Welcome to Crooked Numbers, a compendium of bizarre, improbable and occasionally hilarious Minor League on-field occurrences. Over the second half of the 2017 season there were, of course, plenty such moments. What follows are 10 of the best (or, perhaps, worst), listed in no particular order.
It wasn't a sprint: Chattanooga's Alex Perez entered the July 29 game against Birmingham in the bottom of the ninth inning as a pinch-runner. He went on to play as a designated hitter, second baseman, pitcher and -- once again -- second baseman.
Perez's improbable PR-DH-2B-P-2B box score journey illustrates what kind of game that Saturday night tilt turned into, as it took 21 innings for Chattanooga to eke out a 2-1 win. The Barons plated their lone run in the first; the Lookouts tied it in the ninth after the pinch-running Perez scored on Andy Wilkins' single. For the next 11 innings, all was quiet on this Southern League front. Perez hurled a scoreless 19th and 20th, giving way to fellow moonlighting position player Max Murphy in the 21st. He, too, went unscored upon.
In the bottom of the 21st, the Barons were forced to take the position player pitching (PPP) route as well. First baseman Toby Thomas recorded two quick outs [one of them being the erstwhile Perez], then melted down in the early-morning darkness and issued four straight walks. T.J White crossed the plate with the winning run, handing Murphy [who started the game in right field] a win in his first-ever professional pitching appearance.
No-No; No-No: There were 22 no-hitters thrown in the Minor Leagues this year. Two teams -- the Lakewood BlueClaws and Gulf Coast League Cardinals -- notched two. But here's where the GCL Cardinals stand out: the team's no-hitters were thrown in games one and two of a doubleheader against the Marlins on July 23. Joan Baez and Jose Jimenez did the deed in the opener, while Jared Johnson and Gilberto Chu got it done in the second. Those seven-inning no-hitters were the only ones thrown in the GCL this season.
Gunning it in reverse: Of the 16 Minor League players who hit for the cycle in 2017, one would be hard-pressed to find a more improbable example than Stefan Trosclair of the Peoria Chiefs. On Aug. 4, after seven innings of play against Beloit, Trosclair was 1-for-3 with a home run. He tripled and doubled as part of a 10-run eighth, then singled in the ninth as Peoria ralled for a 13-10 win. Not only did Trosclair collect three of his hits over the final two innings, he completed the entire cycle in reverse (HR-3B-2B-1B). All hail Stefan Trosclair!
9-2-6-2 = 3: There's no way to say for sure, but it's possible that, heading into the season, there had never been a 9-2-6-2 triple play in the Minor Leagues. This exceedingly rare, and perhaps unprecedented, occurrence came to pass on Aug. 9. The Carolina Mudcats pulled it off, victimizing the Lynchburg Hillcats. In lieu of trying to explain what happened, watch this video:
Video: Mudcats turn triple play
A very permissive pitching environment: What's the record for the most pitchers who've allowed at least one run in a single game? Seriously, does anybody know? The record might have been set on Aug. 14, when the Billings Mustangs posted a wild 12-inning-triumph over the Idaho Falls Chukars. Ten pitchers appeared in the game -- five for each team -- and none escaped unscathed.
Hesitation Marks: There may be tougher ways to lose a game. Then again, there might not be. The Burlington Bees dropped a 2-1, 10-inning decision to the Kane County Cougars on Aug. 8, and both of the Cougars' runs came via balks. Andrew Vinson and Justin Kelly [who took the loss] were the balking culprits. Their teammate, Midwest League balk leader Erik Manoah, did not appear in the game and was probably relieved he wasn't the one doing the balking.
61 vs. the 51s: In 2017, the Fresno Grizzlies' three highest single-game run totals were 22, 19 and 18. Would you believe that all three occurred in the same four-game series? You should, because they did! The victims in this offensive explosion were the Las Vegas 51s, at their home ballpark, Cashman Field.
It began on July 17, with the Grizzlies applying a 22-8 shellacking to their Sin City-based brethren. Every player in the starting lineup hit safely and scored at least one run, with Jon Kemmer leading the charge from the eight-hole. The 51s employed only four pitchers, two of whom were moonlighting position players [catcher Jeff Glenn and infielder Jio Mier].
The carnage continued on July 18, as Fresno scored early and often en route to a 19-12 pasting. For the second game in a row, a 51s starter was tagged for 12 earned runs -- this time, the victim was Mitch Atkins. The Grizzlies again were unstoppable from top to bottom, with every player in the lineup knocking in a run.
Fresno took a breather on July 19, losing 4-2, but was back in slaughter mode for the 18-5 season finale victory. Ten players batted for the Grizzlies and -- you guessed it -- all 10 scored a run. The 51s again returned to the "position players pitching" well, as Cody Decker hurled a [mercifully] scoreless ninth.
All told, the Grizzlies scored 61 runs in the four-game series. In each of their three blowout victories, their hit total was exactly equal to the number of runs they scored.
Something in the way: As the below tweet explains, the Birmingham Barons won in "wild walk-off fashion" on Aug. 28. What sort of fashion constituted the walk-off wildness? That would be Alfredo Gonzalez crossing the plate in the 11th inning after an "interference error" by Tennessee catcher Ian Rice during a rundown in which Gonzalez was caught between third and home.
Record-setting rehab: When Cesar Hernandez played for the Clearwater Threshers in 2011, he drew 23 walks in 119 games. But when the Philadelphia Phillies second baseman returned to Clearwater on a July rehab assignment, his plate approach was decidedly different.
During the Threshers' 13-4 victory over Daytona on July 19, Hernandez tied the Florida State League record by walking six times. The only other player to drawn that many bases on balls in an FSL tilt was Stephen Aleschuck on Aug. 22, 1966. Per Baseball Reference, the six walks Aleschuk collected in that game represented one sixth of his career total.
I can't believe I eight the whole thing: Everett marketing manager Jason Grohoske, a regular contributor to this column in the past, couldn't help but submit this bit of AquaSox ephemera:
"On the eighth day of the eighth month, during the eighth Tuesday of the season, the Everett AquaSox scored eight runs in their first shutout of the season against the Spokane Indians."
You could look it up!