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.
You Learn Something New Every Day: On April 23, the Greensboro Grasshoppers defeated the Asheville Tourists, 8-7, in 14 innings. The game was a wild affair on many levels -- first baseman Bo Bowman pitched the 14th for the Tourists and took the loss, for example -- but the most memorable aspect of the contest was that pitchers from both teams filled in as pinch-umpires.
Below is an excerpt from the story written on the game:
This rare, but not unprecedented, occurrence was the result of a scary event that took place in the sixth inning. Home plate umpire Koyu Inoue was struck in the head by a foul ball and knocked unconscious, and the ballgame was delayed for 47 minutes while he was attended to on the field. Inoue was taken to a hospital for observation, but returned to the ballpark later in the evening.
When play resumed, field umpire Jason Hutchings moved behind home plate. Taking his place in the field were a pair of pitchers -- Brandon Todd of the Grasshoppers and Adam Jorgenson of the Tourists.
Yes, this is standard operating procedure.
"This isn't as unusual as you may think it is, especially in leagues with a two-umpire system," said Justin Klemm, the executive director of the Professional Baseball Umpires Corporation (PBUC). "Should one umpire become ill or injured, the other umpire can use his discretion and select a player from each team to work the bases."
Synchronicity: Potomac Manager Trent Jewett notched his 1,000th career victory and his 1,000th career loss on the same day. The veteran skipper entered an April 30th doubleheader against Wilmington with a 999-999 career record. Potomac dropped the opener, handing Jewett loss No. 1,000. He moved his career record back to the .500 level when the P-Nats pulled out a 6-0 victory in Game 2.
Rules Do Not Apply to the One Known As "Ichiro": On April 9, a rehabbing Ichiro Suzuki played in a five-inning Rookie-level intrasquad game in extended Spring Training, and went 7-for-10 with two triples and a double. Ichiro served as the leadoff hitter for both teams, and did not play the field.
Wild Pitching Is Contagious: The April 9 contest between Great Lakes and Dayton featured seven wild pitches -- all of which occurred in the seventh inning or later. Four of these wild pitches led directly to a run, and each of these four were uncorked by a different hurler:
- Jordan Hotchkiss (Dayton, seventh inning)
- Mike Bohana (Dayton, eighth inning)
- Jordan Pratt (Great Lakes, eighth inning)
- Robert Boothe (Great Lakes, ninth inning)
Rallying Despite the Rally Killer: On April 9, the Harrisburg Senators grounded into five double plays (in the first, third, eighth, ninth and 10th frames). Nonetheless, they were able to rally from a 5-2 deficit and eventually pulled out a 6-5 win in 10 innings.
Can't Stop the Inevitable: The wind was blowing out at Lancaster's Clear Channel Stadium on April 14, meaning there was a strong possibility that the night's game would be a slugfest. Instead, three Lancaster pitchers (Shane Wolf, Chia-Jen Lo and Bryan Hallberg) combined to strike out a team-record 18 batters as the JetHawks beat Inland Empire, 3-2. The game's 18th strikeout victim was none other than Christian Lara -- regular readers of this column's previous incarnation will recall that Lara was traded from Lancaster to Inland Empire last season, suiting up for both teams in the span of a single game.
But the moral of this story is that offense cannot be denied (at least not in the California League). The very next day, Jonathan Gaston and Brian Pellegrini set a JetHawks record by becoming the first teammates to both hit three home runs in one game.
You Again!: Arvest Field, home of the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, opened in 2008. In both of the home openers to take place at the stadium, the Naturals have been opposed on the mound by Will Inman of the San Antonio Missions. In 2008, Inman hurled five shutout innings against the Naturals and picked up the win. He fared much worse in 2009, allowing four runs over four innings in an eventual 5-4 Naturals victory.
Imitation Is the Sincerest Form of Flattery: Twice in the month of April, Indianapolis Indians teammates Andrew McCutchen and Brian Bixler hit back-to-back triples to begin a ballgame. In fact, these were the only two triples that Bixler has hit this season; he is now up in the big leagues with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
False Impressions: On Opening Day, the Rochester Red Wings hit four home runs en route to a 7-4 win over the Syracuse Chiefs. This was not a sign of things to come, however. The club then went eight straight games without a dinger, a streak that was finally broken on April 18 when Matt Macri went yard against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Tough Luck, Taken to the Extreme: After his first two starts of the season, Brandon Erbe of the Bowie Baysox had more losses (two) than hits allowed (one). On April 11, the 21-year-old righty yielded three runs - one earned - over three hitless innings (he walked four). He allowed two unearned runs on just one hit in his next start, and took the tough-luck loss as Bowie lost to Akron, 3-1. On the season, Erbe is 1-3 with a 0.90 ERA.
More Luck of the Tough Variety: Anthony Swarzak has lost all three of his starts for the Rochester Red Wings, despite compiling a 1.59 ERA (tied for third-best in the International League).
Okay, One More: Tommy Hanson of the Gwinnett Braves ranks fifth in the International League in ERA (1.69), while his 38 strikeouts lead the circuit. His record? 1-3.
Blessed Persistence: On April 19, the Durham Bulls beat the Charlotte Knights by a score of 5-4 -- and this was no easy task. Durham scored a run in the ninth to tie the game at 2-2. Both teams pushed across a run in the 10th and 11th, and the Bulls finally emerged victorious after scoring another run in the 12th.
An Unlikely Occurrence: Tulsa's Anthony Jackson hit two home runs against Corpus Christi on April 10, breaking a 76-game homerless streak. In 2008, Jackson played in the hitter-friendly California League and managed to hit just one home run over 430 at-bats. "That's not me, that will not happen again." Jackson told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times after April 10th's most anomalous occurrence.
All Good Things Must Come to an End: On April 22, Reading reliever Sergio Escalona pitched one-third inning against Altoona and did not record a strikeout. This snapped a string of 28 appearances in which the 24-year-old had accumulated at least one whiff. The last time he failed to do so was on July 2, 2008, while with Class A Lakewood.
All Good Things Must Come to an End, Pt II: Since we're on the subject of relievers and streaks of 28, it is worth mentioning that ambidextrous wunderkind Pat Venditte had his streak of 28 successful save opportunities snapped on April 28. The streak ended in a most frustrating way -- Venditte's Charleston RiverDogs were one out away from victory when Asheville's Carlos Martinez and Scott Robinson hit back-to-back singles. The Tourists then did a double steal, and back-to-back throwing errors by catcher Mitch Abeita and center fielder Ray Kruml allowed both runs to score. Asheville won, 7-6.
Making 'Em Count: Over 15 games with the Daytona Cubs, Marquez Smith managed to drive in 18 runs while collecting just 13 hits. He then received a promotion to the Tennessee Smokies, and in his debut with the club went 1-for-5 -- with two RBIs.
Also Making 'Em Count: The Carolina League RBI leaderboard includes several players with less-than-stellar batting averages. Salvador Sanchez ranks second with 21, but is batting a lean .239. Pedro Alvarez is tied for third with 20, despite batting .219. Finally, Michael Burgess is fifth with 18, despite an even .200 average. By contrast, the lowest-ever batting average by a Major League RBI champ was Harmon Killebrew's .243 in 1952.
Small Ball: The Winston-Salem Dash pounded out 18 hits in their 6-3 victory over Potomac on April 22. Sixteen of these 18 hits were singles -- including a run of 15 in a row that stretched from the second inning until the conclusion of the contest.
It's How You Use It: In their contest on April 22, both Louisville and Columbus accumulated 14 hits. The Clippers won the game by a score of 14-4.
An Unorthodox Route to Success: The Northwest Arkansas Naturals beat the Arkansas Travelers by a score of 2-0 on April 24. This despite the fact that the Naturals managed just one hit in the contest. Furthermore, neither of their runs occurred as a result of this hit. In the first, Mario Duarte walked, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt, stole third, and scored on a throwing error. In the second, Cody Strait walked, advanced to third after two balks, and scored on a sac fly. The Naturals' lone, harmless hit didn't occur until Chris McConnell doubled in the fifth.
An Unorthodox Route to Failure: The Portland Sea Dogs racked up a franchise-record 23 hits against the visiting Connecticut Defenders on April 26 -- and lost the game by a score of 20-15. The game also established Portland franchise records for combined runs (35) and hits (43). These numbers surpassed the previous mark, established in a contest with eerily similar results - on July 29, 2007, Connecticut defeated the Sea Dogs by a score of 20-13.
It's Been A While: John Suomi of the Northwest Arkansas Naturals was caught stealing against Corpus Christi on April 20. This was Suomi's first stolen base attempt since 2006 with Lynchburg, when he was also thrown out. The last time the 28-year-old backstop successfully stole a base was with Modesto in 2004. Undeterred by his recent failure, Suomi again tried to steal a base on April 28. He was again thrown out.
Power Outage: The Modesto Nuts hit just six home runs in the month of April. This is less than each of the top three sluggers in the California League. Joseph Dunigan leads the circuit with nine, while Brian Pellegrini and Matthew Spencer have hit seven apiece.
This hasn't stopped the Nuts from winning games, however. The club is 14-6, just a half-game out of first in the Cal League's North Division.
A Little Known Fact: Jackie Robinson's No. 42 jersey was retired throughout professional baseball in 1997. Therefore, the only individuals who are still allowed to wear the number are those who did so before 1997. It is widely known that one of these individuals is Yankees closer Mariano Rivera. Another? Potomac Nationals owner/first base coach Art Silber.