It's time for the midseason awards
Annual tradition of handing out first-half MVPs and LVPs, Cy Youngs and Cy Yuks
The All-Star break of another mesmerizing baseball season is upon us. And once again, I know what you're thinking:
How come nobody has thrown a no-hitter in the past 10 minutes?
Has Aaron Hill done enough cycling lately to qualify for the Tour de France? ?
And, of course, is it true that wacky home run colossus in Miami also eats spiders, repels hurricanes and once had to be forcibly restrained from trying to sneak over to LeBron's house?
OK, so it's possible you weren't thinking about any of those important questions. But whatever. It's time again for my annual Midseason Awards Extravaganza.
NL MVP OF THE HALF-YEAR
Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
#22 Center Fielder
I can't believe I'm not casting this vote for Joey Votto -- a man with a shot to become the first NL player in the past 10 years not named Barry Bonds or Albert Pujols to have an 1.100 OPS a man on the road to becoming the sixth NL hitter in the past 50 years to reach base 320 times a man whose commitment to greatness elevates his team every day of the season. But as much as I appreciate the brilliance of Votto, I don't think he's the MVP of this particular half-season, though only in a not-quite kind of way. I'm casting this vote for McCutchen, because he's having a special year, at a special time in the life of his franchise, and one that gives special meaning to the "valuable" in Most Valuable Player. First off, let's consider what's at stake here. The Pirates, in case you nodded off after Sid Bream crossed home plate, haven't exactly reminded anybody of the Yankees these past 20 years. So consider the boulder that the Face of this Franchise has to lug on his shoulders. But McCutchen lugs it willingly. Instead of plotting his escape route out of town, he signed on this spring for six more years. Then he decided to go out and have a historic season for himself. If he has a second half to match his first half, he's heading for .356/.410/.603, with 32 homers, 28 steals and 207 hits. Given his .403 average on balls in play, you can expect a little dropoff. But just for the record, you know how many players since 1900 have even had a season in which they hit .345 or better, with 200 hits, 25 steals, 25 homers, a .400 OBP and a 1.000 OPS? Exactly two -- Larry Walker in 1997 (in Denver) and Willie Mays in 1958. Now let's add in the fact that McCutchen is doing all this in a lineup in which no other every-day player is within 80 points of him in batting average or OBP, or within about 200 points of him in OPS. So how is this possible, unless this guy is just willing his team toward the top of the standings? I know if you just crunch decimal points, they'll show you Votto should win this thing. But I surveyed two NL GMs who are both sabermetrically minded. And each said his vote would go to McCutchen -- in part because of the premier defensive position he plays, in part because of the credentials we just laid out and in part, one quipped, just because of his "overall awesomeness." whoa, it's tough to argue with any of that. So I didn't.
AL MVP OF THE HALF-YEAR
Mike Trout, Angels
#27 Center Fielder
Los Angeles Angels
The list of men who have won an MVP and Rookie of the Year award in the same season takes less time to recite than it takes Trout to roar from home plate to first base -- and that's saying something. There's Fred Lynn (1975). There's Ichiro Suzuki (2001). And that'll do it. But Fred and Ichiro might want to think about rearranging the furniture in their club room, because out in Anaheim/L.A./714-area-code-ville, there's a 20-year-old superduperstar who apparently is on a mission to join their exclusive group. In almost every way, this MVP race is a dead heat between Trout and Josh Hamilton. It's Hamilton who leads the league in slugging, OPS, runs created and offensive winning percentage, not to mention your old-fashioned departments like home run ratio and RBIs. But it's Trout who has been 2012's biggest franchise-changer. When he walked into the Angels' clubhouse April 28, they were 6-14, nine games behind Texas and tied for the second-worst record in baseball. Since that day, they own the BEST record in baseball (40-23), and if the postseason started tonight, they'd be a playoff team. Well, if you think that's a coincidence, you must be one of those people who also thinks it's a coincidence that dinner seems to keep following lunch every darned day. Since Trout escaped the minor leagues for good, he leads his league in runs scored, times on base, batting average and steals. He's in position to join Ty Cobb and Al Kaline as the only 20-year-old batting champs in history. And if he goes on to hit .330 with 20 homers, 40 steals and a .500 slugging percentage, that would make for a season matched by only one active player at any point in his career -- Hanley Ramirez in 2007. But what really separates Trout from Hamilton, said one AL GM, is that there are so many more ways these days for Trout to alter a game. With his glove. With his legs. With the offensive consistency of a guy who hasn't gone more than two games without reaching base since he hit Anaheim. The year Hamilton won his MVP trophy (2010), he missed the last month of the season. So wouldn't it be quite the coincidence if he got beat for this trophy by a guy who wasn't even in the big leagues for nearly the entire first month of this season?
NL LEAST VALUABLE PLAYER (LVP) OF THE HALF-YEAR
Rickie Weeks, Brewers
#23 Second Baseman
Every time a team passes through Milwaukee these days, you hear the same question: "What the heck happened to Rickie Weeks?" Whew, excellent question. A year ago this time, he was packing for the All-Star Game. But that won't be happening again this year, thanks to a funk they'll be able to smell from Arthur Bryant's. Let's start with this: Weeks has 99 strikeouts already -- and 55 hits. And gang, that ain't easy. It he keeps whiffing at this rate, it means he has a chance to pile up 90 more strikeouts than hits this year -- a feat achieved by only two players in history: Mark Reynolds and Adam Dunn. So it's no surprise, then, that Weeks has also put himself in position to become the first player in the history of his franchise to submerge beneath the Mendoza Line (in a season of 200 plate appearances or more). And that's quite a statement, too. Weeks is hitting .193, with a .323 slugging percentage and .634 OPS -- a line that doesn't compute for a guy who was actually a Home Run Derby contestant just last summer. But it still doesn't answer the question: "What the heck happened to Rickie Weeks?" One NL exec's review after his team played the Brewers: "I don't know if he's just angry that his buddy Prince [Fielder] left, or if he's just trying too hard to put up his own power numbers. But his strike zone right now is about two home plates wide."
AL (LVP) OF THE HALF-YEAR
Delmon Young, Tigers
#21 Designated Hitter
If you click on your handy dandy ESPN.com team stats page, you'll find something shocking: The Detroit Tigers rank dead last in the AL in OPS, on-base percentage and extra-base hits from their No. 5 hitters. And who IS their primary No. 5 hitter? That would be Young, ladies and gentlemen, the 5-hole occupant in every game he's started this year. It's a fairly important job, you might say, hitting behind Cabrera and Fielder. It's also an excellent gig, considering that those two guys have reached base more times than any other two teammates in the AL. And the leadoff man, Austin Jackson, has a .412 OBP himself. So you'd think a fellow who got to hit behind those three, not to mention a man who was once drafted No. 1 overall in the nation, would be a happy and productive kind of guy. Uhhhh, nope. Young is careening along with as many double-play balls (seven) as homers, a .296 OBP, a 58-9 strikeouts-walks ratio and a .236 batting average (with two home runs in 25 games) against teams from his division. "He couldn't do less," muttered one scout, "if he were in a coma." Oh, and we haven't even mentioned yet his endearing, off-field arrest for a hate crime. So friends, there's a term we use for guys who do all that. And you spell it "L-V-P."
NL CY YOUNG OF THE HALF-YEAR
R.A. Dickey, Mets
#43 Starting Pitcher
New York Mets
We've got knuckleballers in the Hall of Fame (Ted Lyons, Phil Niekro, Hoyt Wilhelm). We've had a knuckleballer start an All-Star Game (Dutch Leonard, 1943). But you know what we've never had in this sport? A knuckleballer who won a Cy Young Award. If the season were to end today, though, we'd be retracting that statement -- because Dickey has been the best pitcher in the NL in the first half. He has flutterballed his way to the league lead WHIP, wins above replacement, wins, complete games, double-figure strikeout games and, especially, hitters muttering, "What the gfsbwxp." He went a month without allowing an earned run. He's made six starts already in which he lasted at least six innings and gave up no more than three hits. (Dwight Gooden never had more than five starts like that in a season.) And if we're allowed to factor in books sold and famous mountains climbed, he blows away the field. So not only has there not been a better story on any team's staff this year than R.A. Dickey, there might not have been a better pitcher, either.
AL CY YOUNG OF THE HALF-YEAR
Justin Verlander, Tigers
#35 Starting Pitcher
Justin Verlander? Again? Well, Kate Upton might think Philip Humber deserves this award. And I have no doubt that I'm about to get tweeted at by every Angels and White Sox fan alive, to inform me that Jered Weaver and/or Chris Sale really, really deserve this award. But after days and days of thinking about this from every angle, I've concluded it isn't as easy to dethrone The Best Pitcher in Baseball as it might appear from afar. Is Verlander having a slightly less dominant year than he had last year? Of course. Do Sale and Weaver have slightly lower ERAs than he does? They do. But if you take in the big picture, it's hard not to factor in the way Verlander welcomes the massive responsibilities of true ace-dom, despite all the heavy lifting it forces him to do to keep his staff and his team afloat. You know what the ERA is this season of Tigers starters who haven't worn a Randy Johnson disguise on TV? It's barely under 5.00 (4.89). Meanwhile, Sale, Weaver and Verlander have almost exactly the same WHIP (0.94 for Weaver, 0.95 for Verlander, 0.96 for Sale). But Verlander has carved out those numbers while facing 173 more hitters than Weaver and 119 more than Sale. So guess which of these men leads the major leagues in starts of eight innings or more? Yep, that would be Verlander, who has done that more times (nine) than Weaver and Sale combined (eight). Now is Verlander as clear a choice this year as last? He's not -- obviously. And are there excellent cases to be made for both Weaver and Sale, two of the most talented pitchers alive? Absotively, there are. So feel free to lobby for your guy. But as for me, I'll still take Cy Verlander.
NL CY YUK OF THE HALF-YEAR
Tim Lincecum, Giants
#55 Starting Pitcher
San Francisco Giants
I came really, really close to handing this prestigious award to the entire Rockies rotation -- a group that's well on its way to blowing away the record for fewest quality starts by an NL rotation in any full season in the live-ball era. (Current pace: 40.) But on the other hand we have a two-time Cy Young award-winner in our midst who is 3-9, with a 6.08 ERA, a 1.55 WHIP and more earned runs allowed (63) AT THE ALL-STAR BREAK than he gave up ALL SEASON as recently as 2009 (62). Yes, hard as it is to believe, of the 104 pitchers who would currently qualify for the ERA title, Lincecum ranks 102nd in ERA. Hard as it is to believe, a guy whose home/road splits were once practically identical now has an 8.45 road ERA -- the second-worst by any Giants pitcher, at this stage, in the last 100 years. Hard as it is to believe, a man who has always loved the challenge of The Big Moment has allowed a .314/.440/.524 slash line with runners in scoring position. So it hasn't been real picturesque to watch, and it hasn't been particularly easy to comprehend. But Lincecum is living proof that Stuff Happens in this game -- even to the great ones.
AL CY YUK OF THE HALF-YEAR
Jonathan Sanchez, Royals
#57 Starting Pitcher
Kansas City Royals
Sanchez could probably win this award based on his 1.99 WHIP alone. Or for his attractive 40-to-32 walks-to-strikeouts ratio. Or for averaging under 4 2/3 innings a start. Or for finding himself on a pace to join just Steve Blass and Oliver Perez as the only starting pitchers in the division-play era to have a walk rate this ugly (7.8 per 9 IP) AND allow more than 10 hits per nine innings in the same season (minimum: 46 innings). But when you add in the body language of a guy who acts as if he'd rather be in Kampala than Kansas City, and then remember that to get this man, the Royals had to trade a fellow (Melky Cabrera) who's about to start the All-Star Game, what we have here is (what else?) a runaway winner of the Cy Yuk balloting.
NL ROOKIE OF THE HALF-YEAR
Bryce Harper, Nationals
No teenage position player in history has ever won a Rookie of the Year award. You can look it up. But that's about to change, unless Harper contracts some sort of dreaded allergy to eye-black. I'm almost running out of ways to describe how special it is that we're watching what we're watching from a guy who's younger than all three Jonas Brothers. But let's try it one more time: Only two teenagers in history have equaled or bettered the .283/.355/.481/.836 numbers Harper has put up this year, at 19 years old. That would be Mel Ott (1928) and Tony Conigliaro (1964). But those two weren't asked to steal bases. (Harper is on pace to swipe 16.) Or to lead a first-place team in hitting and on-base percentage. (Harper leads all Nationals regulars in both departments.) Or to play semi-regularly at a position (center field) he'd barely played in his life before he got to the big leagues. Or, especially, to stand up under the relentless national scrutiny that seems to be focused on Harper every minute of every day. But this guy just keeps on handling it all, saying and doing all the right things, and firing up those engines every day as if he were about to play the most important game of his lifetime. It's been quite a spectacle to behold.
AL ROOKIE OF THE HALF-YEAR
Mike Trout, Angels
Hey, you were expecting I'd pick, say, Munenori Kawasaki? I've already laid out the compelling case for Trout as the MVP. So fortunately, deciding the whole rookie thing didn't require incinerating a single brain cell. And I say that even though this is a spectacular rookie class in the AL (Yu Darvish, Jarrod Parker, Will Middlebrooks, Yoenis Cespedes, Robbie Ross, Scott Diamond, Ryan Cook, Jose Quintana, Matt Moore, etc., etc.). I also say it for this reason: Mike Trout might be headed for arguably the greatest rookie season of all time. If he keeps this up, he'll finish the season with 20 homers, 51 steals, a .958 OPS and a .348/.403/.555 slash line. Now consider that the highest batting average by any rookie of the year in history was .331 (Lynn in 1975) the highest OBP was .403 (Pujols in 2001) the only 20-homer, 40-steal ROY was Tommie Agee and the only rookies of the year to hit .300, with at least a .950 OPS, were Pujols, Lynn, Braun and Walt Dropo. But it looks as if Trout is planning to do ALL of that. In the same season. While playing Web Gem-worthy defense in center field. At age 20. Ridiculous. Case closed.
Apologies to: Darvish, Parker, Middlebrooks, Diamond and that whole crew above.
MANAGERS OF THE HALF-YEAR
Clint Hurdle, Pirates, and Buck Showalter, Orioles
In April, 49 of us ESPN baseball know-it-alls were asked to predict the season ahead. You know how many picked the Pirates or Orioles to make it to the postseason? The same number who picked the Savannah Sand Gnats, of course -- zero. But that's because we couldn't foresee the stamp that the powerful personalities of Hurdle and Showalter were about to put on two teams that haven't played a postseason game in this millennium. Hurdle, a veritable Niagara Falls of positivity, refused to allow his team to get swallowed by the hangover of its 19-43 finish last year, or by the 2.9 runs per game it averaged in April and May. And it's a direct reflection on the magical spell he's weaved that it's the Pirates -- the Pirates -- that have had the best record in the NL (32-18) over the last 50 games. Meanwhile, in Baltimore, Showalter is again proving that he's the most underappreciated manager on earth. How do we explain how the worst defensive team in baseball, an outfit that's had three of its five starters rack up ERAs over 5.00 and a team with the fifth-lowest on-base percentage in the big leagues, would be still alive if the playoffs started today? It all begins with the manager's mind-boggling attention to detail -- and by that I mean, EVERY detail.
Apologies to: Davey Johnson, Terry Collins, Don Mattingly, Robin Ventura, Mike Scioscia, Bob Melvin.
INJURIES OF THE HALF-YEAR
First prize: A year after his fabled Hamburger Patty incident, Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt charged right back onto this list with another classic for the Household Mishap Hall of Fame. This time, he strolled through the door after a game in late April and crouched down so his 4-year-old son could jump into his arms when oops! He toppled over just enough to sprain a medial collateral ligament in his knee -- and spent the next two weeks on the disabled list. "The trainers are tired of getting that call: 'Hey, I'm at home and I hurt myself,'" he told the San Francisco Chronicle's Henry Schulman.
Second prize: Who knew that wayward luggage, a traveling spouse and a missing sock could screw up Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy's beautiful season? He was reaching under his hotel bed for a sock in May when his wife dropped a suitcase on his hand. One broken metacarpal bone later, he was on the DL and hasn't played since.
Third prize: It's getting tougher and tougher to decide what's more hazardous to a player's health -- a collision at home plate or a celebration at home plate. Just ask Mets reliever Ramon Ramirez and Giants first baseman Aubrey Huff. Ramirez was so euphoric over Johan Santana's no-hitter last month, he charged out of the bullpen -- and blew out his hamstring. He was out nearly a month. Well, word of that calamity must not have filtered west, because a week and a half later, Matt Cain threw a perfect game, and Huff decided to leap over the dugout railing to join the fun. Uh-oh. He forgot to nail the landing, sprained his knee and hasn't appeared in a game since.
BOX-SCORE LINES OF THE HALF-YEAR
First prize: Red Sox reliever Mark Melancon staked his claim to Worst Bullpen Outing of Modern Times with this action-packed outing April 17 versus Texas: 0 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 3 HR, 1 double.
What's up with that: The plot line for this debacle went: double, walk, homer, homer, walk, homer. And how many other pitchers in the last 95 years have jam-packed all of that -- at least three homers, six earned runs and zero outs -- into one outing? Not a one, naturally.
Second prize: It definitely wasn't a sign of things to come, but A.J. Burnett's May 2 visit to St. Louis sure was memorable: 2 2/3 IP, 12 H, 12 R, 12 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 2 HR, 1 HBP, 72 pitches to get eight outs.
What's up with that: Earned runs came into existence 99 years ago. Until A.J. came along, no pitcher in history had allowed a dozen of them in one game without at least getting through the third inning. And no Pirate had given up 12 earned runs in a game in 70 years -- since Glenn Spencer did it on April 24, 1932.
Third prize: Nobody jammed more eyeball-shaking events into any start this season than Rangers ace Colby Lewis in this May 10 outing in Baltimore: 7 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 12 K, 5 HR.
What's up with that: Lewis kicked off his evening by becoming the first pitcher in AL history to serve up home rnus to the first three hitters of a game. He concluded his night's work by giving up two more home runs in the seventh inning, making him the fourth AL pitcher ever to allow five gopherballs in one game but no other hits. And in between, of course, he was unhittable -- literally -- chewing through 18 straight hitters without allowing any of them to reach base. So how many other pitchers have struck out 12 men during a five-homer game? That, of course, would be zero.
SPECIAL BOX-SCORE CITATIONS
Mr. Perfect: Matt Cain, vs. Houston, on June 13: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 14 K. Guess how many other perfect games have featured more strikeouts than balls put in play? Just one, folks. It was authored by Mr. Sanford Koufax on Sept. 9, 1965.
Mr. No-so-perfect: Daniel Bard's final start for the Red Sox (June 3 against Toronto) was a whopper, all right: 1 2/3 IP, 1 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 6 BB, 2 K, 1 HR, 2 HBP, 55 pitches, 24 strikes. How tough is it to maneuver six walks and two hit batters into an outing that didn't even last two innings? The Elias Sports Bureau tells us it had never been until that night.
Mr. Wild Thing: Freddy Garcia, vs. Baltimore on April 10: 4 2/3 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 K & 5 (count 'em, five) wild pitches. I'm still shocked -- shocked, I say -- to learn that Garcia was the first pitcher in the live-ball era to throw five wild pitches in a game where he didn't even make it through the fifth inning.
Mr. Clone: We had a box-score all-timer April 7, when the two starters in an Indians-Blue Jays game -- Ubaldo Jimenez and Brandon Morrow -- racked up virtually identical box-score lines (7 IP, 1 hit, 2 runs, 3 walks, 3 strikeouts). It was the first game in the live-ball era in which two pitchers went at least seven innings, gave up no more than one hit and still found a way to allow two runs.
Mr. Long Ball: Seattle's Jason Vargas found out the hard way that all retractable-roof stadiums don't resemble Safeco Field, thanks to this June 20 visit to Arizona: 4 1/3 IP, 9 H, 10 R, 10 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 5 HR. So how often do you see a guy give up five homers and double-digit runs without getting through the fifth inning? Exactly once since 1900, according to Elias (May 25, 1979, when the Reds' Frank Pastore did it in just 2 1/3 innings, in RELIEF).
Mr. Historian: Here it comes, a box-score line never before compiled by any hitter who ever lived. Not Babe Ruth. Not Henry Aaron. Not Joltin' Joe DiMaggio. Not anyone. It came from Josh Hamilton, May 8 at Camden Yards: 5 AB, 4 R, 5 H, 8 RBIs, 4 HR, 1 double. All five hits were extra-base hits. All four home runs were two-run homers (with Elvis Andrus scoring in front of him). And it was all part of one of the most astonishing weeks by any player in modern times: 16 fair balls put in play, NINE home runs, only four outs.
FIVE CRAZIEST GAMES OF THE HALF-YEAR
The Chris Davis Game: Orioles 9, Red Sox 6, in 17 insane innings, May 6.
If you just looked at the top half of the box score, you'd never guess that this would go down as one of Davis' favorite games ever. But the part where the Orioles' DH went 0-for-8 -- with five strikeouts and a GIDP -- wasn't exactly the fun part. We're talking about the part where, in the 16th inning, Davis headed for the mound, after eight Orioles pitchers had already faced 60 Red Sox hitters over more than 5½ hours. And what did he do after he got there? Oh, not much -- other than blitzing through two shutout innings, hitting 91 on the gun, striking out Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Adrian Gonzalez, and (oh yeah) becoming the WINNING PITCHER. So why was that such a big deal? Ohhh, maybe because Davis A) was the first player to go 0-for-8 and wind up as a winning pitcher since Rube Waddell in 1905, and B) became the first AL position player to win a game as a pitcher in the division-play era (i.e, the first since Rocky Colavito in 1968), not to mention that he C) won a game this year before a guy I picked to win a Cy Young Award -- Josh Johnson. Hey, and one more thing: The losing pitcher was Red Sox DH Darnell McDonald, making this the first game since Sept. 28, 1902, in which the winning AND losing pitchers were position players. Davis' quote of the day: "I just kept thinking to myself that maybe I'd get a chance to redeem myself with a game-winning hit. I didn't think I was going to get the game-winning last two innings."
Crazy Eights: Mariners 21, Rangers 8, May 30.
In the other 83 games they've played this year, the Mariners are hitting .227 and averaging 3.7 runs. But there was something goofy wafting through the Texas ozone on this night, because the Mariners put up eight runs in the second inning, then hung another 8-spot in the third -- and went on to hit blackjack for the first time in 12 years. So how bizarre was that? Consider this: Going into the second inning of this game, the Mariners had scored eight runs (or more) in one of their previous 5,277 innings (since Aug. 4, 2008). Then, naturally, they did it two innings in a row! NO team had scored eight runs or more in back-to-back innings of any game since July 29, 1928 (Indians vs. Yankees). In division-play history, no last-place AL team had ever scored 20 runs or more against any first-place team. The Mariners became the first team since Orator Shaffer's 1880 Cleveland Blues to score 20-plus runs and have a perfect game thrown against them in the same season. And (lest we forget) in back-to-back innings, a different Rangers pitcher (Derek Holland, then Yoshinori Tateyama) gave up eight runs -- making Texas the first team to pull that off since the 1894 Boston Beaneaters. Wow. Got all that?
The Nine Trot-A-Thon: Reds 7, Rockies 5, May 27.
No matter how many games you've seen in your life, I guarantee you've never seen one like this Great American Longball-Park special. The WINNING pitcher, Mat Latos, gave up five home runs. The losing pitcher, Jamie Moyer, gave up four. And there had never been any other game played in which one starting pitcher allowed five bombs while the other allowed four or more. But that's not all. There were only two SINGLES in this game (one of them an infield single), making it the first nine-homer, two-single game in the live-ball era. Latos allowed no other hits -- making him the first pitcher ever to give up five hits, all of them home runs, and somehow wind up as the winning pitcher. And the big highlight was the Reds' Todd Frazier hitting the goofiest home run of the year, actually losing his bat in mid-swing and then looking up to find the baseball landing in the left-field seats. Quote of the day, from Dusty Baker: "That's too many home runs of theirs. I'll take all of ours."
Paging Jonathan Papelbon: Tigers 13, Red Sox 12 in 11 nutty innings, April 8.
The Red Sox should have known they had One of Those Years ahead after enduring this madness in just their third game of the season. Clay Buchholz gave up four runs in the first inning. Then they scrambled back to take leads of 7-5 in the third inning, 9-7 in the sixth, 10-7 entering the ninth and 12-10 in the 11th. Every one of them disappeared faster than you could say Bob (Steamer) Stanley. The new closer in town, Alfredo Aceves, arrived in the ninth and went single-single-Cabrera homer. Then his trusty set-up man, Melancon, gave up a walkoff homer to Alex Avila in the 11th. So what did it all mean? Glad you asked. The Tigers gave up 18 hits and won -- for only the sixth time in the last 65 years. The Red Sox scored a dozen times and lost -- for the first time since May 31, 1970. Tigers starter Max Scherzer allowed 13 baserunners in 2 2/3 innings but didn't get a loss (just the second time in the last 70 years the Tigers had come back to win a game in which their starter gave up at least seven runs in under three innings). And the Red Sox did something they'd never done in the history of their franchise: They lost a game in which they led by at least two runs in both the ninth inning and extra innings. Hey, hard to do, friends.
Six Of None, Half Dozen Of The Other: Mariners 1, Dodgers 0, June 8.
Once upon a time, in 2003 in Yankee Stadium, the Astros unfurled the first six-pitcher no-hitter in the history of the planet. You undoubtedly thought you'd never see another. You'd have been incorrect. On this bizarre evening in Seattle, the Mariners "duplicated" that six-pack, in their own inimitable way.
Kevin Millwood pitched the first six hitless innings -- nine years and eight teams removed from his 2003 no-hitter. But once he called it a night because of a sore groin, the madness began. There were nine outs to go, and the Mariners divided them up among five relievers. None of them threw more than 15 pitches. The guy who saved it (Tom Wilhelmsen) is an ex-bartender who once quit baseball for six years. The winning pitcher (Stephen Pryor) allowed more hitters to reach base (two) than he got outs (one) -- and became the first man ever to become the winning pitcher in a no-hitter while recording just one of the 27 outs. Plate ump Brian Runge had already worked the plate for another no-hitter this year (by Philip Humber) -- in the same ballpark. And after Wilhelmsen recorded the historic final out, his catcher (Jesus Montero) had to remind him of something important: They'd just pitched a no-hitter. Wilhelmsen's amusing explanation, to the Seattle Times' Larry Stone, of how that slipped his mind: "He told me like four times, 'Let's go. It's a no-hitter, man.' I was, like, 'Oh yeah. You're right.'"