Memories of 2012, from the odd to the end (part 2)by Chris Jaffe
February 11, 2013
Well, it’s still February, and we’re still waiting for spring training to begin. In that spirit, last week I wrote an article to help warm people up with pleasant memories of baseball from last year. It covered some of the weirder and odder moments of the season that was. However, there were so many strange and unusual things to discuss that it couldn’t all fit into one piece.
That one stopped at the All-Star break. So let’s pick it up from there, looking at some of the more unlikely moments of 2012 as we gear up for 2013.
July 13, 2012: Iron Man Zack Greinke? He becomes the first pitcher in a long time to start three consecutive games for his team. It’s an oddity caused by a few factors. On July 7, he’s ejected in the first inning for spiking the ball in frustration after a play. Since he barely worked, he starts the next day on July 8. Then July 9-12 is the All-Star break, so he’s ready to go in the first game back.
July 13, 2012: There is a power outage in Atlanta’s Turner Field during the Braves-Mets game that holds up festivities for 16 minutes in the second inning.
July 14, 2012: Taylor Teagarden plays in his first game of the season, and it’s a good one, as he hits a walk-off, game-winning home run for an 8-6 Tigers win over the Orioles in 13 innings. Detroit stages two comebacks in the extra innings before Teagarden takes his big swing.
July 14, 2012: Of all the odd ninth-inning wins on the year, this might be the most exciting. The Dodgers lead the Padres, 6-5, with two San Diego runners on base. On third base, Everth Cabrera, who had just been inserted as a pinch runner, breaks for home on an attempted steal. Not only is he safe, but the Dodgers are so rattled, they commit an error that let’s the trailing runner score, as well. The Padres win, 7-6.
July 17, 2012: The Nationals win in impressive fashion against the Mets. They enter the bottom of the ninth trailing, 3-2, but tie things up. Then they enter the bottom of the 10th trailing, 4-3. First they tie, and then they get the winning run on a horrible Mets play. The Mets throw a wild pitch, and then the catcher commits a throwing error to let the game-ending run score.
July 19, 2012: White Sox pitcher Jose Quintana pitches eight innings and allows zero runs but gets stuck with a no-decision. Incredibly, it’s the third time this year that’s happened to him, the first time a pitcher has suffered this fate since 1900. The other no-decision shutouts came in back-to-back starts in mid-June.
July 20, 2012: The Nationals blow a 9-0 lead in an 11-10 extra inning loss to the Braves. The Nats actually had to come back to force extra innings.
July 21, 2012: Carlos Zambrano pitches his way out of the Miami Marlins rotation today. Here is the inning that costs him his job. In the fourth frame against the Pirates, Zambrano hits the first batter and then the second one. Next, the opposing pitcher reaches on an error by Miami’s catcher. Then Zambrano walks in a run. Finally someone swings the bat and gets an RBI sacrifice fly. Zambrano then gets back in stride by walking the next batter to reload the bases. Then he walks in another run. Then Zambrano takes a walk. As an added bonus, the reliever walks the first batter he faces to force in another run. It’s about as ugly a run of plate appearances as happens all year.
July 28, 2012: Arizona 6, Ike Davis 3. The Mets batter hits three home runs—all solo shot—to account for all of the Mets' runs. The homers come in his first three times up, and Davis singles his fourth time to the plate but doesn’t get another opportunity.
July 28, 2012: You might not remember this, but at one point the Astros were 32-44 on the season. That’s not good, but it’s at least generically bad. That was June 27. After losing 4-3 to the Pirates, the Astros are now 34-68. They’ve dropped 25 of their last 27. They’ll win the next game but will keep sucking. When August ends, they’ll be 40-92. That’s an 8-48 stretch, which puts a team on a 23-139 pace for a full season.
Aug. 1, 2012: In the fifth inning of today’s White Sox-Twins game, backup Chicago catcher Tyler Flowers drives in Alexis Rios on a productive groundout. This is noteworthy because it’s the first time all season—and Flowers has been on the Sox roster all year—that Flowers has driven in anyone other than himself. Entering today, Flowers had appeared in 33 games, but had just two RBIs on two solo home runs. In his 98th plate appearance of the season, he finally brings one of his teammates home. (Meanwhile, he has 39 strikeouts).
Aug. 3, 2012: Mother Upton must be so proud. Justin Upton hits his 100th career home run today with Arizona, and brother B.J. Upton does likewise with Tampa Bay.
Aug. 5, 2012: It’s one of the wildest innings of overtime baseball of the year. The Indians and Tigers are tied, 5-5, after nine innings, so when Cleveland scores three in the top of the 10th, you have to figure the game is over, right? Wrong, as Detroit scores five times before winning on a walk-off homer for a 10-8 triumph.
Aug. 6, 2012: Ladies and gentlemen, it’s the worst major league baseball play of the year, and perhaps century. Naturally, it involves the Houston Astros. In the top of the 11th against Washington, the Nationals have a man on first with none out and attempt a sacrifice bunt to move the runner over. Hilarity ensues.
Houston’s first baseman and pitcher both run into each other when the go for the ball, and the third baseman has to jump over them to avoid making it a three-person pile-up. When they finally get their bearings, one of them throws the ball into first, or rather tries to throw it to first. Instead, the hurried throw sails into right field. The lead runner shuttles to third and blows through the third-base coach’s stop sign to try to score the go-ahead run. A good throw would have him, but instead the throw lands somewhere in the twilight zone. Two errors and a really stupid looking collision combine to let the wining run score. Trust me, it looks ever worse than it reads.
Aug. 6, 2012: At today’s Giants-Cardinals game, a fan is arrested for pointing a laser pointer at the eyes of first the Giants pitcher and then the Cardinals manager. The fan is a teen in some nice seats who is caught as he’s trying to dispose of the laser pointer in the trash.
Aug. 8, 2012: In the 636th game of his big league career, Atlanta’s David Ross steals his first base.
Aug. 10, 2012: The independent St. Paul Saints have one of their typically unorthodox special promotions. The night’s game is sponsored by an atheist group, and so the Saints become the Saint Paul Aints for the game.
Aug. 10, 2012: It’s a good day for 15-year-old Adam Corder. Attending tonight’s Orioles contest in Camden Yards, he catches not one but two home run balls, both hit by the same batter. The batter is Manny Machado, a man just one month past his 20th birthday who is playing in just his second game.
Aug. 10, 2012: Time for another unorthodox walk-off win. The Angels top Seattle, 6-5, courtesy of a walk-off wild pitch by Josh Kinney. It caps a rotten game for the Mariners, who blow a 5-0 lead. Here’s the blow-by-blow account of the bottom of ninth: double, intentional walk, sacrifice bunt, intentional walk, walk-off wild pitch. Yah, that blow-by-blow account sure blows if you’re a Seattle rooter.
Aug. 12, 2012: White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski has the best display of heads-up base running on the year as he scores from first on a routine grounder to short. He’s running to second when the ball rolls to short and then notices that third base is left wide open, so hustles over there. By the time Pierzynski gets to third, the opposing catcher has made it there (too late) to try catch Pierzynski, so now home is open. He takes off again and scores easily. The catcher should’ve covered third on the grounder, and the pitcher should’ve covered home when the catcher left, but everyone blew their assignments, and Perizysnki made them pay.
Aug. 14, 2012: There are six shutouts today: Dodgers 11, Pirates 0; Yankees 3, Rangers 0; Braves 1, Padres 0; Phillies 1, Marlins 0; Reds 3, Mets 0; and Royals 5, A’s 0. The Reds-Mets game is scoreless entering the bottom of the ninth, but a three-run, walk-off home run ends it. Exactly two weeks later, baseball will have another half-dozen shutouts in one day, but there are no walk-off homers that time.
Aug. 16, 2012: And now for a random career achievement that everyone missed. In today’s baseball action, longtime fungible pitcher Jamey Wright picks off Andrew McCutchen. It is the 57th pickoff of Wright’s otherwise not-so-illustrious career, and that pushes him ahead of Rick Sutcliffe for second place on the all-time leaderboard for right-handers. Plenty of southpaws are ahead of him, but among righties, only Charlie Hough has more, with 73.
Aug. 18, 2012: The Angels take an 8-0 lead against Tampa only to blow it, 10-8.
Aug. 20, 2012: Until today, veteran umpire Jim Joyce is famous only as the guy that blew the easy call at first base to ruin what should’ve been a perfect game for Armando Galarraga. Today Joyce does something much more positive, as he administers CPR to save a woman’s life when she has a heart attack before the game in Arizona.
Aug. 21, 2012: It’s another entry in the contest for best pitchers' duel of the year, and again, neither starter gets the decision or complete game. Kansas City’s Luke Hochevar fans 10 in eight innings of shutout, one-hit ball while Tampa Bay’s David Price allows three hits over eight scoreless innings. Both have Game Scores in the 80s (87 for Hochevar, 84 for Price). The Royals win in 10 innings, 1-0.
Aug. 23, 2012: Here’s an easy to miss item. The Twins lose today, putting their all-time regular-season record since coming to Minnesota under .500 (4,123-4,124). They were far worse as the old Washington Senators (1901-60), but they are just one game under .500 since Opening Day, 1961.
Aug. 30, 2012: The Giants win, pushing manager Bruce Bochy’s career mark over .500 (1,434-1,433). It’s his first time over .500 since 2002.
Aug. 31, 2012: The Indians, who were in the AL Central division race for much of the year, lose to finish the month with a record of 5-24. It’s the worst month in club history, narrowly “edging” their 6-24 month in July, 1914.
Sept. 1, 2012: Man bites dog as the Astros win one on a walk-off error. They enter the bottom of the ninth tied with the Reds, 1-1, and extra innings seem certain after the first two batters make outs. Then a double, intentional walk, and hit by pitch load the bases, and an E4 brings home Houston’s winning run.
Sept. 4, 2012: It’s mighty tough to hit 10 doubles in a game and still lose, so imagine how tough it must be to hit 10 doubles in a game and lose by nine runs. But that is just what the White Sox do in today’s 18-9 loss to the woeful Twins. Minnesota enjoys a seven-run inning and a 10-run frame.
Sept. 5, 2012: It’s the single most ghastly image of the entire baseball season as Oakland starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy takes a line drive off the side of his head, fracturing his skull. The blow is possibly life-threatening, but McCarthy recovers.
Sept. 7, 2012: The Pirates play so badly in today’s game that even the Cubs can’t lose to them. Pittsburgh makes seven errors en route to a 12-2 drubbing at the hands of one of the worst teams in baseball.
Sept. 13, 2012: It’s time for one of the rarest defensive plays, the 9-3 groundout. In the third inning, Dodgers pitcher Josh Beckett grounds to right field but doesn’t get down the line and is thrown out at first base by St. Louis outfielder Carlos Beltran.
Sept. 14, 2012: Despite not getting a single hit, the Blue Jays get three runs in the third inning against Boston. Here’s how the inning went: hit by pitch, walk, strikeout, walk to load the bases, a wild pitch to bring in the first run, a wild pitch to bring in the second run, and a productive groundout to second to bring home the third run. Finally, a strikeout ends the mess. Daisuke Matsuzaka is the pitcher during the monstrosity.
Sept. 15, 2012: It’s history of a sort. Jose Reyes of the Miami Marlins muffs a play for the 500,000th error in major league history.
Sept. 16, 2012: Baltimore’s bullpen has possibly the greatest night of relief by any team all season long. In an 18-inning contest, they combine for 12.2 scoreless innings to deliver a 4-2 win over the Mariners. This marks the 14th consecutive extra-inning win for the Orioles.
Sept. 16, 2012: Welcome to the 21st century. The Indians use 10 pitchers in a 12-inning loss to the Twins.
Sept. 19, 2012: Reds manager Dusty Baker spends the night in a Chicago hospital after suffering from chest pains. He’ll be diagnosed with a stroke and remain hospitalized for some time.
Sept. 20, 2012: It’s another tough loss for the Red Sox. Entering the bottom of the ninth leading the Tampa Bay Rays by three, they go home losing by three. Six of the seven batters send to the plate that inning get on, and they all score, the last three coming home on a walk-off home run by B.J. Upton for the 7-4 win.
Sept. 21, 2012: It hardly ever happens, so it’s that much more awesome when it does happen. Cardinals’ shortstop Pete Kozma becomes the first Redbird in over a decade to steal home when he does it against the Cubs today.
Sept. 22, 2012: It’s one of the wildest games of the year when the Yankees top the A’s, 10-9 in 13 innings. It’s 5-5 after nine, but when the A’s score four times in the top of the 12th, all appears to be over. Then New York storms back to tie it in the bottom of the 12th before winning it in the next frame. That winning run scores on a walk-off error. Yeah, it’s kind of a tough loss for Oakland, who are still in the playoff hunt. Despite this loss, they'll take the AL West.
Sept. 25, 2012: Angles pitcher Zack Greinke fans 13 despite lasting just five innings against the Mariners. He gets the win as he and the bullpen combine for 20 punchouts on the day.
Sept. 25, 2012: David Wright gets a pair of hits for the Mets to tie Ed Kranepool atop the all-time franchise leaderboard for most hits. You know dang well the Mets and their fans are happy to finally get Kranepool off the top of a career category. Kranepool wasn’t a bad player, but he certainly isn’t someone you want to see in first place among your team’s records.
Sept. 26, 2012: Seattle stud King Felix Hernandez fans Albert Pujols three times in one game. It’s the first time in his career that any pitcher has fanned Pujols three times in a single contest.
Sept. 27, 2012: In the midst of a heated race with the White Sox for the AL Central crown, Tigers pitcher Doug Fister fans nine consecutive batters to set a new AL record. The Tigers win, giving them a two-game lead in the AL Central. They had taken sole possession of first just the day before.
Sept. 28, 2012: On the same day that Cincinnati’s Homer Bailey throws the seventh no-hitter of the season, the Baltimore Orioles nearly get the eighth. That night, the Boston Red Sox get just one hit, a leadoff bunt single by Scott Podsednik, and that’s it. Chris Tillman (8.0 innings) and Troy Patton (1.0 innings) shut down the Red Sox the rest of the way.
Oct. 2, 2012: It hasn’t happened in a half-century, but it happens today, as two teams that have already lost 100 games play against each other. The 60-100 Cubs host the 54-106 Astros at Wrigley Field. Houston wins, 3-0, their second straight game shutting out the Cubs. The last time a pair of triple-digit losers faced each other, the Cubs were also involved when they played the Mets to close out the 1962 season.
Oct. 2, 2012: James Shields sets a record that no one wants, hardest-luck loser in a nine-inning game. The Tampa pitcher fans 15 in a two-hitter but loses to the Orioles, 1-0. His Game Score of 94 is the highest ever for someone who lost a nine-inning contest. The previous record was held by Ken Johnson, who in 1964 lost 1-0 on an unearned run while throwing a no-hitter for a Game Score of 92.
Oct. 3, 2012: They let Teddy win! On the last day of the season, the Washington Nationals finally let Theodore Roosevelt win their mascot race. For the last several years they’ve had a presidents race at every game in the middle of the fourth inning when Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and TR square off. The first three all routinely win races, but Roosevelt never has. After 525 races without a victory, Roosevelt finally comes in first place. The team gave him a gift of golden shoes inspired by Usain Bolt, and TR finally won the race. Inspired by TR’s example, the Nationals rally to win the game.
And that's it. Hopefully, 2013 will give us a similar number of strange moments. Somehow, I think it will.
History instructor by day, statnerd by night, Chris Jaffe leads one of the most exciting double lives imaginable; with the exception of every other double life possible to imagine. Despite his lack of comic-book-hero-worthiness, Chris enjoys farting around with this stuff. His new book, Evaluating Baseball's Managers is available for order. Chris welcomes responses to his articles via e-mail. Oh, and now he's on twitter.