Crooked Numbers: May
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The purpose of "Crooked Numbers" is to take a look back at the month that was in the Minor Leagues, highlighting some of the many curious and absurd incidents that have taken place. Enjoy, and please don't hesitate to get in touch with suggestions for future editions.
One Game, 51 Runs: The California League is known as a hitter's haven, but June 28's contest between the Lake Elsinore Storm and the High Desert Mavericks took the circuit's reputation for offense to stratospherically absurd levels. On this day, the Storm defeated the Mavericks, 33-18.
Of course, such a result made quite an impression on the Cal League record book. A few of the marks that were established:
And not to be overlooked is the fact that Lake Elsinore's Mark Clark tied a Cal League record by crossing the plate seven times.
In addition to their 29 hits, the Storm took advantage of 13 High Desert walks and five errors. But the game's worst pitching performance came courtesy of Mavericks catcher Jose Yepez. The moonlighting backstop came on to pitch the ninth and yielded four home runs, including blasts by the first three batters he faced. This atrocious pitching line neutralized his stellar day at the plate, as he homered and drove in four runs.
Not to be lost in the shuffle was the fact that High Desert's James McOwen hit safely in his 36th straight game -- a new Cal League record. McOwen, Carlos Peguero, Kuo Hui Lo and Yepez drove in four runs apiece for the Mavericks, and the team still managed to lose by 15 runs (the most lopsided defeat of the season).
Further Weirdness in High Desert: Believe it or not, the above ballgame might not even qualify as the most grueling game that High Desert played this month. On June 4, the Mavericks took on the Stockton Ports and eventually won, 7-6. The game lasted 21 innings and took seven hours and 34 minutes to play (the longest game in Cal League history). Due to a league rule that an inning cannot begin after midnight, play was suspended after the 14th frame June 4. The next day, each team plated a run in the 17th before the Mavericks emerged triumphant in the 21st. Of course, the evening's regularly scheduled game was eventually suspended, because there's only so much baseball that can be played before midnight.
One More: Strange things happen in threes, so here's one more nugget involving High Desert. On June 19, Adolfo Gonzalez of the Inland Empire 66ers hit a walk-off homer against the Mavericks. In itself, this is nothing special. But last month, Gonzalez had surrendered a walk-off homer against the Mavericks after being called upon to pitch in the 11th inning of a 10-10 tie (the 66ers had run out of pitchers).
To both hit and allow a walk-off home in the same season is rare enough, but Gonzalez accomplished both of these feats against the same team.
Big thanks to High Desert director of broadcasting Alex Freedman for much of the above information.
Along Similar Lines: On June 14, Orlando Mercado hit a two-run pinch-hit single to give his Mobile BayBears a 3-2 walk-off victory over Tennessee. This occurred just one day after he took the mound as an emergency pitcher, allowing three runs over two innings and suffering the loss.
It Happened Again: Last month's "Crooked Numbers" made a big to-do of the fact that players filled in as umpires in a South Atlantic League contest between Greensboro and Asheville. Well, it happened again this month, this time in the Carolina League. There's a description of what happened in my blog entry about the game.
In the seventh inning of the game between Winston-Salem and visiting Myrtle Beach, home plate umpire Andy Dudones had to leave the ballgame after taking a foul ball off his right hand. Field umpire Will Little then moved behind the plate, and field umpire duties were assigned to Robert Marcial of the Pelicans and the Dash's Christian Marrero.
Incidentally, the Winston-Salem won the game by a score of 15-3.
Thanks to Winston-Salem Dash marketing manager Caleb Pardick for the initial heads-up on this.
Making Do: The Portland Sea Dogs defeated the Binghamton Mets on June 4, despite the fact that they were only able to muster one hit in the contest. Portland pushed a run across in the first, thanks to a walk, a stolen base, an error and a sacrifice fly. With runners on second and third and one out in the eighth, Mark Wagner broke up the B-Mets' no-hit attempt by blasting a two-RBI double. This gave the Sea Dogs a 3-2 lead, which turned out to be the game's final score.
Ill-Equipped: The Gwinnett Braves suffered a miserable 12-0 loss at the hands of the Columbus Clippers on June 6, committing a season-high five errors in the process. But at least they had a good excuse: the team's equipment truck didn't make it to Columbus in time for the game, so the G-Braves had to play with borrowed gloves.
Outpaced by EY: Eric Young Jr. of the Colorado Springs Sky Sox leads the Pacific Coast League with 46 stolen bases. For a little perspective on what an impressive total this is, consider the fact that he has swiped more bases than the entire roster of four PCL teams -- the Omaha Royals, the Tacoma Rainiers, the Las Vegas 51s and Portland Beavers.
Evenly Matched: On June 8, the Nashville Sounds defeated the Omaha Royals, 7-4. Not only did this even up the season series at 8-8, but it pushed the all-time record between the two clubs to 183-183.
No Offense: In a four-game series that concluded with a June 7 doubleheader, the Wilmington Blue Rocks outscored the Lynchburg Hillcats by a combined total of 7-2. That's right, nine runs were scored in the entire series. The four-game set consisted of 72 half-innings, 67 of which resulted in a zero on the scoreboard.
Making the Most of the Mendoza Line: Jonathan Fixler hit just .200 for the Corpus Christi Hooks before being demoted, but it was a strong .200. Of his 12 hits, fully half left the ballpark and another four were doubles. He did not collect a single until June 1, his 61st plate appearance of the season.
An Off Night: Durham Bulls' shortstop Ray Olmedo entered June 11's game against Buffalo having made three errors on the season. But in that contest alone, he made four miscues.
Nowhere To Go But Down: Jeremy Slayden's first at-bat with the Double-A Reading Phillies on June 11 could not have possibly gone any better. The 26-year-old entered the game as a pinch-hitter, batting with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning. He promptly hit a walk-off grand slam, giving the R-Phils a 6-3 victory over Trenton.
On Second Thought: On June 11, In what was supposed to be the final start of a rehab assignment, Franklin Morales suited up for the Colorado Springs Sky Sox and surrendered eight runs over 4 1/3 innings. The Rockies then activated Morales from the disabled list ... and optioned him to Colorado Springs.
A Victory Most Improbable: The Quad Cities River Bandits committed a season-high seven errors against Cedar Rapids on June 12 and still managed to eke out a 5-4 win. Second baseman Alex Castellanos, who made three of the miscues, hit a two-run single in the bottom of the eighth inning to secure the win.
Bananas Splits: This was remarked upon in last month's column, but Casey Hudspeth of the Corpus Christi Hooks continues to excel at home and tank on the road. In Corpus Christi, Hudspeth is 4-0 with a 3.48 ERA over seven starts. But in away games, he is 0-6 with a 10.31 ERA over seven starts.
Rarer Than You Might Think: On June 17, Mike McKenry and Ryan Harvey of the Tulsa Drillers became the first players in Texas League history to hit sacrifice flies in the same inning. This unprecedented occurrence materialized in the sixth frame of an eventual 11-2 win over Northwest Arkansas.
Divisional Dominance: The Fort Wayne TinCaps are 50-26 on the season, and much of their success is due to their uncanny ability to defeat the Dayton Dragons and South Bend Silver Hawks. Thus far, the TinCaps have combined to go 28-2 against these two divisional foes.
Whatever You Can Do, We Can Do Worse: The Peoria Chiefs committed a season-high five errors against Burlington on June 19. However, the Bees made six errors, and Peoria won the game, 12-10. Just nine of the game's 22 runs were earned.
Huffin' and Puffin': Lakewood BlueClaws third baseman Travis Mattair tried to rip a page out of the all-time blooper play book on June 14, when he attempted to blow Adam White's bunt into foul territory. This attempt was unsuccessful as a run scored on the play and White was credited with an infield single.
Huffin' and Puffin', Part II: On June 26, Trey Hearne hit the first inside-the-park home run in Springfield Cardinals history. Making this feat all the more remarkable is the fact that Hearne is a pitcher (and collecting his second homer of the season).
Better late than never
This may be a little late, but I wanted to let you know about our pitcher Dexter Carter. Dexter, who leads the South Atlantic League in strikeouts, struck out four batters in a row in the same inning twice in the month of May.
He first did it on May 10 in Lake County in the fourth inning, when he struck out four in a row thanks to a passed ball.
He did it again on May 27 in the fifth inning at Hagerstown, when he used a strikeout-wild pitch to strike out four batters in a row.
Striking out four batters in a row in the same inning is something that has been done fewer than 20 times in the big leagues since 1900, and Dexter did it twice in the same month!
But that's not all of the belated May tidbits I have at the ready. To wit:
An Anomalous Burst of Offense, Team: The Arkansas Travelers defeated the Corpus Christi Hooks, 19-10, on May 29. In this contest, the Travs scored eight runs in the fifth inning and nine in the sixth. Their offensive output in these two frames exceeded that of their previous 52 innings, and it then took them 41 innings to score another 17 runs.
An Anomalous Burst of Offense, Player: When Wladimir Sutil of the Corpus Christi Hooks homered on May 29, it marked first home run in nearly six years, since July 23, 2003 when he was playing the Venezuelan Summer League.
A More Anomalous Burst of Offense, Player: The very next day, another light-hitting Texas Leaguer broke a formidable home run drought. Guilder Rodriguez of the Frisco RoughRiders broke his career-long homerless streak -- spanning nine seasons and 1,729 at-bats -- by going yard against Northwest Arkansas.
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.