do with where it was played.
• So in Game 1, the Phillies did something that’s the ultimate in Strange But Trueness. They opened the World Series in the same ballpark (Minute Maid Park) where they’d clinched their playoff spot 25 days earlier! You think any team had ever done that in any road park? Heck, no.
• But then there was this related development: After ripping off seven wins in a row to kick off their Octoberfest, the Astros finally lost a postseason game in Game 1 of this World Series. Which meant …they lost their first game of the postseason against the same team (the Phillies), that handed them their last loss of the regular season — 25 days earlier in the same park. So how many other teams had ever had that happen to them in any World Series, no matter how long or short the gap was since their last loss? If you’re thinking that answer is none, I think it explains why you’re reading a Strange But True Feats of the Year column!
Ten more Strange But True Postseason Classics
ANYBODY MISS THOSE ZOMBIE RUNNERS? If your favorite thing in life is savoring two dozen doughnuts in one sitting, A) you should seek help immediately, but B) this was the postseason for you — because there were doughnuts all over the scoreboard in two certifiable October classics.
ALWCS Game 2: Guardians 1, Rays 0, in 15 innings of doughnut baking
ALDS Game 3: Astros 1, Mariners 0, in 18 innings of 00000000000000s
• Did you know that before these two games, only one postseason game had even made it past 12 scoreless innings — and then these two games went wayyy beyond that? So that’s one game out of more than 1,700 … and then two in a week (Oct. 8 and Oct. 15). Because that’s how baseball rolls!
• But of course, as the Rays and Mariners are so well aware, these were also 1-0 extra-inning elimination games. And there had been precisely two of those in more than a century of postseason history (1991: The Jack Morris Game; 1997: finale of the ALCS). And then … yep … we had two more in a week!
• Not to mention both of these games ended on walk-off home runs — by two rookies (Oscar Gonzalez for Cleveland, Jeremy Peña for Houston). So here we go again. According to the great Sarah Langs of MLB.com, in the history of postseason baseball, there had been exactly one extra-inning homer hit by any rookie ever (Chris Burke, for Houston, in 2005). And then … you can no doubt sing along with us at this point … we had two in a week!
• But hey, now for something completely different … strikeouts piled up by the Astros and Mariners in just that one 18-inning game: That would be 42! … As opposed to … Strikeouts in the entire 1913 World Series (all five games of it): 35! Because … baseball has apparently changed a little.
DOWN A TOUCHDOWN WITH NO GENO SMITH! Ah, but in happier Mariners postseason times, they also did something in Game 2 of the Wild Card Series that no team in postseason history had ever done: They found themselves trailing the Blue Jays by seven runs in the sixth inning, on the road … and then roared back and won. And yes, that’s absolutely as Strange But True as you’d think.
• Before that game, according to STATS, teams that trailed in a postseason game by seven runs or more in the sixth inning or later had compiled an attractive record of … 3-239! That’s a winning percentage of … .012!
• We should also note that it’s not as if miracle comebacks like this were a longtime Mariners specialty, either. Their all-time regular-season record when trailing by seven or more in the sixth or later? How about … 2-693 … which computes to a picturesque winning percentage of … .003!
• And if you’re guessing the Blue Jays don’t make a habit of losing games like this, that’s excellent guessing. Their regular-season record over the last 10 seasons in games they’ve led by seven or more that late? How about … 149-1! But then they lost that WCS game … when losing meant going home for the winter … which is mind-blowing, but also … baseball!
TRENT CITY — And now something else I bet you never saw coming … Trent Grisham!
Maybe you can explain how the same dude can go from hitting .184 for the Padres last season … to then hitting postseason home runs, on back-to-back nights, against Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom. But I can’t. And since I spent way too much time looking into this, I can report that in baseball history, no player had ever finished a season with 500-plus plate appearances and a batting average that low and then hit any postseason home runs. … But then Trent Grisham not only hit two of them in two days, but also hit them off the nastiest aces in Queens.
BADER OF THE LOST PARK — And now more postseason long-ball artistry not predicted by any humans I know …
Regular-season HR for the Yankees by Harrison Bader: 0
Postseason HR for the Yankees by Harrison Bader: 5
Postseason HR for the Yankees by Aaron Judge/Giancarlo Stanton: 4
Baseball! It … makes … no … sense!
AIN’T IT A SHANE — So how about your unprecedented Name Game pitching matchup in Game 1 of that Guardians-Rays Wild Card Series. We’re talking about … Shane (Bieber) versus Shane (McClanahan)! Yep, it was the first Shane-versus-Shane game in postseason history. But was that the Strange But True part? No, it was not, because we can sum up all the scoring in this game with this bulletin from the sixth inning …
Jose (Siri) HR off Shane (Bieber) …
After which …
José (Ramírez) HR off Shane (McClanahan)
All right, I know you’re wondering, so here you go. … According to Baseball Reference MVP Kenny Jackelen, of course this was the first game in postseason history that two hitters with the same first name homered off two pitchers with the same first name in the same inning. So repeat after me … The Shane of it!
PROFAR AND AWAY — If there’s one magic moment from this postseason I can’t stop watching every time I need a laugh, I turn my attention to Game 2 of that Padres-Dodgers Division Series. But no, not even to that goose on the field.
Rally goose? pic.twitter.com/yXSxaGr8p8
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 13, 2022
I’m talking about this!
Clayton Kershaw, Lawn Dart Curveball (side view). pic.twitter.com/QAWi1uQxTt
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 13, 2022
So what the heck was that? That was Padres left fielder Jurickson Profar getting in the swing of things, literally, by taking an actual hack at a Clayton Kershaw curveball that apparently was on its way to an underground cave somewhere in the Himalayas. And I’ve never been more grateful for the invention of Statcast than I was at that moment. Because that’s how we now know the following critically important information:
• Thanks to Statcast (and friend of the column Mike Fisher of Codify Baseball), we can try to make sense of just how low that pitch would have been when it crossed home plate if only the surface of the Earth hadn’t gotten in the way. And that answer is: 2.19 feet under the plate!
• And thanks to Fisher’s ability to run a complicated search of Statcast data from a sports bar, we now also know that in the Statcast era, nobody had ever swung at any pitch quite that low … not unless there are any groundhogs down there with a Louisville Slugger, anyway.
IT’S ALL BETWEEN THE EARS — In other postseason Padres merriment, there was also this postseason first: Ear check!
Mets manager Buck Showalter asked the umpires to check Padres pitcher Joe Musgrove for foreign substances after it appeared Musgrove’s ears were shiny. pic.twitter.com/U6alihJnfD
— Jomboy Media (@JomboyMedia) October 10, 2022
As if this needs any further explanation, this is the sight of Mets manager Buck Showalter asking the umpires to check Joe Musgrove’s shiny earlobes for foreign substances in the middle of a postseason game (Game 3 of the Wild Card Series). On one level, it speaks for itself. On another level, this was my esteemed teammate Andy McCullough’s pick as the weirdest thing he saw all year. Here’s how he explained that pick on the latest Starkville podcast:
“The image of Joe Musgrove, with his ears glistening, like radioactive glistening, just glaring at the Mets dugout, as an umpire gently caressed them in search of sticky substances, really underscored that I should have tried harder in high school and done more with my life. Knowing that my job that night involved explaining why that man was touching that other man’s ears was a real wakeup call.”
O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU — I sure hope you didn’t miss this magical moment in postseason brother history, in Game 2 of the NLCS. It’s Padres catcher Austin Nola, getting a game-turning RBI single off his brother, Aaron, of the Phillies … on an 0-2 pitch.
But a funny thing happened to Austin on the way to Christmas trash talking: The Phillies blitzed the Padres in that series, four games to one. And also … this:
Austin Nola in that NLCS:
1 for 2 against his brother
0 for 17 against pitchers he’s not related to
LOW BLOWS — There were soooo many Strange But True Phillies moments from this postseason, they’re almost a column unto themselves. There was the electrifying first inside-the-park homer by a catcher (J.T. Realmuto) in postseason history. … There were two stunning six-run innings, in a postseason when all the other teams in the tournament combined for zero innings that big. … And there was that time (against the Braves) when they somehow got a hit on five pitches in a row.
But if we’re talking next-level Strange But Trueness, there’s only one place to start — with Jean Segura. And why is that? Because he got the two biggest hits of his life on pitches that were closer to the Rocky Balboa statue than they were to home plate. Take a look.
Game 1, Wild Card Series:
Game 3, NLCS:
So how unhittable were those two pitches? Here’s how unhittable, according to Codify Baseball:
Hits on pitches like that by Jean Segura in this postseason: 2
Hits like that by all other hitters in the last 15 postseasons: 1
Strange But True plate coverage!
DEJA BOOM! Oh, all right. Can’t help but jam one more spectacular Strange But True Phillies note in here. Had to do it because this was mind-boggling. We’ll begin with Bryce Harper’s final swing of the final game of the NLCS, because this man had himself a moment.
Just your average lead-flipping, game-winning, NLCS-clinching, let’s-go-to-the-World Series swing of the bat. That’s all. But now let’s fast-forward to Game 3 of the World Series. When, in his very first swing, back in that same home ballpark, Harper had one more moment.
So let’s think about this. This man hit a go-ahead home run on the last pitch he saw at home in the LCS, and then bombed another go-ahead home run on the first pitch he saw at home in the World Series. And my first thought was: Who does that? And that answer, according to STATS, was … of course nobody, since the beginning of LCS time, has ever done that. … Because … Bryce Harper … keeping this column in business since age 19.
Ten Strange But True Reader Favorites of the Year
Finally, you know what makes these Strange But True columns possible? Well, baseball! But also … you guys!
I’m always inspired by every one of you who love baseball, love the weirdness of the sport, keep me updated on all the weirdness you see, and often tell me this is your favorite column on this whole amazing site.
So I did something this year I’d love to turn into an annual tradition. I asked for your favorite Strange But True highlights of 2022. Some of these came from your suggestions on our site. (You’ll be the ones identified with a first name and last initial.) The rest came from Twitter, where so many of you reached out to me.
Sorry I couldn’t include all of your brilliant ideas. But I love these 10. So … thank you!
1. THE UNLIKELY BATTING CHAMP — Loyal reader Eric Orns has been helping me unearth epic Strange But Trueness for years. But he outdid himself this year, when he pointed out that the Mets’ Jeff McNeil just won the National League batting title even though … he never led the league for even one day from April through September … and also … as late as Sept. 21, he was still trailing Freddie Freeman by 16 points (.330-.314).
So I asked my friends from STATS Perform if we’d ever seen a batting champ like this. And Eric will be delighted to know that question almost blew up their computers. Turns out that looking at every player’s batting average on every day of every season is hard. Who knew! But anyway, after multitudinous numbers of hours of research from STATS, the answer is …
The April-September part: Just FYI, I’m throwing out those tricky situations where a player led the league but then dropped out when he no longer had enough playing time to qualify. (Buster Posey/Melky Cabrera in 2012 comes to mind.) So if we go with that, it makes McNeil the first batting champ not to lead his league at any point in April through September since … Harry Heilmann in 1925! (Heilmann didn’t pass Tris Speaker until the last day of the season, Oct. 4.)
The 16-point comeback part: Hoo boy, what a question! We’ll spare you how complicated that one was to figure out and just let you know that … only one batting champ in the last 111 years ever came from farther back than McNeil’s 16-point hole after games of Sept. 21. In 1911, Honus Wagner stormed from 17 points behind to beat out Chief Meyers, for his seventh (and final) batting title.
So Eric, great questions. Just try to keep it simpler next time. Asking for a friend!
2. IMMACULATE DEPRESSION DEPT. — Loyal reader Jeff K. was one of many who wanted to know about the spectacular immaculate-inning epidemic in Texas this year. But since Jeff came up with that “Immaculate Depression Dept.” headline, let’s tip our cap to him!
So a bunch of you thought that a team (the Astros) throwing two immaculate innings in the same game (June 15) … against the same three Rangers hitters … was as Strange But True as it gets, huh? Correct! So let’s tell you how strange.
• The Rangers hadn’t been the victims of even one immaculate inning since April 29, 1990. And I’m guessing the three hitters involved in this immaculate daily double don’t recall that one too well … since Nathaniel Lowe and Ezequiel Duran hadn’t made their debut on Planet Earth yet — and Brad Miller was 6 months old.
• Since that game, the Rangers had played 5,060 games — with no immaculate innings. And then they had two of them in the same game.
• In between those games, many assorted Rangers hitters had accumulated 174,338 at-bats … 35,492 strikeouts … in over 45,000 innings … and had still avoided any immaculate innings. But then in this game, they had two of them in a span of 21 at-bats … and 15 strikeouts … and six innings. Because of course they did.
3. THE WORLD TURNED UPSIDE-DOWN — Thanks to loyal reader Toby M. for pointing out just how bizarre baseball can be in any season … and, actually, every season. He did that by firing a bunch of Strange But True classics at me, but you can’t beat this one.
What happened in 2021? The Giants won 107 games. That was the most wins in baseball. … And the Orioles lost 110 games. That was the most losses in baseball.
Yeah, but what happened in 2022? The Orioles won more games (83) than the Giants (81)!
4. THE PRICE YOU PAY — As loyal reader Vinnie B. pointed out, time can be the Strangest But Truest concept to grasp in baseball. And he illustrated that brilliantly, with this tidbit:
Who was the first pick in the 2007 MLB Draft? That would be David Price. Who just announced he doesn’t plan to pitch next year, after a great 14-year career.
And who was the 186th player picked in that 2007 draft? That would be Reds reliever Fernando Cruz, who finally made his major-league debut this year … 15 years after the Royals took him in the sixth round.
You say goodbye. I say hello. Baseball!
5. WORK IN PROGRESS(IVE) — Loyal reader Mike Fisher of Codify Baseball is having a big day in this column! Well, he’s back. What was so Strange But True about Guardians pitcher Cal Quantrill’s October? Here’s what:
Cal Quantrill at Progressive Field, regular-season career: 34 starts, 0 losses
Cal Quantrill at Progressive Field, in this postseason: 1 start, 1 loss
Now let’s explain. Regular-season Cal Quantrill: 14-0 lifetime in his home park in Cleveland, which ties him with Vic Raschi (14-0 at old Comiskey Park) for the most wins without a loss in any ballpark since 1901. Postseason Cal Quantrill: Lost to the Yankees in ALDS Game 4 at this same park.
But hey, guess what? Despite the minor technicality that he lost a game there in October, he still gets to hold that record and claim to be undefeated … because baseball doesn’t mix regular-season and postseason stats, but also because … baseball is weird.
6. THE PENULTIMATE SACRIFICE — The 2022 Braves had a season-long allergy attack. As loyal reader Paul McCord reports, they were allergic to bunts!
Yes, they were sooooo close to becoming the first team ever to make it through a full season without laying down a single sacrifice bunt. Except then, in Game 161 …
Whaaaat? For the record, manager Brian Snitker spoiled this fun by having Michael Harris II bunt two runners into scoring position, and it still didn’t work (thanks to two strikeouts). So will the Braves ever bunt again? That’s actually a question for another day. The real question is, had any team ever made it that deep into any season before its first sac bunt. And that answer is … of course not. No other team has ever come within three months of that. But why do we think, well, that’ll change.
7. IT’S ALL CYCLICAL — Just as I was finishing up this column, this late-breaking Strange But True bulletin arrived from loyal reader Alex Friedman, of the Oklahoma City Dodgers. And I had to squeeze it in somewhere, because we love those minor-league Strange But True submissions.
Aug. 26: Hot Dodgers prospect James Outman hits for Okie City’s first cycle in 11 years … and even finishes it off with a walk-off homer. So what could top that? Glad you asked, because …
Aug. 30: A mere four days (and three games) later, that same James Outman hits for another cycle. So …
That’s zero cycles for this franchise in 11 years … and then two cycles in four days … by the same player.
8. CONGRATS ON THE WIN (OH WAIT, NEVER MIND) — What’s that old expression in baseball: A win is a win is a win? Hahahaha. Not necessarily!
A loyal reader (but also an anonymous longtime official scorer), who runs the MLB Scoring Changes Twitter account, reports:
“Six times a pitcher went to sleep with a win … and woke up without the win (because) it was switched to a different pitcher. Six times! Including Opening Day for the Cubs! Opening Day!”
So hold on. What’s up with that? It’s one of those official-scorer things that kicks in when the starting pitcher doesn’t make it through five innings … but his team wins … so it’s up to the scorer to dole out “the win” to the reliever who theoretically most deserves it. And as you can see, what could possibly go wrong there?
Hey, maybe, says our friend @ScoringChanges, that would be the same thing that went wrong on June 15, when the Dodgers’ Tyler Anderson thought he’d taken a no-hitter into the ninth inning against the Angels. If you watched that game, you went to bed thinking his bid was dramatically foiled by a Shohei Ohtani triple with one out in the ninth, except, thanks to another pesky retroactive scoring-change thing … no it wasn’t!
After it wasn’t a no-hitter, you see, a fifth-inning error got magically transformed into a hit for Jared Walsh. So that whole no-hit bid was an illusion. Unfortunately, those 123 pitches that manager Dave Roberts let Anderson throw trying to finish that no-hitter? They were totally real.
But does it get much Stranger But Truer than watching something happen in baseball, only to have somebody decide afterward it was cool to make it un-happen?
9. SERVING FOUR BOWLS OF SPECIAL K — The good news for Brewers catcher Victor Caratini, on July 4, was: He finished his day with a walk-off extra-inning homer against his old friends, the Cubs.
So what was the bad news? As loyal reader JR Radcliffe of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports, before that walk-off, Caratini managed to strike out for the cycle! That’s not quite as electrifying as those Christian Yelich cycles we told you about in part one of this Strange But True series. But I know what you’re thinking: What the heck is that?
Here you go: When you whiff on a 3-and-2, 2-and-2, 1-and-2 and 0-and-2 pitch, all in the same game, you’ve just “struck out for the cycle.” Seems hard to do!
10. ZOMBIE PICKOFF ALERT — Just when I thought we’d run out of ways for those pesky Zombie Runners to wreak extra-inning havoc, loyal readers like Chris Lauersen come along to remind me just how wrong I am. Thanks, Chris!
So how about this goofy thing that happened in a July 30 Phillies-Pirates game.
Top of the 10th inning: Pirates get the last out by picking Rhys Hoskins off first base.
Bottom of the 10th inning: Phillies get the first out by picking the Zombie Runner, Oneil Cruz, off second base.
OK, do you have this figured out yet? That’s adjoining pickoffs … of each team … with no plate appearances … or even anyone else actually reaching base … in between. Once, there was a time when this would have been 100 percent not possible. That time definitely isn’t this time.
“Back-to-back pickoffs,” Lauersen wrote us. “Can’t get too much weirder.”
We agree! And there’s only one explanation, as you know …
Baseball … in 2022!
More 2022 Strange But True
The Year in Strange But True: Judge! Ohtani! And MLB’s 20 most mind-blowing hitting, pitching feats
The Year in Strange But True: MLB’s Weirdest & Wildest games, plays, moments and stats of 2022
It’s the last Starkville of 2022. And it’s so much fun@dougglanville @ByMcCullough @enosarris & I on:
*The wildest things we saw this year
*Plus Strange But True … & trivia with @TylerKepner
Apple https://t.co/QboRtM1WaU pic.twitter.com/BKdgkjnu13
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) December 20, 2022
(Top photo of Dusty Baker: Carmen Mandato / Getty Images)