Welcome to Crooked Numbers, a compendium of bizarre, improbable and hilarious Minor League on-field occurrences. Over the first half of the 2016 season there were, of course, plenty such moments. What follows are some of the best (and worst), presented with whimsy and aplomb but in no particular order.
Fit to be tied
Entering the season, there hadn't been a tie in the Pacific Coast League since 1996. On May 30, there were two. That afternoon, the Tacoma Rainiers and New Orleans Zephyrs were knotted at 2-2 after five when heavy rains caused the game to come to a halt. Tacoma had a flight to catch (the PCL, like the rest of us average Joes, flies commercial) and the two teams weren't scheduled to meet again this season. Thus, the game will go down in the record books as a tie. As a result, Zephyrs starter Paul Clemens logged an ultra-rare complete game no-decision.
Some 80 minutes later, the Fresno Grizzlies and Colorado Springs Sky Sox joined the suddenly burgeoning PCL deadlock club. With the score tied 6-6 after 10 innings, the game was called because of a travel curfew (both teams, in this case, had flights to catch). The Sky Sox were also involved in the PCL's previous tie game, a 9-9 draw against the Calgary Cannons in 1996.
Score 11, lose by 18
The Lancaster JetHawks beat the Stockton Ports on May 26 by the improbable score of 29-11. One could write thousands of words on this beast of a ballgame (go ahead, give it a shot), but the JetHawks' box score sums it up best. Not only did every player in the lineup reach base safely -- every player in the lineup scored three runs or more. The only Ports pitcher to not allow a run was -- of course - moonlighting infielder Melvin Mercedes.
Opossum, my opossum
Animal delays have long been a Crooked Numbers trope, but it wasn't until this season that an opossum-writing opportunity presented itself. When the wily mammal scurried along the warning track during April 30's game in Biloxi, center fielder Brett Phillips sprang into action.
"I may struggle with baseball from time to time, but I never struggle wrangling an opossum," said Phillips. "My technique is impeccable, my defense can't be beat. I was there to save the day tonight. That little guy was coming at me, mouth wide-open, teeth gnashing, but I stood my ground and got rid of him. The opossum wildlife preserve is already looking into using me in case baseball doesn't work out. So I've got a solid backup in place."
Juan and Juan makes two
One could have been excused for doing a double-take while looking at the lineups for May 3's game between Sacramento and Albuquerque, as both teams had Juan Ciriaco batting eighth and playing second base. The two Ciriacos are brothers, with Sacramento's Juan being the elder.
Crossing the 5K finish line
On April 22, Charleston RiverDogs pitchers James Reeves and Andrew Schwaab combined to strike out five batters -- in one inning. Reeves did the heavy lifting, whiffing four Augusta GreenJackets in the top of the 10th, two of whom reached first via a wild pitch. Schwaab came on with the bases loaded, allowing all three runners to score before punching out Dylan Davis to end the frame.
Reeves and Schwaab were not the first RiverDogs to accomplish this feat, as Mark Montgomery did it all by his lonesome on July 1, 2011. Three years later, to the day, High Desert's Andrew Kittredge did the same. Kittredge's feat occurred the day after fellow Mariners prospect Tyler Herb struck out five batters in the ninth inning in an Arizona League game.
Tough day at the office
The Rome Braves and Hickory Crawdads played a grueling 19-inning game on May 15, and it's certainly one that the Crawdads' Dylan Moore would like to forget. The first baseman went 0-for-8 in the contest, lining out with the bases loaded in his final at-bat in the bottom of the 18th. He then took the mound in the 19th and allowed seven runs on seven hits, earning the loss.
Cedar Rapids rules
Cedar Rapids Kernels broadcaster Chris Kleinhans-Schulz has had a front-row seat for a series of bizarre snafus and rulebook quirks this season, conscientiously keeping me informed about them all the while. To wit:
On May 13 vs. Wisconsin, Kernels designated hitter Blake Allemand was removed from the ballgame in the top of the ninth inning. Alan Sharkey, playing first base, was inserted into his spot in the lineup. Nonetheless, Allemand batted in the bottom of the frame and popped out. No one noticed, or at the very least, no one protested.
On May 28, Wisconsin was up 2-1 entering the bottom of the 11th and wanted to make a pitching change. However! Devin Williams, who had entered the game in the seventh, had already returned to the mound. Williams was forced to pitch to one batter before Wisconsin was allowed to make the desired change. Nate Griep then came in and recorded the final two outs as the Timber Rattlers held off the Kernels.
An extra-inning walk-off loss is always difficult to stomach, even more so when the winning run scores due to a catcher not stepping on the plate during a bases-loaded force play. This happened twice in a span of five days, in Class A Advanced locales on opposite sides of the country.
On April 26, Modesto's Dom Nunez neglected to touch the plate on an attempted 4-2 putout, handing Visalia a 5-4, 10-inning victory. On April 30, a throw from Wilmington first baseman Ryan O'Hearn pulled catcher Chad Johnson off the plate as Potomac's Osvaldo Abreu scored the winning run in a 12-inning, 3-2 win.
If there's one thing you can count on when it comes to an at-bat by Willians Astudillo, it's that he's going to put the ball in play. Over 191 at-bats this season, the Mississippi Braves backstop has struck out seven times and walked twice (once intentionally). When Astudillo struck out April 29, it snapped a streak of 163 plate appearances (going back to last season) without a whiff. In his Minor League career, spanning 1,728 at-bats, Astudillo has walked 68 times (eight intentional) against 58 strikeouts.
Despaigne and suffering
Right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne earned a promotion from the Norfolk Tides to the Baltimore Orioles on June 14, thereby relieving himself from the utter lack of support he received from his Tides teammates. It took until May 10 -- Despaigne's seventh start of the season -- for the Tides to score a run while he was still in a ballgame. At that point, he had already logged 32 innings. Despaignes made five more starts for Norfolk, with the Tides only scoring six runs on his behalf. Five of those occurred during a single inning against Syracuse on May 21, which was enough to give Despaigne his only win on the season.
And here's to Manny more…
When Colorado Springs catcher Manny Pina hit a triple on April 14, it marked his first three-bagger since June 5, 2009 (when he was a member of the Frisco RoughRiders). After finally breaking this triple-free streak (which spanned nearly 2,000 at-bats), Pina went on a comparative tear. He tripled on May 1 and again on May 21. His three triples in 2016 have equaled his total over his previous 10 seasons.
Cycle bust, cycle boom
When Gerson Montilla hit for the cycle on April 22, it marked the first time since May 14, 2008 that a Winston-Salem Dash player accomplished the feat. (Back then, the team was known as the Warthogs). The Dash's next cycle snapped a drought that was approximately .002% as long, as Mason Robbins did it just five days after Montilla.
Home but no homers
It took 28 games and 897 at-bats until a West Michigan Whitecaps player hit a homer at home this season. Cam Gibson was the player in question; his June 10 dinger was surely more dramatic than anything his father, Kirk, was ever able to muster. On the season, the Whitecaps have hit 11 home runs over 2,226 at-bats.
This one had to hurt:
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.