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Friday, December 29, 2006
Updated: January 2, 12:33 PM ET
The wild and wacky from 2006

By Jayson Stark
ESPN.com

Once again this year, baseball proved that truth is stranger than sci-fi, stranger than a Britney Spears marriage, stranger even than Nicole Ritchie's interpretation of her GPS instructions.

So with 2007 lurking over the horizon, let's look back at the Strange But True Feats of the Year:

MEET THE PITCHING STAFF DEPT.: In an Aug. 2 game against the Mets, the Marlins used a pitcher (Brian Moehler) to pinch-hit for another pitcher (Joe Borowski). Then, after Moehler got hit by a pitch, they used another pitcher (Scott Olsen) to pinch-run for Moehler. And two outs later, they used yet another pitcher (Logan Kensing) to pinch-run for Olsen. So that's a pitcher pinch-running for a pitcher who pinch-ran for another pitcher who pinch-hit for another pitcher. OK, you can all set fire to your scorecards now.

Matt Diaz
Diaz
HANG 10 DEPT.: In August, a National League outfielder became the first NL player since 1992 to get hits in 10 straight at-bats -- but of course, it wasn't Lance Berkman, Alfonso Soriano, Juan Pierre or Carlos Beltran. It was Atlanta's Matt Diaz, a guy who hadn't even gotten 10 hits in a month in seven of the previous nine months he'd spent in the big leagues.

PRESTO CHANGO DEPT.: In an Aug. 23 game against the White Sox, Tigers reliever Jamie Walker managed to strike out a hitter he never faced (Scott Podsednik). So how'd that happen? Simple. Podsednik, batting against a right-hander (Colby Lewis), fouled off two bunt attempts. Whereupon Tigers manager Jim Leyland brought in a left-hander (Walker). Which inspired White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen to send up Brian Anderson to pinch-hit for Podsednik. Whereupon Anderson swung and missed -- for a strikeout that wound up on the permanent records of Walker and Podsednik, even though they were never on the field at the same time. Got that?

Jason Standridge
Standridge
THE HECK WITH THAT PITCH COUNT DEPT.: But Reds reliever Jason Standridge can top that last trick. On Aug. 6, he recorded an out without throwing a pitch -- while retiring a player who had faced the pitcher before him. OK, how'd that happen? Also simple. Standridge came out of the bullpen to relieve Kyle Lohse. And his first act was to step off the rubber, throw to second on an appeals play -- and get an out when the umpires ruled that Braves runner Willy Aybar had missed second base. That also subtracted a hit from the previous batter, Marcus Giles -- another hitter who had never faced Standridge. Got all that?

MR. 2,000 DEPT.: Mike Piazza, Alex Rodriguez, Garret Anderson and Manny Ramirez all got their 2,000th hit last season. Naturally, Piazza and A-Rod both got their 2,000th hit on the same day (July 21) -- and Anderson and Manny got their 2,000th on the same day, too (July 1).

Barry Zito
Zito
THEY PEAKED TOO SOON DEPT.: In a July 29 game against Oakland, the first four Blue Jays to bat in the first inning against Barry Zito went: Hit batter, single, walk, Troy Glaus grand slam. So Toronto led, 4-0, before it had even made an out. And how did the Blue Jays feed off that momentum? By not scoring again all night -- and losing, 7-4.

HOW TO WIN THE WORLD SERIES DEPT.: The Cardinals careened through three losing streaks of seven games or more -- and never fell out of first place at any point during any of them. No other World Series winner in history had ever managed to have more than one losing streak like that in the same season.

Jose Reyes
Reyes
IT'S ALL CYCLICAL DEPT.: The good news for Mets dynamo Jose Reyes was that he became the first Met ever to hit for the cycle and have a three-homer game in the same season. The bad news was, the Mets became the first team since the '64 Senators to have a player do both in the same season and lose both games. The Elias Sports Bureau reports that Jim King did it for those Senators. But he obviously wasn't so good to be King on either day.

THAT'S A SWITCH DEPT.:After batting right-handed in the first 230 at-bats of his career, Brewers pitcher Tomo Ohka decided to hit left-handed Aug. 24. So was there any doubt he'd reach base and drive in a run three at-bats in a row? He reached on catcher's interference (with the bases loaded) his first time up, looped a two-run single his next time up and lined an RBI single his third time up. He was 4 for his previous 55 batting right-handed, by the way.

Sean Casey
Casey
CREATIVE SCOREKEEPING DEPT.: Tigers first baseman Sean Casey managed to get thrown out at first base, 5-to-7-to-3 in your scorecard, in an Aug. 24 game against the White Sox. He hit a line drive that ticked off the glove of third baseman Joe Crede and landed in left field. But Casey thought Crede had caught it, so he headed back to the dugout. Which allowed left fielder Pablo Ozuna to scoop up the baseball and whoosh it to first for the strangest out of the year.

TRIFECTA DEPT.: The Mariners somehow "hit" into a triple play in a Sept. 2 game in Tampa Bay -- without a ball being put in play. How'd that happen? It wasn't easy. Raul Ibanez got called out on strikes for the first out. Adrian Beltre got nailed stealing second for the second out. Then Jose Lopez bolted for the plate and got thrown out at home for the third out. Try that one on your X Box sometime.

CLOSERS DON'T WORK SATURDAYS DEPT.: Believe it or not, all 30 teams were in action on July 15, the Saturday after the All-Star break -- and not one of them recorded a save in the 15 games played.

Mark Buehrle
Buehrle
LUCKY SEVEN DEPT.: White Sox ace Mark Buehrle gave up seven runs in the first inning of his May 14 start against the Twins -- and still got a win out of it (9-7). Hey, it's not like that had never happened. Jack Powell, of the 1900 St. Louis Cardinals, did it in a win over the late, great Chicago Orphans, according to Elias.

LUCKIER SEVEN DEPT.: The mysterious Cody Ross drove in seven runs in a game for two different teams (Dodgers and Marlins) last season. But he had only one other month (April) where he drove in seven runs.

STRANGE BUT TRUE FEAT OF THE YEAR, CENTURY AND MILLENNIUM: Finally, if you needed convincing that literally anything is possible in baseball, we refer you to the astounding finish of the Dodgers' Sept. 18 game with San Diego. They entered the bottom of the ninth trailing by four runs. And then …

The same team that was last in the league in home runs (the Dodgers) hit four ninth-inning home runs in a row to tie the game.

And did it in a span of seven pitches.

And hit them off two pitchers (Jon Adkins and Trevor Hoffman) who had given up three homers all season to the previous 432 hitters they'd faced, in a combined 108 appearances.

And then, after falling behind in the top of the 10th, the same team hit another homer in the 10th to turn a loss into a win.

If Hollywood slapped that on the big screen, you'd laugh. But this happened in actual life, in the greatest sport on earth.

"It might be the most amazing thing that ever happened in sports," Dodgers coach Rich Donnelly told our Strange But True bureau. "It's like the Stanford band thing -- without the trombones."

Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send your Useless Information to uselessinfodept@yahoo.com.