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Crooked Numbers: Stop making sense

Oddities and anomalies from the second half of the 2018 season
On July 3, Shed Long scored from first base on a wild pitch to give Pensacola an improbable walk-off win. (Pensacola Blue Wahoos)
September 24, 2018

Welcome to Crooked Numbers, a compendium of bizarre, improbable and hilarious Minor League on-field occurrences. Over the second half of the 2018 season there were, of course, plenty such moments. What follows are some of the best (and worst), in no particular order. (Click here to view the first-half edition.)

Welcome to Crooked Numbers, a compendium of bizarre, improbable and hilarious Minor League on-field occurrences. Over the second half of the 2018 season there were, of course, plenty such moments. What follows are some of the best (and worst), in no particular order. (Click here to view the first-half edition.)

The birds and the bees: Peoria's Jesus Cruz pitched well in his July 4 outing against Burlington, allowing two runs and striking out nine over 4 2/3 innings. He may have been disappointed in falling one out shy of qualifying for the win, but as he walked back to the dugout after getting lifted he soon had something else on his mind. A bird swooped onto the playing field, flew into Cruz and then landed on the infield grass. Cruz took it from there, earning himself the sort of save that won't show up in any box score. 

Cruz's start was against the Bees. But for bees of an uncapitalized persuasion, we move to Corpus Christi, Texas. Prior to July 8's game between the Northwest Arkansas Naturals and the hometown Hooks, a swarm of bees descended upon the home dugout. The result was an 85-minute insect delay, a real buzzkill for fans of punctual start times. 

It ain't over 'til it's already over: The aforementioned Burlington Bees were the home team on Friday, July 13, hosting a Lansing Lugnuts squad that, in the end, felt they were screwed. The Lugnuts scored five runs in the ninth to tie the game at 5-5, and then the lights went out. The Bees never got their turn to bat in the bottom of the ninth, and thus the score reverted to what it had been at the end of the eighth: Burlington 7, Lansing 2. Burlington's Zack Kelly got the win, striking out five over three innings of work. You could say he was lights-out. 
Tweet from @Diamond_Dante: You see something new everyday at the ballpark... here���s what happened last night ������@LansingLugnuts scored five runs in the T9 to tie the game before the lights went out... the umps decided to call the game and the runs didn���t count! Lugnuts lose 7-2... wow 😒
-ski in, -ski out: Evan Kruczynski started July 25's game for the Palm Beach Cardinals, eventually earning the win after limiting the Daytona Tortugas to four runs over six innings. He was followed on the mound by John Kilichowski, Bryan Dobzanski and Jason Zgardowski, all of whom earned holds. The unprecedented onslaught of -skis finally ended with Palm Beach's fifth and final pitcher, Colton Thomson. 
Tweet from @GoPBCardinals: SOURCES: Feeling left out, Colton Thomson has officially changed his name to "Colton Thomsonski." #BeachBirds
Ultimate walk-off: The MLB Home Run Derby took place July 16, and all the energy generated from that onslaught of prodigious dingers must have trickled down to the Minors. On that evening, three players hit walk-off grand slams. Harrisburg's Hunter Jones gave the Senators a 6-3 win over the Akron RubberDucks, Winston-Salem's Laz Rivera lifted the Dash to a 12-10 10-inning triumph over the Buies Creek Astros and Springfield's Johan Mieses catapulted the Cardinals to a 10-6, 10-inning victory over the Northwest Arkansas Naturals.  
No cover: There's nothing strange about a rain delay, unless you're playing in the desert environs of Las Vegas (average annual rainfall: 4.17 inches). Rain in the region is rare enough that the Las Vegas 51s don't even have a tarp at Cashman Field, a decision they may want to re-evaluate before moving to a new ballpark next season. During July 14's game between the 51s and the Albuquerque Isotopes, a brief but powerful downpour caused a stoppage of play after six innings. Because there was no tarp to cover the field, play never resumed. It all worked out for the home team, which was credited with a 2-1 victory. Isotopes broadcaster Josh Suchon was less than amused at the way the evening transpired. 
Tweet from @Josh_Suchon: Update: it stopped raining. At any other professional ballpark, they���d take the tarp off the field and restart the game. But at Cashman Field, they have no tarp, so the home teams wins 2-1 because the infield is flooded.
Souffront and center: Although Minor League Baseball's new extra-inning rules were largely well-received, they did result in a reduction of that most hallowed of Crooked Numbers topics: position players pitching. One of the best -- if not the best -- efforts in this category occurred in the second game of a June 18 doubleheader between the Ogden Raptors and Idaho Falls Chukars. In the top of the fifth inning of that game, Riley Richert walked four straight hitters to push the Chukars' lead to 17-0. Things were already out of hand, but moonlighting Ogden infielder Jefrey Souffront kept the the situation from becoming even worse. Souffront, who started the game at first base, came on to pitch with the bases loaded and struck out the side. He was then moved to right field, making him an infielder, pitcher and outfielder all in the course of one seven-inning game. 
Even Stevens: On July 4, Fort Wayne TinCaps broadcaster John Nolan noticed an interesting fact: 
Tweet from @John_G_Nolan: Through 82 games for the @TinCaps...Wins: 41Losses: 41Runs Scored: 361Runs Allowed: 361(This tweet is dedicated to the likes of @jaysonst, @Kurkjian_ESPN, @jesseagler, Et al.)
As for how things went the rest of the way, the good news is that the TinCaps outscored their opponents, 224-217. The bad news is that, despite this, they went 22-32. 
What a way to end it, part one: On July 3, the Pensacola Blue Wahoos entered the bottom of the ninth inning losing by a score of 3-0 to the Mississippi Braves. A sac fly and an RBI single cut the deficit to 3-2, with runners on the corners and two outs. Mississippi reliever Chad Sobotka then uncorked a wild pitch that allowed both runners to score. You have to see it to believe it. 

What a way to end it, part two: On Aug. 10, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers were losing to the Burlington Bees by a score of 6-4 with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. Nic Pierre then struck out. Game over? Not quite. A wild pitch and subsequent throwing error led to that rarest of walk-offs: the three-run strikeout. 

What a way to end it, part three: The Eugene Emeralds went 31-45 this season, the worst record in the Northwest League. Yet they snuck into the playoffs after finishing second in the league's South Division in the second half. They then swept the Hillsboro Hops (winners of both halves in the South Division) in the first round before sweeping the Spokane Indians in the finals. This improbable run was clinched in the most improable of fashions: a walk-off balk to end the season

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter