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Series of Braves setbacks

Really Useless Information

  • It may not be the end of the Braves' era in every way. But it's the end in at least one way. They just lost four series in a row. That may not sound like a big deal -- but it's the first time it's happened to any Braves team since they became the Braves.

    Last time they lost four straight series: July 5-22, 1990 -- to the Mets, Expos, Phillies and Mets again. That's close to (gulp) 700 series ago.

    At the time that streak began, Tom Glavine had 21 career wins, Joe Hesketh and Marty Clary were in the Atlanta rotation, and the Braves' cleanup hitter was Jim Presley. Two weeks after that stretch, they traded Dale Murphy.

  • Obviously, not all saves are created equal. But here's one more measure of just how dominating Eric Gagne has been during his streak of 73 straight saves:

    Not only has he not blown one -- but just once has he even come within 90 feet of blowing one. The only time in the streak the opposing team got the tying run to third base, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, was Sept. 18, 2003, when Arizona did it.

  • The Devil Rays finally had that moment last week we've all been waiting for. One Gonzalez (Dicky) relieved another (Jeremi).

    According to Dave Smith, of retrosheet.org, it's the first time in history a Gonzalez ever relieved a Gonzalez. But obviously, there have been many namesakes who relieved each other over the years. Which pair did it the most?

    Tippy and Dennis Martinez -- a mere 88 times.

  • After the May 3 game in which both starting pitchers (Greg Maddux and Jason Marquis) stole a base, we were bombarded by questions about this spectacular phenomenon. Last game in which two pitchers stole a base: June 11, 1950 (Warren Spahn for the Braves, Bob Rush for the Cubs).

  • Maddux needed that stolen base, too -- to pad his lead over Ismael Valdez for most career steals by active pitchers. Here are the seven current pitchers with more than one stolen base (through Monday):

    Greg Maddux, 6

    Ismael Valdez, 4

    Adam Eaton, 4

    John Smoltz, 3

    Mike Hampton, 3

    Darren Dreifort, 2

    Brian Anderson, 2

  • Loyal reader Christopher Lewis wondered about pitchers stealing bases at Maddux's advanced age (38). Well, the last pitcher this old to steal one was Orel Hershiser, who swiped a base in 1999 at age 40. Hershiser is one of nine pitchers to steal even one base in a season in which he played most of the year at age 40 or older:

  • Not surprisingly, we also nearly drowned in all the Derek Jeter 0-fer email. Here's the best tidbit we came up with on Jeter's still-shocking 0-for-32 crash:

    Coming into this season, Jeter was one of 42 players whose careers began in the division-play era to have a .300 career batting average (with at least 2,000 at-bats). According to Elias' Ken Hirdt, he's the only one who ever went 32 at-bats without a hit.

  • Just what all of us Useless Infomaniacs need -- a reminder that we need to take out a second mortgage to fill our cars with gas. But loyal reader David Hallstrom brings us that reminder anyway with this brilliant observation:

    The average cost of a gallon of unleaded regular is now $1.941. Through Monday, there were four players (with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title) who couldn't buy a gallon of gas with their batting averages:

    Jason Phillips (.165)
    Derek Jeter (.186)

    Bernie Williams (.194)
    Aubrey Huff (.194)

  • Miguel Cabrera just passed Barry Bonds in homers for the season (11-10). We're not sure if he's the youngest man in the last four seasons to lead Barry in homers. But we do know it will be another 10½ months until he reaches the same age Bonds was on the day of his big-league debut.

    If Cabrera keeps hitting home runs at his current rate (one every 18.65 at-bats) and stays healthy, he would have about 49 home runs in the big leagues by the time he's as old as Barry was when he arrived in the major leagues.

  • The Wizard-like Omar Vizquel just committed seven errors in a span of 19 games. Hard to believe. It wasn't so long ago he committed seven in a span of 267 games, starting Sept. 26, 1999 and ending Aug. 4, 2001.

  • The Marlins and Red Sox each had streaks in April in which they threw back-to-back-to-back shutouts. You don't see that much. Last time two teams did that in the same month, according to Elias: April 1988 -- the Mets (behind Ron Darling, Bob Ojeda and Dwight Gooden) from April 12-15, and the Padres (behind Ed Whitson, Andy Hawkins and Eric Show) from April 23-26.

  • Some things in baseball just don't make a whole lot of sense. Like this ...

    Philadelphia utility man Tomas Perez vs. Brandon Webb this year: 5 AB, 2 HR.
    The rest of the National League vs. Brandon Webb this year: 145 AB, 1 HR.
    Perez vs. everybody else in the National League this year: 26 AB, 0 HR.

  • The Brewers' Bill Hall did something recently we've never heard of: He hit a walkoff homer, then laid down a game-ending squeeze bunt the next day. Loyal reader Dan Peterson wondered if this had ever been done back-to-back. So two of our most loyal readers -- SABR's David Vincent and Retrosheet's Dave Smith -- volunteered to research this.

    They found that over the last 30 years, Hall was the only player with a walkoff and a squeeze-off in consecutive games.

    They did find five other players who did it in the same season (in either order), within two months of each other:

  • Reds catcher Jason LaRue accomplished one of the most difficult feats of the year April 28: He struck out against the Brewers -- while he was sitting in the trainers' room.

    How? He was trying to bunt, got hit in the hand by the ball he was attempting to bunt, had to leave the game and was being treated in the clubhouse when Brandon Larson assumed his 1-and-2 count and finished off a whiff that was still credited to LaRue.

  • Is Steve Trachsel the ultimate .500 pitcher? Until taking a no-decision Sunday, he had alternated wins and losses in 13 consecutive starts dating back to last season. And no pitcher had done that over that long a period, according to Elias, since Rube Benton ping-ponged it through an identical streak for the 1923 Reds.

  • Randy Johnson (233 wins) meets Tom Glavine (255) on Wednesday. Believe it or not, according to Elias, it will be the first time in history that two left-handed pitchers with at least 230 career wins have ever pitched against each other.

  • Fun reader factoid of the week: Loyal reader Leonard Emeril reports that when Sun-Woo Kim stole a base in a May 2 game against the Dodgers, it gave the Expos' pitching staff has as many stolen bases at the time (two -- by Kim and Tomo Ohka) as the Blue Jays' whole team. (The Blue Jays have since kicked it in gear and gotten up to five.)

  • Fun reader factoid No. 2: Loyal reader Thomas Ayers reports that Tony Womack stole more bases on opening day (three) than the Blue Jays stole in the entire month of April (two).

  • Fun reader factoid No. 3: A reader whose name we lost (sorry) made this fabulous observation: Last year, the Tigers had the worst record in baseball, and the Yankees had the best record in baseball. This year, they had the same record in April. What a sport.

  • Frank Catalanotto and Alfonso Soriano just had 6-for-6 games exactly a week apart. But that's not the closest together two players have ever had 6-for-6 games -- because two different pairs of teammates have done it in the same game.

    The first pair: Wee Willie Keeler and Jack Doyle for the old 1897 Baltimore Orioles on Sept. 3, 1897.

    The second pair: Johnny Gooch and Max Carey for the Pirates (in an 18-inning game) on July 7, 1922.

  • Now that Sean Burroughs is leading off for the Padres, ESPN useless-info devotee Gus Ramsey wondered how many third basemen had hit leadoff in the last three decades.

    Well, 12 have done it over a full season (including George Brett, Lenny Randle and Kevin Seitzer). But according to Elias, just one made a career out of both leading off and playing third -- Wade Boggs. Paul Molitor was headed in that direction until he moved to DH. Only those two and Rose have done it at least three seasons in a row.

  • It may seem as if the Yankees have had lots of games in recent years like the two last week in which they came from six runs behind to win. But according to Elias, this was only the third time in history in which they made two comebacks that big in the same week:

    July 1 and 2, 1907 -- vs. the Senators and A's
    May 27 and June 3, 1933 -- vs. the White Sox and A's

  • Gotta love those Devil Rays. They're more than just the last team in baseball that still hasn't won two games in a row this year. They're only the 11th since 1900 to go at least 30 games into a season without a two-game winning streak -- and the fourth since World War II. The other three, according to research by the Devil Rays:

    1999 Marlins (did it in 42nd game)
    1988 Orioles (did it in 42nd game)
    1981 Cubs (did it in 36th game)

    The all-time record is 44, held by the 1932 Red Sox.

  • Meanwhile, those Rays are nothing if not numerologically correct. Loyal reader Tony Benne reports that in their May 5 game in Texas, Geoff Blum hit his first and second home runs of the year, Julio Lugo hit his third and Tino Martinez hit his fourth and fifth. Heck, that note shouldn't have made SportsCenter. It should have made Sesame Street.

  • And while we're talking numerology, loyal reader Mark Taber wondered how weird it was for four games in one league to end in the same 2-0 score May 5. And the answer, according to Elias, is that this was the first day in history in which four teams in the same league (Marlins, Padres, Rockies, Diamondbacks) threw shutouts by the same score -- any score.

  • And one more note that fits right in: ESPN research whiz Mark Simon reports that in last Sunday's Cubs-Rockies game, the Rockies got multi-hit games from all the odd numbered slots in the lineup, while the Cubs got multi-hit games from all the even numbered spots. Hmmm. That's odd.

  • Speaking of alternation, Booth Newspapers' Danny Knobler reports that Jeremy Bonderman's start last Friday was the epitome of weirdness. He retired none of the first six batters he faced, then all of the next 14. So on his first 25 pitches, he got zero outs. And on his next 33 pitches, he got 12 outs. Go figure.

  • If you were wondering how to put your finger on the Diamondbacks' problems, maybe this will help: The East Valley Tribune's Ed Price reports that if the Diamondbacks hold their league lead in walks by their pitching staff and errors by the men wearing the gloves, they'll be the first team to lead the NL in both of those categories since the 1993 expansion Rockies.

    BOX SCORE LINE OF THE WEEK

    Every once in a while, you get a pitching line that just leaps off the newspaper page (or the computer screen) at you. Brewers pitcher Adrian Hernandez turned in one of those Saturday in New York. The good news was, he didn't give up a hit. The bad news was, he couldn't even make it through the fifth inning:

    4 1/3 IP, 0 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 7 BB, 4 K

    According to Retrosheet's Dave Smith, El Duquecito was the 11th pitcher in the last 34 seasons to get hooked for any reason when he was within three outs of qualifying for a win in his own no-hitter. Some of these involved rain. Some involved injury and other factors. But here goes:

    June 22, 1971 -- Les Cain, Tigers vs. Yankees (4-0-2-2-5-3)
    Sept. 28, 1973 -- Mike Thompson, Cardinals vs. Phillies (4-0-0-0-4-3)
    May 12, 1977 -- John D'Acquisto, Cardinals vs. Reds (4-0-1-1-5-5)
    Aug. 30, 1981 -- Steve Renko, Angels vs. Orioles (4-0-0-0-6-2)
    Oct. 1, 1983 -- Matt Young, Mariners vs. White Sox (4-0-1-0-0-4)
    June 15, 1986 -- Doug Drabek, Yankees vs. Orioles (4-0-0-0-2-2)
    Sept. 13, 1992 -- Bob Welch, A's vs. Mariners (4-0-0-0-1-2)
    Sept. 16, 1993 -- John Hope, Pirates vs. Marlins (4-0-0-0-1-0)
    May 12, 1995 -- Hideo Nomo, Dodgers vs. Cardinals (4-0-3-1-7-5)
    May 5, 2002 -- Matt Clement, Cubs vs. Dodgers (4-0-0-0-1-3)

    INDEPENDENT LEAGUE GAME OF THE WEEK

    Not sure what they're putting in the chimichangas in Texas these days. But on Monday, two days after that wild Tigers-Rangers game in Arlington, the Amarillo Dillos of the Central League beat the Shreveport Sports, 24-22. The highlights, according to Central League media-relations whiz Gene Brtalik, included:

  • A 21-run third inning featuring eight runs by Shreveport, 13 by Amarillo.

  • It took the teams 1 hour, 12 minutes to get six outs in that inning.

  • In the bottom of the third, the Dillos hit a two-run, three-run and grand-slam homer -- and every player in the lineup batted twice except Trent Otis. But at least he homered in his only at-bat of the inning.

  • After Shreveport centerfielder Tony Mack got hurt, DH Derek Henderson had to move into the field. So in order to avoid hitting for the pitcher (or, even worse, letting their pitchers bat), the Sports let catcher Kevin Webster pitch a whopping 3 2/3 innings. His catcher-esque line: 3 2/3 IP, 10 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 4 HBP.

  • And after he left, Shreveport still was able to bring the winning run to the plate in the ninth. Phew.

    NAME GAME DEPT.

    In our last Useless Information Department, a reader brought up the Colorado Rockies, a team that has the namesakes of two more famous players on their roster -- the other Luis Gonzalez and Javy Lopez. We asked you to come up with other teams that collected at least two players who had the same name as other active players. And the most extensive work was done by loyal reader Clayton Freeman. His nominees included:

    2000 Mets -- Mark P. Johnson (not the catcher or pitcher) and both Bobby Joneses.

    1999 Braves -- Freddy Garcia (not the pitcher), Brian R. Hunter (not the outfielder) and Eduardo "Eddie" Perez (not the son of Tony).

    2000 Brewers -- Matt T. Williams (not the third baseman), Kevin L. Brown (not the pitcher) and Jeff C. D'Amico (not the guy currently pitching in Cleveland).

    1957-58 Cardinals -- Bob L. Miller (one of three Bob Millers), Hal R. Smith (not the Pirates' 1960 World Series hero) and both Bob Smith and Bobby G. Smith.

    Great work there, Clayton.

    The Sultan's Corner

  • We're not sure what makes a guy a likely candidate to hit an inside-the-park and outside-the-park homer in back-to-back innings. But Pokey Reese, a man who hadn't hit any kind of homer in almost a year, wouldn't seem to fit. That's what he did last weekend, though. And the Sultan of Swat Stats, SABR home run historian David Vincent, says that makes him the eighth player to do that in the expansion era (1961 to the present). The others:

    Richie Ashburn, Mets, June 23, 1962
    Tony Oliva, Twins, Sept. 4, 1964
    Willie Horton, Tigers, July 31, 1971
    Paul Blair, Orioles, Sept. 3, 1973
    Steve Brye, Twins, Sept. 7, 1975
    Gary Carter, Expos. May 31, 1980
    Robin Yount, Brewers, June 19, 1982

  • Those two (one inside, one outside) were also the first two homers of Reese's Red Sox career. Here are all the other active players who have collected the whole set as their first two homers for any team:

    Brent Mayne, Royals 1991
    Edgardo Alfonzo, Mets 1995
    Tony Womack, Pirates 1997
    Brad Fullmer, Expos 1997
    David Bell, Indians 1998
    Orlando Cabrera, Expos 1998
    Kevin Millar, Marlins 1999
    Corey Patterson, Cubs 2000
    Timo Perez. Mets 2000
    Tom Goodwin, Rockies 2000
    Fernando Vina, Cardinals 2000
    Cesar Izturis, Blue Jays 2001
    Joe Borchard, White Sox 2002

  • Through Monday, Troy Glaus was leading the American League in home runs. Eric Chavez was second. If this should somehow last, it would mark only the third time that third basemen have finished 1-2 in any league in homers. The others, according to the Sultan:

    1976 AL -- Graig Nettles and Sal Bando
    1980 NL -- Mike Schmidt and Bob Horner

  • Steve Finley and Luis Gonzalez have each hit three homers in a game this year for the Diamondbacks. The Sultan reports that makes them the seventh team in the 2000s to have teammates pull off that trifecta. The others:

    2000 Rockies -- Jeff Cirillo, Todd Helton
    2001 Indians -- Ellis Burks, Jim Thome
    2001 Brewers -- Jeromy Burnitz, Richie Sexson, Geoff Jenkins
    2002 Reds -- Aaron Boone, Russ Branyan
    2003 Brewers - Richie Sexson, Geoff Jenkins

    Now if Sexson comes off the Arizona DL and wants to make it three, Arizona could become the fifth last team in the last 40 years with three different players hitting three in a game. One was the 2001 Brewers. The others:

    1996 Mariners -- Junior Griffey, Edgar Martinez, Dan Wilson
    1987 Indians -- Joe Carter, Brook Jacoby, Cory Snyder
    1970 Braves -- Rico Carty, Orlando Cepeda, Mike Lum

  • Finally, Julio Franco hit a pinch home run last week. May not seem like a big deal for a guy who has essentially been just a pinch hitter for years now. But it's his first pinch homer ever -- at age 45 years, 256 days (allegedly). According to the Sultan, that makes Franco the oldest player in history to hit his first pinch homer. Here's the new leader board:

    Julio Franco, 5/6/2004 (45 years, 256 days)
    Deacon McGuire, 7/25/1907 (43 years, 249 days)
    Sam Rice, 8/27/1933 (43 years, 188 days)
    Tim Raines, May 24, 2002 (42 years, 250 days)
    Minnie Minoso, Aug. 4, 1963 (40 years, 248 days)
    Davey Lopes, Oct. 6, 1985 (40 years, 156 days)
    Tommy Henrich, June 2, 1950 (40 years, 102 days)

  • On the way to his three-homer evening Monday, Luis Gonzalez had all three home runs by the fourth inning. The Sultan reports only eight other men in history ever hit three that fast:

    Carl Reynolds, 7/2/1930 CHA
    Willie McCovey, 9/22/1963 SFN
    Don Baylor, 7/2/1975 BAL
    Randy Milligan, 6/9/1990 BAL
    Reggie Sanders, 8/15/1995 CIN
    Mike Cameron, 5/2/2002 SEA
    Nomar Garciaparra, 7/23/2002 BOS
    Aaron Boone, 8/9/2002 CIN
    Luis Gonzalez, 5/10/2004 ARI

    THIS WEEK'S CHALLENGE: A reader calling himself Mitch from New Jersey wants to know if Randy Johnson and Richie Sexson are the tallest pitcher-1B combo ever. Send your answers to uselessinfodept@yahoo.com.

    Triviality
    Three active players rank among the all-time top 10 in career on-base percentage among players with at least 5,000 at-bats. Can you name them?

    ANSWER: Barry Bonds (.435), Frank Thomas (.429) and Edgar Martinez (.422).

    Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Click here to send Jayson a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.