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Oddities abound as MLB reaches All-Star break
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Forsyth County News

Baseball, dull? Hardly.     

Just take a look at all the oddities that occurred during the season’s first half. With a quick nod of thanks to Seymour Siwoff and his colleagues at the Elias Sports Bureau, here we go:

March 25: The Oriental opener. First pitch, 6:10 am. The World Series champion Red Sox beat the A’s, 6-5. Brandon Moss ties it with a two-out home run in the top of the ninth. Two weeks later, he’s back in Pawtucket.

March 30: The occidental opener. The Braves help christen the Nationals new park in fine style, committing three errors in the initial inning. Ryan Zimmerman hits the third walk-off home run in a brand-new stadium in MLB history. Bobby Cox manages in his record 50th different stadium.

March 31: The real opening day. The Cubs and Brewers are scoreless through eight, then each score three times in the ninth — an oddity that hadn’t occurred since May 19, 1893.   The Pirates beat the Braves, 12-11, the highest scoring opener in the Bucs’ 122-year history.

April 1: The Yankees win their 11th-straight opener, breaking the Pirates record from ‘45-’54, compiled when the Pirates were the worst team in baseball.

April 2: Edwin Encarnacion’s walk-off home run gives new Reds manager Dusty Baker his first win. The last manager to get his initial win on a walk-off homer was none other than Bobby Cox, on April 10, 1978, courtesy of slugger Darrel Chaney.

April 5: Arizona’s Justin Upton homers in his third-straight game, the third 20-year-old to do so. He joins two pretty fair sluggers: Willie Mays and Mel Ott.

April 7: Bad news: Rockies 2, Braves 1. Good news: It only takes two hours and five minutes, the fastest nine inning game in the history of Coors Field.

April 13: The Brewers become the first team in 40 years to hit into double plays in five consecutive innings. Frank Thomas breaks Harmon Killebrew’s record, going 9,832 plate appearances without a sacrifice bunt. Greg Maddux pitches five innings, and the Padres beat the Dodgers, 1-0. It’s the 40th combined shutout Maddux has participated in, a record.

April 18: In his next start, Maddux surrenders six runs in the first inning, and a personal record nine in seven innings.

April 22: Is this the century? The Cubs win their fourth-straight game by six or more runs. They hadn’t done that since 1886.

April 24: Two days after becoming John Smoltz’ 3,000th strikeout victim, Washington’s Felipe Lopez knocks in six runs. Not bad for a leadoff hitter, and it’s the third time he’s done it. Over the past 50 years, the only leadoff hitter who has done it even twice is Rick Monday.

May 7: The Reds become the first MLB team to hit seven home runs during a shutout win at home.

May 12: The Pirates overcome four errors and six walks to shutout the Braves, 5-0, a feat last accomplished on May 24, 1923 (A’s over the Yankees).

May 17: Barry Zito becomes the first Giant pitcher since 1890 to start 0-8. Owner Peter Magowan tells the USA Today, “The Barry Zito signing, you have to say at this point, is clearly a failure.”

May 23: Zito Wins. He beats the Marlins, who, two days earlier, had handed 9-0 Brandon Webb his first loss of the season. That’s the fourth time a team has turned that trick in a season, let alone two days.

May 31: Is this the century? The Cubs end May with baseball’s best record for the first time since, drumroll, please, 1908.

June 5: The Rangers and Indians conclude a series in which each team scored 39 runs, the first time two teams averaged nine runs in a four game series since 1937.

June 7: Andy Pettitte becomes the first Yankee to surrender 10 runs and win at the stadium since Herb Pennock in 1930. Carlos Gonzalez of the A’s has two doubles, making his first seven hits all doubles. The last player with extra bases on his first seven hits was John Mize in 1936.

June 11: The Rockies and Giants are scoreless at Coors through eight, breaking a string of 1,075 games featuring at least one run in the first eight frames. That beats the 70-year-old record of the Baker Bowl in Philadelphia by 50 games.

June 21: The Cubs hit back-to-back home runs, twice, in the same inning. That’s a feat last accomplished against the Cubs, by the Braves on June 8, 1965 (Joe Torre and Felipe Alou, then Hank Aaron and Gene Oliver).

June 25: The Nats have won seven of 16 home games (44 percent) in walk-off fashion. That’s the highest percentage since 1900. Second, at 41 percent (9-of-22), are the 1962 Mets, of all teams.

July 4: Fireworks you like? Try Rockies 18, Marlins 17. The sixth time two teams have scored 17 runs in a game, and the first since the Phils beat the Cubs, 23-22, on May 17, 1979. Albert Pujols reaches 300 home runs, the second to do so in his first eight seasons (Ralph Kiner had 329.) At that time, his career batting average was .332, and he had only 480 strikeouts. Look at the triumvirate he joined there: Ted Williams, Stan Musial and Joe DiMaggio.

July 8: The Yankees and Mets both win with shutouts at home for the first time in history.

July 12: Andruw Jones goes 0-for-5 with five strikeouts, the first Dodger to do so in Los Angeles. Say, isn’t he also the last Brave to do so in Atlanta?