Friday, September 14, 2012
Soaring Nats, passed balls, road warriors
By Jayson Stark
Here we go again. It's time for another edition of the Five Astounding Facts of the Week:
If you live in our nation's capital, or thereabouts, we advise you to stare long and hard at those standings today -- because you'll be taking in a sight that folks in Washington haven't witnessed since the early days of the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration:
The Nationals are 35 games over .500.
It's the first time a team from D.C. has reached those heights since 1933 -- and, incredibly, only the fourth time ever. The only other seasons where that happened? That would be 1930 and 1925. Anybody got a number for Walter Johnson? We need to get his joyful reaction.
When B.J. Upton launched three home runs against the Rangers last Sunday, he wasn't merely the first Upton brother to make three trots in one game. He was also ...
• Only the seventh American Leaguer in the live-ball era to go deep three times as a leadoff hitter -- and the first since a guy from Oakland who was not named Rickey Henderson (Ernie Young, on May 10, 1996).
• The third man in this millennium to hit three home runs (or more) in a game where the team he was playing didn't even get three hits. The others: Jonny Gomes (against the Nationals) on Aug. 13, 2009 and Geoff Jenkins (against the Padres) on May 21, 2003.
Something else happened in that game that got the attention of loyal reader Michael Young (no, not that Michael Young). Rangers reliever Yoshinori Tateyama compiled one of those box-score oddities that makes laptops explode all around the globe:
One inning pitched -- but only two pitches thrown.
How'd that happen? Simple. Tateyama arrived in the eighth inning with a runner on first, then got a Jose Molina double-play ball on his first pitch, and an Upton groundout on his second pitch.
What's up with that: According to baseball-reference.com's awesome Play Index, Tateyama was the first pitcher to get three outs on two pitches in over four years -- since Bobby Jenks did it on April 15, 2008.
But as Young pointed out, this two-pitch inning was extra efficient, because the pitcher who preceded Tateyama (Martin Perez) only threw one pitch in the inning himself. So what was the last tag team to combine on an inning like that? How 'bout the unforgettable Mets duo of Dwight Gooden and Anthony Young, who did it in the eighth inning of a July 21, 1993 game in San Diego. Who knew!
Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario did something Sunday that's almost unheard of -- without the assistance of somebody like Tim Wakefield or a Niekro brother, that is:
Rosario racked up not one, not two, not three, but four passed balls in one game Sunday -- without a single knuckleballer throwing a pitch.
So how rare is that? Well, the Elias Sports Bureau reports that there have been 15 other games since 1980 in which a catcher had at least four passed balls -- but only two of them took place without a knuckleball being thrown. The others:
• Jerry Goff (Astros) on May 12, 1996 -- a six-PB extravaganza in which Goff hooked up with three non-knuckleballers (Mike Hampton, Jeff Tabaka and Anthony Young) for two passed balls apiece.
• Dave Nilsson (Brewers) on July 17, 1993 -- a game in which Nilsson and Jaime Navarro combined for four PBs in five innings.
And what's the most astounding part of all? Anthony Young has now worked his way into this blog twice -- and neither note had anything to do with his fabled 27-game losing streak. Who would have thought that was possible?
Finally, if there are two teams this season that our Five Astounding Facts private eyes are especially grateful to have around, it's those amazing Oakland A's and the equally amazing Houston Astros -- for different reasons, of course. And now (ta-taaaa) we've found a way to combine them in the same Astounding Fact! Ready? Here it comes:
The A's just won 12 road games in a row!
The Astros, meanwhile, have also won 12 times on the road in their past 61 games (away from home sweet Minute Maid).
Ladies and gentlemen, even the Five Astounding Facts crew couldn't make this stuff up.