Welcome to another edition of Five Astounding Facts:
What did Matt Cain just do that no other pitcher in history had ever done? In back-to-back trips to the mound, he started the All-Star Game, then faced a team he had thrown a perfect game against (the Astros). Seven other pitchers have started an All-Star Game and thrown a perfect game at some point in their careers. But none of them ever did that.
The Orioles find themselves a half-game out of a playoff spot at the moment -- which is kind of amazing, considering that their record this season in nine-inning games happens to be four games on the wrong side of .500 (38-42).
The good news is they're 10-2 when they go to extra innings, and those games count, too. But they should know this: No team has ever made it to the postseason in a year in which it had a losing record in games of nine innings (or less).
The closest any team ever came, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, was the 1981 Royals, who went 48-48 in regulation (and 2-5 in extra innings). But there's a big asterisk attached to that little nugget, because those Royals were under .500 for the season but made the playoffs only because the long midseason players' strike created a split-season format. So ...
What's the closest any team has ever come in a non-strike season? On the way to winning a World Series, Al Newman's 1987 Twins went a mere 76-75 in nine-inning games (or shorter) but padded that record by going 9-2 in overtime. Among the guys who drove in a game-winning run in extra innings for those '87 Twins: the artist who would later become Billy Beane.
Now that the Rockies have traded away Jeremy Guthrie, they've all but clinched this incredible distinction (as pointed out by loyal reader Jim Cartwright):
Not one pitcher on their roster is going to wind up pitching enough innings to qualify for the ERA title. (In fact, none qualified this season even before this trade, but Guthrie was at least close.)
The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that six teams have pulled off that bizarre claim to fame since 1996. The last one: the 2009 Indians, who had to trade Cliff Lee to make it possible.
But no National League team has made it through a season without a pitcher who threw at least 162 innings since the 1998 Cardinals. Kent Mercker missed qualifying that year by 1/3 IP, and Todd Stottlemyre missed by 2/3 IP. So any resemblance between that team and this team is purely a technicality. It will be a miracle if any Rockies pitcher comes within 30 innings of qualifying.
There aren't many nuttier ways to blow a lead with two outs in the ninth than the way the Giants did it last Saturday:
With their closer, Santiago Casilla, striking out what should have been the final hitter of the game ... only to have the tying run score on a surreal strikeout-wild pitch-E2 trifecta. (Pitch bounces away to allow the hitter to reach. Catcher Hector Sanchez then throws wild to first to allow the tying run to score from second. Yikes!)
So how rare is that? Here's what we learned from Elias:
• Last team to tie a game on a K-E2 with two outs in the ninth: the Twins, on July 31, 2003, against the Orioles. (Jorge Julio WP to Michael Restovich. Brook Fordyce throwing error allows Doug Mientkiewicz to score from second.)
It's hard enough for any starting pitcher to make it through a start with zero strikeouts and zero walks. But Aaron Cook deserves some bonus points for doing that Monday -- against a team with noted strikeout-or-walk machine Adam Dunn in the lineup.
Then again, Aaron Cook is the master of this sort of thing:
• This was his second zero-walk, zero-strikeout start of the season (of five innings or more). The only other pitchers to have more than one start like that in a season in this millennium: Mark Buehrle (2010), Paul Byrd (three times in 2008), Kyle Lohse (2004) and Greg Maddux (2003).
• This makes five times Cook has had a start like that in his career. Only one other pitcher in the past 30 years can make that claim: Bill Gullickson.
• Cook has now made five starts this season -- and hasn't struck out or walked more than two hitters in any of them. How many pitchers since 1900 have ever done that in their first five starts of a season? Not a one, according to Elias.
• Cook added one more zero in that game Monday -- in the earned runs column. And as loyal reader Eric Orns reports, that makes him the second pitcher in this millennium to have a start that featured at least seven innings, no strikeouts, no walks and no earned runs. The other? None other than Justin Verlander, of all people, on May 17, 2006.