STRIKE ONE -- NO-HIT FEVER DEPT.
Hard to believe I haven't gotten around to Ubaldo Jimenez before now. But I got just a little distracted by that 20-inning game the same day. How'd that happen?
Nevertheless, The Great Ubaldo deserves all the hoopla Three Strikes can shower on him, even half a week late. So here goes:
• As you might have heard someplace, this was the first no-hitter in Rockies history. All the other teams out there combined to throw 33 no-hitters in the 17-plus seasons in which the Rockies threw none. But if it makes the Rockies feel better, there have been 121 no-hitters since the Mets were born -- not a one of them by a Met.
• As our fabulous ESPN Stats & Info department revealed, Jimenez was the first pitcher whose first name starts with a "U" to throw a no-hitter. If you count "Old Hoss" Radbourn as an "O," that leaves just five letters left with no no-nos: I, Q, X, Y and Z. So the pressure is really on Zack Greinke and Yovani Gallardo, don't you think?
• Jimenez launched 128 pitches in Saturday's no-hitter, the most in a complete-game no-hitter since the immortal Bud Smith spun 134 pitches up there in his gem on Sept. 3, 2001. The only other pitchers to throw that many pitches in a complete-game no-hitter over the past 15 seasons: A.J. Burnett (129) in 2001 and Dwight Gooden (134) in 1996.
• This was one wild no-hitter in more ways than one. Jimenez walked six hitters in the first five innings. Last to do that in a no-hitter: Burnett, who walked six of the first 15 hitters he faced on the way to his historic nine-walk no-no.
• They always say you should drive in more than you let in, right? Well, Ubaldo Jimenez followed orders, with an RBI single. Only two other pitchers in the past 30 years drove in a run during a no-hitter -- Hideo Nomo (against the Rockies) on Sept. 17, 1996, and Terry Mulholland on Aug. 15, 1990.
• Only one division in baseball now has no pitchers on anybody's roster who have ever thrown a no-hitter -- the AL West. There are five no-hit pitchers in the AL East, two in the NL West, two in the AL Central, and one apiece in the NL East and NL Central.
• Finally, we probably should mention that Jimenez's unhittability didn't just start last weekend. Since the beginning of the 2009 season, the only pitchers in baseball who have allowed fewer hits per nine innings than Jimenez (7.46) are Tim Lincecum (6.64), Chris Carpenter (7.35) and Felix Hernandez (7.44).
STRIKE TWO -- DR. LIVAN/MR. HYDE DEPT.
When the Brewers erupted for 10 runs in the first inning Sunday in Washington, two of Three Strikes' most loyal readers -- Eric Orns and Phil Yabut -- had exactly the same thought:
Could two teams have possibly played two games more dissimilar than the back-to-back games the Brew Crew and Nats hooked up on last weekend?
On Saturday night, Washington's Livan Hernandez threw a complete-game shutout. The next afternoon, Nationals starter Jason Marquis headed for the mound and gave up seven runs -- without even getting an out.
So how bizarre was that turnaround? Here's how bizarre:
• The last time a team got shut out in one game and then scored at least 10 runs in the first inning the next day, according to the Elias Sports Bureau: July 5-6, 1954, when the Indians got shut out by Detroit's George Zuverink (in 11 innings) in one game, then scored 11 in the first the next day off Baltimore's Joe Coleman and Mike (Buy a Vowel) Blyzka.
• The last time a team had a pitcher throw a shutout in one game, then had its next pitcher get zero outs, according to Elias: July 21-22, 1992, when the Royals got a shutout from Hipolito Pichardo one day, then watched Rick Reed go out the next day, give up two straight hits in the first and then exit with an injury.
And now the follow-ups to that spectacular daily double:
• Epilogue No. 1: In the Brewers' very next game, Tuesday in Pittsburgh, they KO'd Pirates starter Charlie Morton after he'd gotten only three outs. Which made the Brewers the first team to send two straight starting pitchers to the shower knobs in an inning or less -- while allowing at least six runs apiece -- since the Mets gonged out Jose Capellan (3 outs, 7 runs) and John Van Benschoten (1 out, 6 runs) on Sept. 16 and 18, 2004, according to Elias.
• And now Epilogue No. 2: Hernandez's shutout was his first since July 30, 2004, meaning CC Sabathia threw 10 shutouts in the 5.5 years in which Livan was throwing none.
STRIKE THREE -- USELESS INFO DEPT.
In other news ...
• How hard is it to win a game the way the Braves won one Tuesday? Down three runs with two outs in the ninth ... shut out for 8 2/3 innings ... then hit back-to-back homers to tie the game in the ninth ... and hit another homer to win it? With the help of the Sultan of Swat Stats, SABR home run historian David Vincent, and baseball-reference.com's incomparable Play Index, I went back 59 seasons (through 1952) and couldn't find any other team that had ever done that. Closest call: The White Sox were down 2-0 with two outs in the ninth last Sept. 2, when Gordon Beckham and Paul Konerko went back-to-back off Joe Nathan, and the White Sox wound up winning in the ninth. But I couldn't find any team that had zero runs on the board and trailed by three or more that pulled off the Braves' feat.
• Then there's the man who hit the game-tying bomb. Some rookie named Jason Heyward. Maybe you've heard of him. On Sunday, he came to the plate with two outs in the ninth and his team trailing and hit a walk-off single. In his next game, he came to the plate with two outs in the ninth and his team trailing and mashed a game-evening homer. And no one has had two ninth-inning at-bats like that in almost four decades. Elias reports that the last man to hit with two outs in the final inning and his team trailing in back-to-back games and get a game-winning and game-tying hit in each game was Carlos May on May 21-22, 1972. Game-winning three-run homer one game. Then a game-tying single the next.
• So the Rangers stole nine bases in a game Tuesday in Boston and still lost. Bet you think that's hard to do, huh? Uh, think again. Believe it or not, the Rangers were the eighth team since 1952 to steal at least nine bases in a game -- and those teams actually have a losing record (3-5). The Rangers were the third AL team to swipe at least nine bags in a game in that span -- and those teams are now 0-3. Hard to believe.
• Dan Haren had himself a game Tuesday you sure don't see much. He went 4-for-4 at the plate -- but gave up seven runs on the mound. So how long has it been since we saw a pitcher get four hits and allow at least seven runs in the same game? More than half a century -- since Mickey McDermott did it for the Red Sox, in a 14-10 win over the Yankees, on May 25, 1953.
• Another fun note on a pitcher who knows how to use a Louisville Slugger: Tim Lincecum had himself an enjoyable little three-hit, three-RBI game Saturday. Last defending Cy Young to get three hits in a game: Greg Maddux, on Aug. 11, 1994 (the last day before the strike hit). Ah, but now this gets better. The only other defending Cy who ever had a three-hit game that also included three RBIs: Warren Spahn, April 29, 1958. Back when Spahn did it, he and Don Newcombe were the only two pitchers who had ever won one of those newfangled Cy Young awards.
• Loyal reader Revo Somersille reports that Mike Pelfrey has a triple crown going we can guarantee you that nobody has ever won: He leads the Mets in wins (three), saves (one) and batting average (.333). Beautiful.
• Ever heard of an entire team wearing different numbers at the end of a game than it wore at the beginning of the same game? Our buddy Marc Topkin, of the St. Petersburg Times, reports that the Rays and Red Sox did that in Friday's game in Boston. They were all wearing No. 42 for the first eight innings, in honor of Jackie Robinson Day. Then the game got suspended by wetness. So they finished up the next day wearing their regular numbers. That has to be a first!
• Finally, ESPN Stats & Info genius Mark Simon reports that David Eckstein now leads all players in the post-Joe Morgan era in Tim Kurkjian's favorite offensive department -- Most Career Home Runs by a Guy 5-Foot-7 or Shorter. Eckstein's walk-off shot Monday was his 35th career homer (and, amazingly, his third walk-off). The 5-7 Morgan retired after the 1984 season. Your Short Guy leaderboard since then:
- David Eckstein -- 35
Warren Newson -- 34
Joey Cora -- 30
Bip Roberts -- 30
Quinton McCracken -- 21
So, in short, Eckstein is the Henry Aaron of little dudes. Send that man a case of shrimp!