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Beckett enjoys swinging the lumber

Useless Who Needs The DH Info: There's nothing we love more during interleague play than the sight of those American League pitchers stepping into the old batter's box. And for a change, it was those sweet-swinging Red Sox pitchers who provided the biggest offensive thrills of the first interleague weekend of the year.

On Saturday, Josh Beckett became the 10th American League pitcher to homer in interleague play. But that's not all.

Josh Beckett He was the first AL pitcher in interleague play to hit a home run and get another hit in the same game.

He was also the first Red Sox pitcher to do that since Sonny Siebert (Sept. 7, 1972).

And he was the first Red Sox pitcher to homer, period, since Marty Pattin (Sept. 26, 1972).

Useless Who Needs Big Papi Info: Before this year, you might say there had been kind of a drop-off from David Ortiz's DH numbers to the interleague offense (or lack thereof) provided by Red Sox pitching staff. Only Oakland's pitchers (14 for 168) had produced fewer hits than Red Sox pitchers (16 for 165) over the first nine interleague seasons.

But this year, Red Sox pitchers have almost as many hits (3 for 9) as all the other AL pitchers combined (4 for 24). And none other than our hero, Matt Clement (.095 lifetime), got the first hit of the year by any AL pitcher.

"And I didn't even take batting practice," Clement told Useless Info. "I figured, it never helped before."

Useless Triple-Play Info: That triple play the White Sox pulled off May 14 was more than just the first TP of the year. According to SABR'S fabulous triple-play files, it was the first 3-4-6 trifecta turned by any team in nearly a century. The last one like that: Sept. 2, 1910, when the Pirates' George Gibson popped up into a 3-4-6 against the Reds (Dick Hoblitzel to Dick Egan to Tommy McMillan). Who knew?

Useless Billy Wagner Info: Last Saturday was the 603rd time Billy Wagner had walked to the mound in a big-league game. It was the first time in all those appearances Wagner had ever allowed six hitters to reach base in the same inning via hit, walk or hit-by-pitch. Just two years ago, Wagner didn't walk his first hitter of the season until June 19. Saturday, he walked three -- and hit a batter -- in one inning. Amazing.

Useless Boomerang Info: The Tigers may not be the first team in history to start 32-14. But what separates them from the rest of the pack is that they weren't exactly the White Sox last year. Booth Newspapers' Danny Knobler reports that the Tigers are the first team to go 32-14, a year after a sub-.500 finish, since the 1993 Phillies -- and the first AL team since (no kidding) the 1951 White Sox. These Tigers might want to ignore the part about how the White Sox eventually finished fourth (at 81-73). But that's optional.

Useless No-Lead-Is-Safe Info: Apparently, there is no such thing as an insurmountable lead anymore. As the Detroit Free Press' John Lowe reports, consider what we saw just last week:

Twins score seven in the first (vs. the White Sox) -- and lose.

Pirates score six in the first (vs. the Reds) -- and lose.

Braves score five in the first (vs. the Diamondbacks) -- and lose.

Rangers take a 9-0 lead in the second (vs. the Yankees) -- and lose.

Padres score nine in the first (vs. the Diamondbacks) -- and see the tying run come to the plate by the sixth.

Why do we love baseball? That about sums it up.

Useless Meanwhile-In-The-Bronx: Nomar Garciaparra never homered off Andy Pettitte when Garciaparra played in Boston and Pettitte twirled for the Yankees. But on May 9 -- the same night as the first Yankees-Red Sox game in Yankee Stadium this year -- guess which Dodger hit a homer off which Astros pitcher, about 3,000 miles away? Yep, Nomar off Pettitte. How perfect is that?

Useless Quality-Control Info: OK, name the only two starting pitchers who have thrown a quality start in every one of their starts this year? No, not Pedro or Brandon Webb or Chris Carpenter. It's Mike Mussina (10 for 10) and Chris Capuano (10 for 10).

Useless What-Kind-Of-Day-Off-Was-This Info: Ryan Howard thought he had a day off May 14. Uh, never mind. He wound up coming off the bench and hitting two home runs that day, for the only two runs the Phillies scored in a 2-1 win in Cincinnati.

Retrosheet's Dave Smith reports that Howard is just the second Phillie in the last 50 seasons to hit two homers in a game he didn't start. The other was the unforgettable Steve Jeltz, in a June 8, 1989 game in which the Phillies gave up 10 runs in the first inning -- and won (15-11).

Grady SizemoreUseless K-Mart Info: Some guys just know how to change the subject. Indians dynamo Grady Sizemore struck out four times Sunday, for the first time in his career. But nobody noticed, since he then drove in the winning run in the 10th inning. Last player to put up four K's, then knock in the winning run in a game of 10 innings or shorter, according to Dave Smith: David Justice, for the Yankees, on April 22, 2001 (a 10th-inning homer).

Useless Alphabet Soup Recipe
What's in a name? Well, as you Useless Info addicts have been demonstrating for years, there's nothing more entertaining than the old Baseball Name Game. So let's play it now:

• Re-Encarnacionation Dept.: Apparently, Encarnacion-itis is catching, because in a May 2 game between the Cardinals and Reds, two different Encarnacions homered in the same game (Juan and Edwin). Which prompted loyal reader Dennis Deitch, of the Delaware County (Pa.) Times, to wonder:

Is that the longest name ever (11 letters) to produce homers by two different guys with the same last name in the same game?

And that answer is ... absolutely.

In fact -- according to our official alphabet czar, loyal reader Michael Mavrogiannis (a 12-letter man himself) -- only three other players, with last names 11 letters or longer, ever even homered in the same season before. But none homered in the same game. The other combos:

1884: Charlie F. and Charlie W. Householder (11 letters)
1958-60: Faye and Marv Throneberry (11 letters)
1997: Angelo and Juan Encarnacion (11 letters)

The previous record was 10, held by (among others), Tony and Billy Conigliaro.

Score That DP: Loyal reader Tim Drahovsky noticed the Royals turned a spectacular Graffanino-to-Grudzielanek-to-Mientkiewicz double play May 17 and decided "that's gotta be a record for most surname letters in a three-man double play (34), doesn't it?"

Well, it sure looks like one, at least in the researchable portion of the baseball history books. Mavrogiannis pored through 5-4-3 and 6-4-3 DP combinations over the last 50 seasons and found no better than a 33-letter 6-4-3 double play on Aug. 27, 1999 (Dodgers vs. Cubs) -- Grudzielanek to Counsell to Hollandsworth.

Three other fun DP combos: Bob Ramazotti, Wayne Terwilliger and Phil Cavaretta (31 letters) of the 1949-50 Cubs, Ray Jablonski, Red Schoendienst and Joe Cunningham (31) of the 1954 Cardinals and Rico Petrocelli, Dick McAuliffe and Carl Yastrzemski (30) of the 1974 Red Sox.

From K To C: That Royals infield is more than just a Boggle game waiting to happen, though. It's a continuing source of useless curiosity for many of you out there.

The latest fun question came from the aforementioned Dennis Deitch, who wondered whether the Royals' Mientkiewicz-Grudzielanek-Graffanino-Berroa infield, which covers 19 different letters in the alphabet, is a record for most letters used.

Amazingly, it's not even close. In fact, it's not even a Royals record.

Mavrogiannis looked back over the last 50 seasons, and the Royals actually fielded a 20-letter starting infield, back on June 24, 1973 (Kurt Bevacqua, Bobby Floyd, Gail Hopkins and Frank White).

But even that doesn't rank No. 1 on the MLB list. The winner is a 21-letter infield started by the Padres on Oct. 2, 1983 (Bevacqua, George Hinshaw, Edwin Rodriguez and Garry Templeton). That one used up every letter but FJKXY. And, in their quest to complete that alphabetic journey, the Padres then brought in Terry Kennedy to play first, wiping the K and Y off that list.

Catch Some Zzzzs: Loyal reader Bob Sutton reports that the Red Sox used six players Sunday whose names ended in a Z (Alex Gonzalez, Manny Ramirez, Abe Alvarez, Julian Tavarez, David Ortiz and Rudy Seanez). So we ran this by Mavrogiannis, too, to see if we had another record on our hands.

Well, we're sorry to report that this one proved pretty much unresearchable. But Mavrogianiss did find a Padres lineup on July 2, 2002 that included five guys whose names ended in Z. And they then brought in reliever Mike Holtz, who stopped by to toss in a wild pitch and hit batter. But we won't make him research this one any further. Even Useless Infomaniacs have their limits.

Alfonso SorianoUseless Walkaholic Info: Loyal reader Mike McCombs was stunned to notice this week that the once semi-unwalkable Alfonso Soriano just ripped off three multi-walk games in a row. So how unusual was that? Every bit as unusual as you'd think it was.

Before that burst of patience, May 20-22, Soriano had walked once all month. And he'd never even had two straight multi-walk games, let alone three. Matter of fact, he had only two games like that all last season. Somewhere, we bet, B.B. King was smiling.

Box Score Lines Of The Month
Career Achievement Division: Chan Ho Park, last Sunday vs. San Diego:

5 1/3 IP, 10 H, 10 R, 10 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 2 HR, 1 HBP

Chan Ho has now given up 10 runs or more three times in his illustrious career. The only other active pitcher to do that, according to Retrosheet's Dave Smith, is Tom Gordon (a guy who hasn't started a game in nine years).

Sweet 16 Division: Until last week, to find the last time two different pitchers gave up at least 10 runs on the same day, you had to go all the way back to Aug. 24, 2002 (Jose Lima and Jose Cabrera). But it happened May 16.

Houston's Wandy Rodriguez, vs. the Giants: 3 2/3 IP, 10 H, 11 R, 6 ER, 5 BB, 3 K

Seattle's Felix Hernandez, vs. Oakland: 4 IP 11 H, 10 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 2 HR

Good-News, Bad-News Division: The good news for Padres rookie Clay Hensley, in his May 14 start against the Cubs, was his pitching line:

9 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K

The bad news was the other half of the box score -- his hitting line:

5 AB, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 RBI and 5 (yep 5) strikeouts

Hensley was the sixth pitcher in the last 50 seasons to whiff five times in a game, according to Dave Smith. But he was the first to do it and throw a shutout. Pretty bizarre daily double.

Countdown Division: Barry Bonds took his countdown to Babe Ruth a little too literally May 16. The Detroit Free Press' ever-alert John Lowe was the first to notice that Bonds' box-score line that night went: 4 3 2 1.

Dontrelle WillisCount-Up Division: If you follow those ERAs in the box scores, you might have noticed that Dontrelle Willis just finished an innovative six-start stretch, from April 14 through May 11, in which his ERA at game's end went from the 1.00s (1.93) to the 2.00s (2.92) to the 3.00s (3.13) to the 4.00s (4.38) to the 5.00s (5.15) to the 6.00s (6.22).

Good thing he reversed that trend, or he might have finished the year with an ERA of 33.65.

The Sultan's Corner
Useless Cyclicality Info: Loyal reader Steve Sirk caught an amazing occurrence this month. On May 1, 2, 3 and 4, here's what Indians masher Travis Hafner did:

Grand slam Monday.
Three-run homer Tuesday.
Two-run homer Wednesday.
Solo homer Thursday.

So there was only one question worth asking: Has any other player ever had four days quite like that one?

And the answer -- according to the Sultan of Swat Stats, SABR's David Vincent -- is a resounding nooooo.

The Sultan says Hafner was the first player in history to churn out a home run cycle like that one -- one homer per game, four games in a row, in descending order of men on base.

Oh, there have been home run cycles hit quicker than that, of course. Nate Colbert (Aug. 1, 1972 doubleheader), Lee May (July 15, 1969 doubleheader), Otto Velez (May 4, 1980 doubleheader) and A-Rod (back-to-back games last April) all went cycling over just two games, but not in reverse order.

And five previous players hit for the home run cycle in the same order as Hafner, but never one a game for four games -- Ted Williams (Aug. 29-Sept. 3, 1939 over six games), Ken Reitz (May 27-31, 1977 over five games), Manny Ramirez (April 15-19, 2005 over four games), Jimmie Foxx (May 19-22, 1932 over four games) and Jim Spencer (July 2-4, 1977 over three games).

But homers with three, two, one and none on four days in a row? Never, ever happened. What a sport.

Useless Mark-Your-Calendar Info: It isn't listed on your calendar as an official holiday. But May 20 is Jason Varitek Day in this great land of ours. Or, as the Hartford Courant's David Heuschkel pointed out, it was for five years, anyhow.

Varitek had homered on May 20 five years in a row before going trotless last Saturday. And the Sultan reports that only four players in history have ever had a longer streak of homering on any day in the baseball year:

7 in a row -- Lou Gehrig, June 8 (1932-38)
6 in a row -- Ralph Kiner, Aug. 15 (1947-52)
6 in a row -- Rafael Palmeiro, July 17 (1993-98)
6 in a row -- Mike Schmidt, Aug. 30 (1981-86)

With Varitek out of the running, the only active player with a chance to join this list this year is Lance Berkman, who has homered on Sept. 21 five years in a row. He's home against the Cardinals that day. So better line up for tickets now.

Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send your Useless Information to uselessinfodept@yahoo.com.