Welcome to another edition of Five Astounding Facts:
Normally, our astounding facts of the week don't involve any 12-year-olds. But we're making an exception this week, because if you didn't watch the U.S. final of the Little League World Series, you missed one of the most amazing baseball games ever played. Among the stuff that happened was all this madness -- with big league comparisons, just for perspective:
• The team from Tennessee went into the bottom of the last inning, leading 15-5 -- and then gave up a 10-spot to California to tie the game. Big league comparison: The Elias Sports Bureau reports no team has ever scored 10 runs in the ninth inning to tie a major league game. And the last time a team scored nine in the ninth to tie, it happened on the first day in the history of the American League (April 25, 1901). So it has been a while.
• But after giving up 10 runs to blow that entire lead, that Tennessee juggernaut turned around and scored nine runs in the next half-inning. Big league comparison: There has never been a major league game in which teams scored 10 runs and nine runs, in either order, in consecutive half-innings. Hey, of course not.
• So in other words, what we had here was a team that gave up 10 runs in the bottom of the final inning and still won -- by eight (final score: 24-16). Big league comparison: Needless to say, there's never been anything like it in a major league game. Ever.
• And then there was this: How did the California team tie that game, after finding itself three runs down and one strike from going home? With back-to-back homers -- both of them with two outs and two strikes. That's how. (Take that, David Freese.) Big league comparison: According to the Sultan of Swat Stats, SABR home run historian David Vincent, there have been 10 major league games in which a team was three runs behind (or more) with two outs in the ninth inning, and then hit back-to-back homers to tie it. But in none of those games -- or, at least, in the eight for which we have pitch counts -- did both home runs come with two strikes. So there ya go.
Phew. Got all that? Hope so. We might be talking about a game played mostly by 12-year-olds. But there was nothing Little League about the historic stuff that went on in this game. Wouldn't you say?
And now back to The Show:
Has any player ever had a season quite like Chris Davis? Became the first American League position player since Rocky Colavito to win a game as a pitcher. Became the first position player to spin off two shutout innings and strike out two hitters since Matty Alou in 1965. Became (on the very same day) the third player in the live-ball era to strike out five times and hit into a double play. And now this:
Davis cranked up a three-homer game last Friday. And you know what that means? It means that since 1900, he's only the second position player to cram a three-homer game and a game where he was the winning pitcher into the same season. The other, according to ESPN's awesome Kernel collector, Doug Kern: Some guy named Babe Ruth, in 1930.
But as one of our longtime baseball-writing heroes, Jim Henneman, reports, Davis might not have even had the most amazing season by an Oriole. How 'bout backup catcher Taylor Teagarden? He's 5-for-38 this season, with 17 strikeouts. And that's not good. But here are the five hits: a game-winning homer, a walkoff double, a game-tying homer, an RBI double and a single that started a four-run rally. So at least the guy knows how to pick his spots!
3Repeat after us: Jonathan Lucroy has now driven in seven runs in a game twice this year. Among the players who have never even had one seven-RBI game: Chipper Jones, Todd Helton, David Ortiz, Derek Jeter, Lance Berkman, Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and David Wright. What that says about the randomness of baseball -- and the randomness of RBIs -- we'll allow you to decide for yourself. But it's a beautiful sport. We'll tell you that.
4There are only 30 major league teams. So it never ceases to amaze us how differently they're constructed. For instance, the Yankees now have eight different players on their team who have hit at least 200 home runs. And the Astros' entire active roster, before September call-ups, had hit 170 career home runs -- combined. How is that possible?
5Finally, speaking of the Astros, it's hard to get through a week of Astounding Facts without a look at more of their Astrounding Facts. So here goes:
• Their loss Wednesday dropped them to 50 games under .500 (40-90). They also finished 50 under last season. So that makes them the third team in the 162-game-schedule era to drop 50 under in back-to-back seasons. The others: The 1962-63-64-65 Mets (who obviously did it in four straight seasons) and the 2002-03 Tigers.
• But that's not all. The Astros' loss Friday then got them to 52 under .500 -- before they'd even flipped the calendar to September. And how rare is that? Thanks for asking. In the past 50 years, since all teams began playing 162-game schedules, only one other non-expansion teams (plus three first-year expansion teams) have descended 52 games or more below Mount .500 before September. And here they are:
1962 Mets (67-under) *
2003 Tigers (67-under)
1969 Padres (55-under) *
1969 Expos (53-under) *
(* First season in franchise history.)
Hey, but it could be worse. Your all-time record-holders, the legendary 1899 Cleveland Spiders, actually fell 81 games below .500 heading into September. You know what their record was heading out of August? How about 19-100. Yikes. Almost makes these Astros look like the 2005 Astros. Almost.