This season's first edition of Crooked Numbers began with a rundown of the strange weather-related delays and postponements that had afflicted Minor League Baseball teams in the month of April. Such meteorological madness has largely abated, but that's not to say that the action on the field has always proceeded as planned.
Sometimes, animals get in the way.
On June 24, a game between the Everett AquaSox and visiting Hillsboro Hops at Everett Memorial Stadium was delayed after a stray cat wandered onto the warning track. After several failed attempts to corral the wayward kitty, an intrepid member of the Hillsboro bullpen used his jacket as a feline retrieval device and carried it off the field. In this video, which is surely worth thousands upon thousands of words, relentlessly even-keeled AquaSox announcer Pat Dillon narrates the chaos with calm and aplomb.
As I diligently researched this incident in the wee hours of June 24, the Inland Empire 66ers chimed in with a similar report. This time, however, the delay was canine-related. (And, unfortunately, no photographic evidence appears to exist.)
But cats and dogs are downright pedestrian compared to the incident that took place on June 25 in Richmond. The Flying Squirrels own a "rally pig" by the name of Parker, who is pulled around the field in a customized cart in the late innings of games in which the home team is trailing. But on this particular evening, a member of the Bowie Baysox bullpen tripped over the cart and Parker summarily escaped, resulting in perhaps the first-ever "Rally Pig" delay in the history of our national pastime. Parker spent the better part of two minutes eluding would-be capturers (mascot Nutzy among them) before leaving the field of his own volition.
Parker's moment of glory resulted in a brief burst of national stardom that culminated with an appearance on SportsCenter, but, as this exclusive Facebook interview illustrates, he took it all in stride.
Get out the rule book! On June 10, Mississippi's Christian Bethancourt came to the plate with the bases loaded and hit a walk-off ground rule double, driving in two runs and propelling his team to a 3-1 win over Pensacola.
Except, not quite. After the ballgame, Bethancourt's hit was, in effect, turned into a ground-rule single and the final score of the game was adjusted to 2-1. And for this, we have Rule 10.06 to thank:
Subject to the provisions of Rule 10.06(g), when a batter ends a game with a safe hit that drives in as many runs as are necessary to put his team in the lead, the official scorer shall credit such batter with only as many bases on his hit as are advanced by the runner who scores the winning run…
Rule 10.06(f) Comment: The official scorer shall apply this rule even when the batter is theoretically entitled to more bases because of being awarded an "automatic" extra-base hit under various provisions of Rules 6.09 and 7.05."
Position Players Pitching! Of course, Crooked Numbers wouldn't be Crooked Numbers without a monthly roundup of notable instances in which position players took the mound as pitchers. Top honors this month go to the Northwest Arkansas Naturals duo of first baseman Mitch Canham and outfielder Whit Merrifield, as the former earned the win and the latter the save as the Naturals eked out a 13-inning, 3-2 victory over Arkansas (who lost despite using actual pitchers throughout the entirety of the ballgame).
An enthusiastic honorable mention goes to Bakersfield third baseman David Vidal, who pitched a scoreless ninth inning against Lancaster on June 26th after starting the game as the designated hitter. Vidal even helped his own cause by making a running catch in foul territory up against the protective netting behind home plate, marking perhaps the first time in baseball history that a moonlighting position player ever accomplished such a feat.
Pitchers position-playing! It's rare for a position player to take the mound and even rarer when the reverse occurs, but that's what happened in Tacoma on June 29 after Las Vegas 51s first baseman Ike Davis was ejected in the third inning. In response, 51s manager Wally Backman moved right fielder Eric Campbell to first base and then put pitcher D.J. Mitchell in at right field. Mitchell went 0-for-3 at the plate, but 3-for-3 in the field as he ably caught every fly ball that was hit to him.
Your Alex Freedman Email of the Month: Regular readers of this column know that Oklahoma City RedHawks broadcaster Alex Freedman is one of its most enthusiastic contributors, as each month he delivers a fascinating missive on the Pacific Coast League weirdness he's observed from his lofty broadcast booth confines. Take it away, Alex:
- We start with the very first game of the month on June 1. The RedHawks beat the Albuquerque Isotopes, 13-10 in Albuquerque, as both teams set a franchise record for their longest nine-inning game at 4 hours, 7 minutes. For good measure, the teams played a nine-inning game that lasted 3:59 just two nights later. The game featured 18 walks, including 11 by the Oklahoma City pitching staff to tie a club record. (At that point, I was somewhat upset we didn't go a full four hours for the second time in three nights.)
- However, it would take Albuquerque all of two weeks to set a new franchise record for longest nine-inning game, going 4:09 against Memphis on June 15, also a 13-10 final score. (It should be noted, though, that that game included a 25-minute delay for a brawl, subsequent ejections, etc.)
- I know you love position players moonlighting as pitchers, so this one is sure to tickle your fancy. Trailing Round Rock, 11-2, in the eighth inning on June 14, the RedHawks brought in utilityman Andy Simunic to pitch. After throwing a scoreless eighth, he recorded one out in the ninth before leaving with an elbow injury. Outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin then came in and got the final two outs of the inning. It was the first time since August 2, 2006. that two RedHawks position players pitched in one game (Tom Gregorio and Adam Morrissey vs. Las Vegas). Lin would also pitch three nights later on June 17 with OKC losing 12-1 in the ninth. He pitched a 1-2-3 inning and has retired all five hitters he has faced this year. A couple independent sources had him throwing 96 mph.
- Finally, here's kind of a bonus, because it also includes July: The RedHawks have hit back-to-back home runs twice this season. Both times have occurred against Albuquerque pitcher Aaron Laffey, and both times Brandon Laird hit the first homer. (Fernando Martinez hit the second one on June 1, and George Springer followed Laird on July 1.)
Two can play at that game: Freedman wasn't the only PCL observer to contribute to the column this month. Fresno Grizzlies media relations director Chris Kutz would like you to note the following:
The Grizzlies erased an 11-run deficit on June 6th at Salt Lake, beating the Bees 15-13. It was the largest comeback in Fresno Grizzlies franchise history and was highlighted by a 10-run seventh inning. As part of that 10-run seventh, Roger Kieschnick drove in five runs in the inning alone. He hit a two-run homer in his first at-bat and a bases-clearing, three-run double later in the inning.
The 15-13 win was the Grizzlies' second victory this season in which their opponent scored 10 or more runs. From 2008-12, Fresno went 2-76 when their opponents scored 10 or more runs. The 15 runs were also nearly double what the Grizzlies scored in their previous five games (eight runs).
(As an aside, I'd like to supplement Kutz's info with the observation that the Grizzlies scored 15 runs on 13 hits, while the Bees scored 13 runs on 15 hits. Weird.)
Out of control: It appears that the Visalia Rawhide and Bakersfield Blaze bring out the worst in one another, at least when it comes to that most dreaded of pitching statistics: the base on balls. June 12's ballgame in Bakersfield featured an excruciating six bases-loaded walks -- five of them by Blaze pitchers -- as Visalia sauntered to a 14-9 victory in a game that featured 14 free passes overall.
Then on June 29 in Visalia, the two teams combined for an even worse 16 walks in an eventual 11-6 Bakersfield victory. However, this time none of the 16 free passes came with the bases loaded:
Silver lining: June was an exceedingly rough month for veteran infielder Ian Stewart. A Twitter rant against the Chicago Cubs organization resulted in a suspension, and two weeks later he was released after having hit just .168 over 40 games with the Triple-A Iowa Cubs.
But at least Stewart had one moment of glory amidst the turmoil, as on June 8 he hit three home runs and drove in all eight of the I-Cubs runs as they defeated Round Rock by a score of 8-5. In the other 39 games Stewart played with Iowa, he combined to hit two home runs and drive in five.
Never say die! The New Hampshire Fisher Cats offense was the absolute epitome of tenacity on June 12, as Cats entered the ninth inning trailing Akron, 8-4. No matter, as a fearless stream of gung-ho batsmen reeled off five straight two-out hits en route to a highly improbable 9-8 win. Just how improbable? During that ninth inning rally, Fisher Cats batters faced 11 pitches at a point in the ballgame when there were two outs and two strikes.
Thanks for reading, and if you want even more Crooked Numbers then make sure to head over Ben's Biz Blog.. Too much is never enough!