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.
It's Been A While: Thirty-nine-year-old Mark Grudzielanek played in eight games for the Eastern League's New Britain Rock Cats this past month, as part of a short-lived comeback attempt. The last time Grudzielanek had played in the circuit was a full 15 years prior, when he took the field as a member of the Harrisburg Senators in 1994.
But Grudzielanek's decade and a half between Double-A appearances was trumped by the inimitable Pedro Martinez, who made a rehab start for the Reading Phillies on Aug. 6. This marked the first time Martinez had pitched in Double-A since 1991, when he went 7-5 with a 1.76 ERA over 12 starts for the San Antonio Missions. The most notable player to appear on the Missions' roster that season was rehabbing hurler Orel Hershiser, who had last pitched for the club in 1981.
In Which the Magical Becomes Routine: The Minor Leagues were awash in no-hitters in August, making that most cherished of baseball experiences seem almost pedestrian. Eleven no-nos occurred between Aug. 11 and Aug. 28, including two apiece on the 14th, 19th, 22nd and 28th. The Daytona Cubs contributed two during this time, and reliever Oswaldo Martinez was involved in both.
Nearly Perfect: On Aug. 13, four Quad Cities Bandits relievers combined to retire 26 consecutive Kane County batters (one short of the number needed for a perfect game). The remarkable stretch began with a runner on second and no outs in the seventh inning, and continued all the way through Domnit Bolivar's two-out fielding error in the 15th. After Bolivar's miscue, pitcher Jonathan Gonzalez allowed two straight hits and the River Bandits lost the game.
This ballgame marked the second time this season that 26 consecutive batters were retired by the eventual losing team in an extra-inning Midwest League contest (Cedar Rapids accomplished the feat against Great Lakes on May 21).
Welcome to the Neighborhood: After a layoff of over a year, Major League veteran Armando Benitez returned to affiliated ball as a member of the Round Rock Express on Aug. 24. He retired the first two batters he faced, and then he helped Memphis tie a Pacific Coast League record by relinquishing four consecutive home runs.
Bustin' Out: On Aug. 4, the Lynchburg Hillcats held a 1-0 lead over the Kinston Indians after five innings of play. The Indians were in the midst of a 14-inning scoreless drought at that time and had scored just 12 runs over their previous five games. This offensive slump came to a most decisive end in the sixth frame, when Kinston put a 12-spot on the board. The most impressive aspect of this monster inning was that both Lonnie Chisenhall and Adam Davis hit grand slams -- before the Hillcats had even managed to record an out!
The Syracuse Chiefs joined the "12 runs in one inning" club later in the month. They posted a dozen in the ninth to turn a 5-4 nailbiter into a 16-5 laugher. The Chiefs then needed 41 innings to score their next 12 runs.
An Oasis in the Midst of the Desert: The Iowa Cubs entered their Aug. 1 contest against New Orleans having scored 14 runs in their last four ballgames. They then proceeded to score that many in a shutout victory over the Zephyrs, but it was not a sign of things to come. The I-Cubs lost the next three games of the four-game series, scoring a grand total of four runs over 27 frames.
Three-basin': The most notable aspect of Williamsport's 20-4 trouncing of Staten Island on Aug. 4 was that the club hit a team-record six triples. Three of the three-baggers came off the bat of Carl Uhl, who did so in each of his first three at-bats (including twice in the third inning). Uhl has hardly been a triples machine this season, however -- he's managed to hit just two over his other 41 games.
Doublin' Up: The Crosscutters weren't the only team to establish an extra-base hit record on Aug. 4, as the Altoona Curve belted a franchise-best 10 doubles in their 12-6 win over Portland (seven was the previous high). The Curve hit all 10 doubles over the first six frames, including four in the fourth.
The Latest In a Long Line: It's a virtual guarantee that each month will bring at least one ridiculous California League contest, and August was no exception. The Bakersfield Blaze cruised to a 24-3 win over the Lancaster JetHawks on Aug. 8, scoring in each of the first seven frames. Elio Sarmiento emerged as the game's offensive star, as the 23-year-old went 5-for-6 and crossed the plate six times (one shy of the California League record). Sarmiento scored the Blaze's first and last runs of the ballgame, as well as the seventh, 12th, 15th, and 20th. Sarmiento entered the ballgame having scored 23 runs over 54 games.
Coming Undone: Infielder Daniel Mayora has suffered through a pair of three-error games this season, and they occurred in back-to-back games (Aug. 4 and Aug. 6). In the latter contest, Mayora made three errors over the span of just two batters.
Well-Rounded: Between July 23 and Aug. 6, the Toledo Mud Hens batted around on seven occasions (including twice on Aug. 1). For a little perspective, consider the fact that the International League's other 13 teams combined to bat around just 14 times over the same period. Only one other club did so more than once.
Going Both Ways: Sacramento River Cats outfielder Matt Carson has made a whopping six appearances on the mound this season, including two in the month of August. The moonlighting hurler has pitched a full inning in each appearance, allowing eight runs - seven earned - on 11 hits.
What A Relief: Like Carson, infielder Anthony Contreras of the San Antonio Missions has seen more than his share of the pitcher's mound this season. The 25-year-old has compiled a respectable (for a non-pitcher) 5.40 ERA over five appearances, allowing three runs on six hits. On Aug. 13 against Springfield, Contreras hit a game-winning triple in the 13th inning. Perhaps this clutch hit was motivated by self-interest, as he had been told he would be going in to pitch the 14th. But Contreras' heroics merely delayed the inevitable. The very next day, he pitched a perfect 10th inning and was the pitcher of record in San Antonio's 3-2 victory.
A Steady Procession of the Ill-Equipped: In the interest of saving a depleted pitching staff, the Bowie Baysox sent four position players to the mound on Aug. 27. Eric Crozier, Ambiorix Concepcion, Steve Torrealba and Jason White were the players in question, and all things considered they didn't do too badly. The quartet combined to allow three runs on three hits over three innings as Akron coasted to an 11-5 victory.
Who Needs Hits?: Miles Durham of the Altoona Curve went 0-for-5 on Aug. 7, marking the end of his season-high 14-game hitting streak. It was a productive hitless day, however, as Durham still managed to tie his season-high by driving in three runs. The 26-year-old first baseman hit RBI infield grounders in the first, third, and seventh frames.
Dodging Bullets: The Harrisburg Senators made six errors and issued 10 walks against Trenton on Aug. 8, but still managed to take the Thunder into extra innings before finally losing, 3-2.
Time Traveler: According to the official records, Greg Waddell of the Pulaski Mariners hit his first professional home run on July 17. But that contest was suspended due to rain, and completed on Aug. 4. Waddell's dinger occurred during that portion of the contest.
A Possible Sign of the Apocalypse: On Aug. 9, the Dayton Dragons combined for 19 runs on 19 hits while leaving 19 runners on base.
An Unwieldy Affair: Altoona's 9-8 victory over Portland on Aug. 13 took four hours to play and included 24 hits, 17 walks, 24 strikeouts, five wild pitches, and 25 men left on base.
Efficiency in Both Victory and Defeat: Springfield's Tyler Norrick hurled just three pitches in his outing against San Antonio on Aug. 14, allowing a single and a triple and suffering the loss. The next day, he threw just one pitch en route to picking up the victory.
Homesick: San Jose reliever Mike Musgrave has compiled a 4.70 ERA over seven appearances at home and a staggering 47.25 ERA over six road appearances. Musgrave has retired just eight of the 30 batters he has faced on the road.
Hard To Believe Frisco RoughRiders catcher Chris Gradoville has hit just one home run over 168 at-bats this season -- and it didn't even leave the park. The not-exactly-speedy backstop blasted a ball off the top of the right center-field wall in San Antonio on Aug. 28, and came all the way around to score.