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Friday, July 12, 2013
Plenty of first-half wackiness

By Jayson Stark
ESPN.com

Any time a high-five, a nonswing and a not-so-innocent household chore can wreak havoc on a transactions column near you, you know it's been our kind of season.

Any time a second baseman and a left fielder wander to the mound on the same evening -- and turn out to be the two best pitchers of the night -- you know it's been our kind of season.

And any time an ace interrupts his otherwise-perfect game to give up nine hits in one inning, well, you know it's been our kind of season.

So on that note, the folks at Half Year in Review present the Injuries and Box Score Lines of the Half Year That Was:

Injuries of the Half Year

Fifth prize: Astros left fielder J.D. Martinez will try to be more decisive in the future -- after he somehow sprained his knee and landed on the disabled list in April … thanks to (no kidding) a checked swing.

Fourth prize: I have a feeling the Diamondbacks' Ian Kennedy might not be quite as helpful around the house as he used to be -- not after he cut his finger and had to miss a start in May ... due to washing his dishes. "It doesn't sound real tough that you cut your hand doing dishes and you can't do your job," he summarized, with exceptional accuracy.

Jeff Baker
Warning: High-fives, Jeff Baker, can be hazardous to your health!

Third prize: Every time you looked up this season, it seemed as if the Dodgers were getting mixed up in another nutty bench-clearing brawl. But other than Zack Greinke's collarbone debacle, their only other casualty (as far as I know) was pitcher Chris Capuano, who strained a calf muscle during their fracas with the Padres in April -- by sprinting in from the bullpen to join the festivities just a little too vigorously.

Second prize: Fatherhood is never overrated. But it sure did mess with Clay Buchholz's magical season in Boston. He got home from a May road trip, fell asleep while cradling his 2-year-old daughter, Colbi, on his shoulder, woke up with an irritated AC joint near his right collarbone and has made it to the mound only twice since. The moral of that story, clearly: Beware of cradling!

First prize: Finally, celebrating is the essence of life. But it won't be quite the same in Texas anymore. Not after Jeff Baker sprained his thumb in June -- while high-fiving it up in the dugout. Baker was the tragic victim of what he said was an "overexuberant" high-five from a teammate, who pounded his palm so hard, it bent his thumb back to his wrist. He hasn't played since June 12. And the Rangers have since banned high-fives. You'll be relieved to know, though, that the dumping of watercoolers, ice and tubs of Gatorade on innocent teammates continues. So frivolity lives!

Box Score Lines of the Half Year

Fourth prize: There are several candidates for the official low point of Wade Davis' puzzling half-season as a Royal. But it's tough to top (or bottom) this June 29 start in Minnesota: 1 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 5 BB, 2 K and an incredible 69 pitches to get three outs.

What's up with that: As our favorite Kernel collector, ESPN Stats & Info wiz Doug Kern, reports, while we can't say that no other pitcher in the history of baseball has thrown that many pitches and gotten that few outs, here's what we can say. In the pitch-count era, which goes back to the late 1980s (but doesn't include every single game in that span), that would be a record. And quite a record it is. A special tip of the pitch-count hat, though, goes to Bartolo Colon, who threw 61 pitches and got only two outs, back on April 9, 1997, when he was still a relatively svelte, hard-throwing Indian.

Third prize: It might not surprise you that a Rockies pitcher twirled a 12-hitter in 2 1/3 innings. But as Juan Nicasio could tell you after his enjoyable June 25 start against the Red Sox, pitching at Fenway Park can be just as precarious as pitching at Coors. Just look: 2 1/3 IP, 12 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 79 pitches to get seven outs.

What's up with that: It isn't easy to squish that many hits into that short an outing, you know. It's so tough, in fact, that only four other starters in the live ball era have managed to give up that many hits without getting more than seven outs. Two of them (Kyle Davies in 2006, Shawn Estes in 2003) did it while pitching against the Rockies at Coors. So the only two to do it at sea level, according to the fabulous Baseball-Reference.com Play Index: Johnny Podres at Chavez Ravine (against the Phillies) on Sept. 28, 1963, and Jarrod Washburn at Comerica Park (against the Tigers) on May 21, 2008.

Second prize: Matt Cain made some very bizarre trips to the mound in the first half, but none more strange than this June 1 start in St. Louis: 6 IP, 9 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 0 BB, 9 K.

Matt Cain
Matt Cain has already allowed 63 earned runs. Last season, he gave up 68 in 32 starts.

What's up with that: The third inning of that start went: double, single, bunt for an out, single, single, strikeout, single, single, double, single, single, strikeout. So if you're adding along at home, you know that means all nine hits and seven runs came in the same inning. And what happened in the other five innings Cain was out there? Yep, the Cardinals went 15 up, 15 down, with seven whiffs. What else?

So how many other pitchers in the past half-century have made a start like that -- at least nine hits and seven runs in one inning, but no other baserunners allowed in any other inning, in a start of six innings or more? I asked Elias. And the answer was ... not a one. Of course.

First prize: Dodgers rookie Matt Magill was airlifted into Coors Field to make an emergency start June 2 after Hyun-Jin Ryu bruised his foot -- but his adventure in mile-highness wasn't quite as excellent as what he had in mind: 6 IP, 5 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 9 BB, 5 K, 4 HR, 110 pitches, 55 strikes, 55 balls.

What's up with that: If you don't recall seeing nine walks and four home runs crammed into the same box score line, uh, let's just say there's a good reason for that. Because it was the first line of its kind in history, the Elias Sports Bureau tells us. (And it would never make stuff like that up.)

Special tag-team citation

Most teams wouldn't consider themselves grateful to see their starting pitcher pitch into the second inning. But most teams have never had a week like the Astros had in the third week of April.

In an April 15 start in Oakland, Erik Bedard made one of those funky starts in which he got only one out (1/3-2-6-6-4-1). So that wasn't good. But five days later, his Astro-tation-mate Philip Humber also made a start in which he got only one out (1/3-8-8-8-1-0). And in between, on April 17, Bud Norris doubled them by getting two outs (2/3-5-6-6-3-0). Want to add those starts up? Why the heck not: 1 1/3 IP, 15 H, 20 R, 20 ER, 8 BB, 1 K. Yikes.

What's up with that: Our man Kern reports the Astros were the first team to have two starting pitchers get knocked out after a third of an inning, after giving up at least six earned runs, in the same week since Lynn McGlothen and Dennis Lamp did it for the Cubs on May 12 and 17, 1979. (The Lamp start kicked off the legendary 23-22 game against the Phillies, by the way.) But not only has no other team in the live ball era had a week in which three starters didn't make it through the first inning and gave up that many earned runs -- just two other teams have ever had three starters do that in the same season. One was those '79 Cubs. The other: Johnny Oates' 2000 Texas Rangers (with Matt Perisho, Rick Helling and the ageless Darren Oliver doing the honors).

Special mystery-pitcher tag-team citation

If there's one thing we enjoy more around here than a position player stomping to the old pitcher's mound, it's two pitchers doing that on the very same day. And that's exactly what happened June 28, when we got to witness these two sparkling outings:

Casper Wells, White Sox vs. Indians: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K

Skip Schumaker, Dodgers vs. Phillies: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K

What's up with that: On a day when the real pitchers on their teams coughed up 41 hits and 35 runs, Wells and Schumaker gave up one hit and zero runs. Beautiful. Even more beautiful is that, according to Elias, it was the first day in which position players pitched in two different games since May 28, 2010, when Kevin Cash twirled for the Astros (against the Reds) and Bill Hall got to do his Josh Beckett imitation for the Red Sox (against the Royals). Why do we love baseball? That's why!