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.
Trading places: The Tampa Yankees pulled out a Bizarro World victory July 29, defeating visiting Charlotte, 6-5, in 14 innings. The game's winning pitcher was Emerson Landoni, who hurled two shutout innings. Usually a shortstop, Landoni entered in the bottom of the sixth inning as a pinch-hitter, remained in the game as the third baseman and then made his professional pitching debut in the 13th.
Meanwhile, the game's winning hit in the bottom of the 14th came courtesy of a pitcher moonlighting as a first baseman! That would be right-handed reliever Michael Solbach, who entered in the 13th inning and made two difficult defensive plays before coming through with a walk-off single in the 14th.
Succeeding where others have failed: The St. Lucie Mets thrashed the Clearwater Threshers, 19-4, on July 18, with every player in the starting lineup hitting safely and scoring. Five Threshers pitchers appeared in the ballgame, and the only one to escape unscathed wasn't actually a pitcher. Outfielder Brian Gump came on to pitch the eighth and tossed a 1-2-3 frame.
At home on the road: It'd be very difficult to say for sure, but this month David Chester of the Gulf Coast League Red Sox accomplished something that may be without precedent in professional baseball history. The first baseman connected for a home run against the visiting GCL Twins on July 12, a two-run shot in the bottom of the second. The contest was suspended in the fourth due to inclement weather, and continued on July 16 at the Twins' complex. Picking up where he left off, Chester came to bat in the bottom of the sixth and slammed yet another two-run homer.
And with that, Chester did the near-impossible -- homering in two different ballparks within the span of the same game!
In which the road becomes home: Joe Wieland hurled the first no-hitter in Frisco RoughRiders history July 29, issuing just one walk and facing the minimum in a 3-0 win over host San Antonio (Watch the final out). Just two days later, the 21-year-old was traded from the Rangers organization to San Diego as part of the deal that brought Mike Adams to Texas. This resulted in a new Minor League assignment for Wieland -- to San Antonio, the team he had just no-hit. When the trade was announced, the RoughRiders were still in San Antonio, meaning that Wieland only had to move his belongings from one clubhouse to the other.
On again, off again: Omaha's Luis Mendoza pitched a no-hitter against Memphis on July 18. But then he didn't, and then he did, and then he didn't. Memphis' Tyler Greene led off the ninth with a line drive that bounced off the glove of leaping left fielder David Lough, a play originally ruled an error. But the official scorer changed his ruling to a hit soon after the game, before turning it back to an error after Omaha protested. The Redbirds then filed an official request with the Pacific Coast League to review the play, and the league ruled that Greene's liner was, in fact, a hit.
Two birds, one stone: The Northwest Arkansas Naturals enjoyed their first no-hitter and triple play in team history this month, and both milestones happened in the same game. Will Smith and Kelvin Herrera combined for the no-no July 19, with Smith tossing the first seven innings. He was perfect through five innings, but started the sixth with back-to-back walks. No matter -- Arkansas catcher Alberto Rosario then grounded into an around-the-horn, 5-4-3 triple play.
Winning the 5K race: Fireballing reliever Mark Montgomery made his Charleston RiverDogs debut July 1, and what a debut it was. The 20-year-old came on to pitch the ninth inning, and during the frame he notched five strikeouts. After allowing two hits to start the frame, Montgomery proceeded to whiff the next five batters he faced (two of whom reached on wild pitches). He earned a save for his efforts with the RiverDogs' hanging on for a 10-8 win over Rome.
Kapteyn loses control: Braden Kapteyn made his professional debut with the Lowell Spinners on July 2, and suffice to say it didn't go as well as anyone would have hoped. The 20-year-old right-hander came on to pitch the ninth inning and allowed all five batters he faced to reach base, uncorking a staggering six wild pitches before being removed from the ballgame. (Even his first professional strikeout didn't result in an out, as the batter reached base via a wild pitch.)
Andrew Jones then came on in relief, and -- wouldn't you know it? -- threw a wild pitch to the first batter he faced. But despite this ninth-inning meltdown, the Spinners still won by a comfortable, 16-8 margin.
Hit parade: South Bend batters were on high alert during July 5's game against Dayton, as Dragons starting pitcher Kyle Lotzkar plunked five batters over 4 2/3 innings of work. The Canadian native hit one batter in the second, one in the third and three in the fifth before being removed.
But wait -- there's more: South Bend announcer Owen Serey was kind enough to get in touch with the following addendum to Lotzkar's hit by pitch-laden outing. Serey writes that "[Lotzkar] technically hit six, as he plunked Niko Gallego twice in the fifth inning. The first time it was not allowed because home plate umpire Dustin Klinghagen ruled that Gallego made no effort to get out of the way of the ball, even though it was still ruled ball one. Manager Mark Haley argued, leading to his ejection. Gallego then settled back in the box and was plunked again -- making it five official HBPs and one that didn't count.
Unhittable: On July 29, the good news for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre pitcher Andrew Brackman was that he didn't allow a hit over 3 1/3 innings of work. The bad news was that he walked nine batters and uncorked two wild pitches, allowing a relatively modest three runs in the process.
Heavy pitcher: The four pitchers detailed above all suffered from a lack of control, but one pitcher who never has a problem finding the plate is Jose Diaz of the Norfolk Tides. The 27-year-old native of the Dominican Republic is listed at 300 pounds on MiLB.com, but recent reports assert that the number is actually 330. Despite (or perhaps because of) his unorthodox size, Diaz has enjoyed a good season. He compiled a 1.48 ERA as Bowie's closer before getting the callup to Norfolk in late June.
Forever young: But the International League isn't just home to the Minor Leagues' heaviest player; within the venerable circuit also lurks the oldest. That would be 40-year-old Miguel Batista, who made his debut with Buffalo on July 5 after signing with the Mets organization. Batista made his IL debut back in 1995 with Charlotte and hadn't pitched in the league since a three-game stint with the 1999 Ottawa Lynx. On July 26, he matched up with 36-year-old Kevin Millwood of Pawtucket. Batista fanned nine in six innings of a Buffalo win.
When your best isn't good enough: Ryan Shealy enjoyed a two-home run, seven-RBI game July 4, but nonetheless his Las Vegas 51s lost to Salt Lake by a score of 10-9. The seven RBIs, futile as they may have been, matched a career high.
An incendiary offensive display: On July 4 no team asserted its independence more forcefully than the Danville Braves. Facing off against monarchal colonial oppressors the Burlington Royals, the D-Braves pounded out 22 hits and drew 12 walks en route to a 27-6 victory. The Braves scored two or more runs in every inning but the fourth (which, fittingly, was the only inning that Burlington scored), and 11 players hit safely, 10 scored and nine drove in a run.
A two-hour, four-minute rain delay preceded the ballgame, which took three hours and 59 minutes to complete. The final out was recorded at 1:03 a.m.
"I can't remember a game when [a team] had a crooked number every inning but one," said D-Braves manager Randy Ingle after the game, no doubt making a subtle reference to his favorite column on MiLB.com.
A nocturnal battle between Owlz and Ghosts: The above game wasn't the only Rookie-level July 4 contest to make that long day's journey into night. Orem and Casper took five hours and 15 minutes to play a 15-inning contest, with the Ghosts winning by a score of 13-12 thanks to Will Swanner's walk-off home run (his third of the game). The Ghosts displayed their indomitable spirit throughout, tying the game in the bottom of the ninth at 9-9, then re-tying it at 12-12 in the 13th after the Owlz had scored three in the top of the frame.
Dinger deluge: The Rochester Red Wings smacked six home runs against the Pawtucket Red Sox on July 5, tied for the most that the PawSox had ever allowed in one game. And it was a highly concentrated half dozen, as all six were hit in the first three frames -- one in the first, two in the second and three in the third. The first five were surrendered by Matt Fox, who allowed 11 runs over 2 2/3 innings of work. Tommy Hottovy came on in relief of Fox and allowed a home run to the first batter he faced.
Bull barrage: Rochester was on the other end of the home run equation July 21, as the Durham Bulls pounded a franchise-record seven home runs en route to an 18-3 win. The Bulls, who had not hit more than three home runs in a game all season, hit four in the second inning alone. Andrew Baldwin surrendered five of the homers, allowing 10 runs over two innings.
A stunning septet: But the Bulls weren't the only team to go yard seven times in one game, as the Tulsa Drillers accomplished the feat en route to a 17-11 victory against Springfield on July 19. Springfield's Brett Zawacki allowed four homers over 1 1/3 innings of work (including back-to-back-to-back shots in the eighth), as many as he's surrendered in his other 30 outings combined. The seven home runs were the most allowed in Springfield franchise history.
Frisco frenzy: No team this month could top Frisco, however, as the rampaging RoughRiders hammered eight homers in a 19-4 shellacking of Corpus Christi on July 22. Tommy Mendonca led the way with three dingers, and Robinzon Diaz added a pair (the only two he hit all month). Improbably enough, the pitcher who allowed the most home runs in the ballgame wasn't a member of the Corpus Christi staff. Frisco's Ben Snyder surrendered four over five innings as he cruised toward his eighth win of the season -- all four of Corpus Christi's runs were the result of solo homers off Snyder.
The grandest of slammers: Catcher Salvador Perez of the Northwest Arkansas Naturals hit a grand slam against Springfield on July 24, then connected for another on July 26. He later received a promotion to Triple-A Omaha, and, in his third game with the club, the Venezuelan native hit yet another grand slam. For those keeping score at home, that's three grand slams within the span of six days.
The single life: As an antidote to all these home runs, briefly consider the season that Pulaski's Jamal Austin is enjoying. The fleet-footed outfielder has collected 52 hits, 47 of which have been singles. He is hitting a scorching .394 on the season, but slugging a modest .439.
Under no pressure: Hudson Valley's Brooks Belter made his second professional appearance July 3, allowing a run over three innings against Aberdeen. The 23-year-old righty entered the game with a 5-0 lead, but Hudson Valley scored 10 runs over the seventh and eighth innings to turn the game into a 15-1 laugher. Nonetheless, Belter was credited with a save.
Synchronicity: The Gwinnett Braves coasted to a 5-2 win over visiting Louisville on July 18, and along the way a multitude of personal and organizational milestones were reached. Julio Teheran became the first pitcher in the International League to earn 10 wins and manager Dave Brundage notched his 1,000th career victory in front of a crowd that included the 1 millionth fan in franchise history.
Streaking wildly toward the middle: The Salem-Keizer Volcanoes compiled a just-about average 21-23 record over their first 44 games, but their path toward mediocrity has been anything but mundane. The club has gone 19-7 since a 2-16 start and has already compiled two eight-game losing streaks as well as five-, six- and seven-game winning streaks.
Going out in style: Arkansas Travelers outfielder Clay Fuller announced his retirement July 28, prior to that evening's game against Springfield (he's now going to play football at Baylor University). The 24-year-old wasn't in the lineup but came to bat as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning and smacked a home run over the fence in left-center field.