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Crooked Numbers: Long finishes09/30/2010 10:00 AM ET
By Benjamin Hill / Special to MLB.com
The purpose of "Crooked Numbers" is to take a look back at the month that was in the Minors, highlighting some of the curious and absurd incidents that have taken place. Enjoy, and please don't hesitate to get in touch with suggestions.
No no-no, but yes to the win: The Lakeland Flying Tigers eked out a 2-1 victory over Dunedin on Sept. 1, and they certainly deserved it. The pitching staff, led by starter Cole Nelson, hurled no-hit baseball until the 14th frame. But that wasn't enough, as the game remained at 0-0 until Dunedin broke through with a run in the top of the 17th. No matter, the Blue Jays scored two in the bottom of the frame and walked off with an improbable win. Juaner Aguasvivas' RBI single scored Jordan Lennerton with the game's winning run.
Ninth-inning nine-spot: On Sept. 1 in Albuquerque, the Iowa Cubs came to bat in the ninth inning on the losing end of a 13-6 score. When the inning was over, however, they had pulled out a highly unlikely 15-13 win. The Cubs bashed two three-run homers in the frame, with Marquez Smith's two-out blast proving to be the difference in the game. Smith had led off the momentous frame with a walk.
Taking it to the wire: Northwest Arkansas Naturals first baseman Clint Robinson won the Texas League Triple Crown this season, batting .335 with 29 home runs and 98 RBIs. It wasn't an honor that came easy, however. Robinson entered the last day of the season with 95 RBIs, tied with Matt Clark of the San Antonio Missions. Clark drove in two runs during the Missions' Labor Day matinee, giving him 97 on the year. Needing three RBIs to win the Triple Crown, Robinson hit a sacrifice fly in the first, a RBI single in the third and a run-scoring double in the fifth. With his Triple Crown secured, he then was removed from the ballgame.
Un-Herd of feats on last day: The Labor Day contest between Buffalo and Rochester had no meaning in the standings, but Justin Turner sure made it memorable. The 26-year-old infielder went 6-for-6 and hit for the cycle, as his Bisons romped to a 16-1 win. Turner doubled in the first, homered in the third, singled in the fifth, sixth, and ninth and tripled in the eighth. This marked the first time since 2004 that a Buffalo player hit for the cycle and was the first six-hit game since Howard "Butch" Myers went 6-for-7 all the way back in 1936. Also remarkable is that Turner's eighth-inning triple, which completed the cycle, was his only three-bagger over 413 at-bats this season.
A bounty of Bonilla: The last day of the Minor League season often brings with it the spectacle of a player taking the field at all nine positions within a single game. Leury Bonilla of the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx did just this on Labor Day, as part of the Diamond Jaxx's 8-0 win over Chattanooga. The 24-year-old played the outfield over the first three innings, the infield over the next four, caught the eighth and hurled a scoreless ninth to preserve the shutout. And as if all that wasn't enough, Bonilla hit a solo home run in the first as well.
Just in case you're keeping track: 2009-'10 marked the first time since 1988-'89 that the Appalachian League's Bluefield franchise finished ahead of neighboring Princeton in the standings. 1988-'89 were the first two seasons of Princeton's existence.
Lucky 37: Northwest Arkansas and Springfield went 16-16 against one another during the regular season and then split the first four games they played in the divisional playoff series. It took their 37th matchup of the season for the Naturals to scratch out an 8-4 victory for a winning record against the Cardinals as well as, more importantly, a spot in the Finals against Midland.
Highly offensive: Frederick defeated Potomac in the first game of the Carolina League semifinals, overcoming an eight-run deficit en route to a 10-9 win. This was not a prolonged comeback, however, as the Keys scored eight runs in the top of the first inning and the Nationals answered with seven of their own before tying the game at 8-8 in the second. The 15 runs the teams combined to score in the first surpassed the combined total of each of the following three games in the series.
Minimum hit, maximum result: The big blow in the Spokane's 5-1 Northwest League semifinal Game 1 win over Vancouver was that rarest of base knocks -- the three-run single. Andrew Clark cleared the bases with a liner to right field that got by a diving Henry Zabala, but he was thrown out trying to stretch his hit into a double. This marked the first time in Clark's 63-game career in which he drove in three runs with any type of hit.
All the rules have changed: Tony Campano of the Tennessee Smokies hasn't hit a home run over 1058 regular-season at-bats, but that didn't stop him from doing so in the playoffs. The fleet-footed center fielder led off Game 2 of the Southern League semifinals with an inside-the-park roundtripper, giving the Smokies a lead they would not relinquish as they cruised to a 9-2 win over West Tenn.
Never assume: The Tacoma Rainiers defeated the Sacramento River Cats in Game 5 of the Pacific Coast League semifinals, with the go-ahead run scoring after River Cats first baseman Tommy Everidge flipped the ball into the stands with only two outs. From the MiLB.com recap: "With the score tied in the seventh inning, 1-1, the Rainiers had a runner at first with one out. With Mike Wilson running on the pitch, Jose Yepez hit a grounder to shortstop Eric Sogard, who flipped to second baseman Corey Wimberly. Wilson was called safe, but Wimberly's relay was in time to get Yepez. Everidge, thinking the double play had been completed, tossed the ball into the seats behind the first-base dugout." Wilson was awarded home as a result of the gaffe, putting the River Cats into a deficit they would not overcome.
No one here but us Minor Leaguers: Both the Trenton Thunder and Rancho Cucamonga Quakes received unexpected postseason support in the form of a rehabbing Major League hurler. Andy Pettitte pitched in both the semifinals and finals for the Thunder, hurling four scoreless innings against New Hampshire and allowing two runs over five innings vs. Altoona (the Thunder won both games). Angels right-hander Joel Piniero earned the win for the Quakes in Game 2 of the California League semifinals, taking a no-hitter into the sixth inning.
Out-of-position player: The Columbus Clippers and Durham Bulls kicked off the Governors' Cup Championship Series on Sept. 14, but postseason play doesn't preclude a position player pitching. That's what occurred in the eighth inning of this contest, with second baseman Omar Luna assuming mop-up duty in what turned out to be a humiliating 18-5 Durham defeat. Luna surrendered a moonshot to Luke Carlin to lead off the frame, but then retired three straight batters.
As long as two games: Game 2 of the Midwest League Championship Series lasted five-and-a-half hours and 18 innings, but the epic contest ended in a decidedly non-epic fashion. Clinton's Mario Martinez came to the plate with two on and two outs in the 18th inning, and hit a ground ball that went through the legs of Lake County third baseman Adam Abraham. Giovanni Soto, who had been scheduled to start Game 3, took the loss.
It's how you use it: Chris Hatcher of the Jacksonville Suns went 1-for-14 in his club's semifinal win over Mobile and went hitless in his first 13 at-bats of the Championship Series against Tennessee. Nonetheless, he'll be remembered as a 2010 postseason hero. Hatcher came to bat in the ninth inning of Game 4 with the Suns and Smokies locked in a scoreless tie, and promptly deposited reliever Luke Sommer's pitch over the left-field wall. The clutch blast gave the Suns their second straight Southern League championship.
Deja blue: On Sept. 18, the Lakewood BlueClaws won the South Atlantic League championship after defeating the Greenville Drive in Game 4 of the Finals. If this sounded familiar -- well, it should have. On Sept. 18, 2009, the Lakewood BlueClaws won the South Atlantic League championship after defeating the Greenville Drive in Game 4 of the Finals.
At home on the road: The Tacoma Rainiers won their Pacific Coast League semifinal series against Sacramento and then swept Memphis in the Championship Series. They accomplished this feat despite not playing a single game at home during the postseason. Renovations at the Rainiers' longtime home of Cheney Stadium forced the team to play at Seattle's Safeco Field in the semifinals, while the finals were played exclusively at Memphis AutoZone Park.