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Santana deserving of 17-game salute

It's still slightly mind-boggling that the great Johan Santana just finished winning 17 games in a row – and it barely even registered on America's radar screen. So we're bringing our own radar screen to this party, and revisiting one of the most amazing streaks of modern times.

Just so everyone understands the meaning of this feat, only six other starting pitchers since 1900 have won this many games in a row – just two of them in the last 78 years.

The whole list: Carl Hubbell, 24 straight (in 1936-37); Rube Marquard, 20 (1911-12); Roger Clemens, 20 (1998-99); Dave McNally, 17 (1968-69); Johnny Allen, 17 (1936-37); and Ed Reulbach, 17 (1906-07).

It's one thing to win 17 games in a row. It's another to dominate your sport as completely as Santana did while winning 17 in a row. Unlike Clemens, who had only the seventh-best ERA among big-league starters during his 20-game streak, Santana was a clear No. 1 during his streak, at 1.77.

The next-best ERA (among starters with at least 75 innings pitched): Jake Peavy (2.08). But the true measure of Santana's dominance was his standing in his own league. The next-best in the AL was Orlando Hernandez, who was almost a run and a half behind, at 3.12. Unbelievable.

Want to see some other categories? Santana also led the major leagues in strikeout ratio during his streak, at 11.40 per nine innings. Next-best: Mark Prior (10.80). Next-best among starters who pitched only in the AL: Kelvim Escobar (way back there at 9.11).

There was also no contest in the hits per nine innings competition. Santana allowed a ridiculous 5.44 during the streak. Next-best: Peavy (6.85). Next-best among starters who pitched only in the AL: Jeremy Bonderman (7.30).

And while the Angels stopped his streak Sunday, Santana was still dominating . In the loss, he gave up exactly two hits. And you won't be surprised to learn he's the first pitcher ever to end a winning streak that long with a performance that spectacular.

The fewest hits allowed by any of the other modern streakers on this list in their streak-ending loss, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, is five, by Allen, in eight innings. No one else gave up fewer than seven.

Santana was so good, he didn't even need much luck to keep his streak alive. Only once did he leave a game trailing and then have his team get him off the hook. In a game against the Red Sox last Aug. 1, he was behind 3-2 when he walked off the mound following the top of the eighth – but the Twins scored twice for him in the bottom of the eighth.

During Clemens' 20-gamer, on the other hand, he had six different games in which he was trailing when he threw his final pitch, only to have his team bail him out.

Finally, how long was Santana's streak? So long that in between his losses, Ichiro Suzuki got 179 hits, Albert Pujols hit 30 home runs, Miguel Tejada drove in 106 runs, Barry Bonds walked 101 times, Adam Dunn whiffed 110 times and the highest-paid player in baseball, Alex Rodriguez, made a tidy 15.3 million bucks.

Top 10 Useless-Info Factoids of the Week
10) TEN-ACITY DEPT.: In his amazing three-homer game April 26, it took Alex Rodriguez a mere six innings to drive in 10 runs. Meanwhile in Pittsburgh, it took the Pirates 23 games to find somebody on the roster who could drive in 10 for the whole season. Daryle Ward finally knocked in No. 10 on May 1.

9) IT'S ALL CYCLICAL: That 10-RBI game wasn't A-Rod's only cool feat of the week. In a span of just seven at-bats, over two consecutive games (April 26-27), he also homered for the cycle (three-run, two-run and a grand slam in the first game, then a solo the next day). And according to the Sultan of Swat Stats, SABR's David Vincent, only three other players have ever taken a ride on that home-run cycle over any two consecutive games:

Nate Colbert, over eight at-bats in an Aug. 1, 1972, doubleheader (three-run and solo in Game 1, then a slam, two-run and yet another two-run in his ninth at-bat in Game 2).

Lee May, over six at-bats in a July 15, 1969, doubleheader (slam and solo in Game 1, then three-run and two-run in Game 2).

Otto Velez, over six at-bats in a May 4, 1980, doubleheader (slam, two-run and solo in Game 1, then three-run in Game 2).

8) THE CYCLE SHOP: Mark Grudzielanek had a more normal kind of cycle April 27, and it was memorable in many ways. It was the 21st since 1900 by a second baseman. It was the first by a Cardinal in nine years. And it was the first ever by a man with 12 letters in his last name. But that's not all.

Grudzielanek also kicked off the festivities by leading off the game with a homer. And only five other players – two in the last 65 years – have ever started their cycles that way. The others, according to the Cyclin' Sultan, David Vincent:

July 23, 1901 – Fred Clarke, Pirates
July 29, 1903 – Patsy Dougherty, Red Sox
Sept. 8, 1940 – Joe Gordon, Yankees
April 22, 1980 –- Ivan DeJesus, Cubs
May 16, 1986 – Tony Phillips, A's

7) THE WRONG TRIPLE CROWN: The Yankees have a lot more pressing problems these days. But has anyone noticed they appeared to be allergic to triples in April? They were actually triple-less for an amazing 26 straight games to start the season – until Derek Jeter finally expunged that zero off their stat sheet Tuesday.

Last team to dodge a triple that long, according to the Elias Sports Bureau's trifecta department: the 2000 Cubs, who went all the way to May 7 (Game 34) before Damon Buford got them into the triple column.

6) THE WALKOUT: There's nothing more fun than a leadoff man who swings at everything. And if you've been paying attention, you know by now we're talking about hackamatic Mets shortstop Jose Reyes.

After going walk-less in the entire month of April, Reyes finally found a pitcher who could walk him Tuesday – when Phillies reliever Tim Worrell pulled that off, with the bases loaded yet, in Reyes' 120th plate appearance of the season. Incredibly, he liked walk No. 1 so much, he also walked in his next trip to the plate, the next day.

So who was the last leadoff man to avoid walking for that big a chunk of the season? The answer, Elias reports, is Luis Salazar, who avoided ball four for his first 128 plate appearances out of the leadoff hole for Dick Williams' 1983 Padres.

5) OUT FOR A WALK: Here's one reason it may have taken Reyes so long to draw a walk: He never got a chance to face Indians reliever Jason Davis.

In an April 24 game against the Mariners, Davis managed to walk the last five hitters he faced in succession. Then he marched into an April 27 game against Detroit and walked the first hitter he faced.

So that's six BB's in a row – if you're either related to B.B. King or just calculating along at home. And no pitcher in the big leagues had handed out that many walks in a row since the legendary Brad Pennington rolled up a streak that will never be matched.

While pitching for two different teams (Angels and Devil Rays), in two different seasons (1996 and 1998), Pennington walked 10 batters in a row, over three games.

That streak is still alive, by the way – because Pennington gave up a single after his 10th straight walk, ending his streak AND his career. For some reason.

4) PINCH THIS MAN: Who is the best pinch hitter in baseball? You could make a case he's a pitcher – the amazing Dontrelle Willis.

We always thought Willis' greatest offensive legacy would be his career postseason batting average – which is a scenic 1.000 (3-for-3, in 2003). But his pinch hit last week against the Phillies raised his career average as a pinch hitter to .400 (4-for-10). And in the DH era, according to Elias, only one other pitcher has hit .400 in the pinch with that many at-bats: the great Dan Schatzeder (6-for-15, .400).

3) THE ARIZONA BOUNCEBACKS: Those rampaging Diamondbacks are apparently obsessed with pulling off the greatest one-season turnaround in modern baseball history. And they're off to a heck of a start.

One season after losing 111 games, they actually had a winning April (14-10).

The 2004 Tigers went 12-11 in April following their 119-loss nightmare the previous season. To find the last team before the Tigers to lose that many games one year and then have a winning record the following April, you have to go back exactly one century, to the 1905 Washington Senators. They lost 113 games in 1904, then went 7-6 in April, 1905. Unfortunately, the Senators then went 57-81 the rest of the way. But it wasn't their fault baseball made them keep on playing.

Just two other teams that lost 111 games or more have ever had winning Aprils. And you probably don't remember them too vividly, either: the 1890 Louisville Colonels (7-2) and the 1899 St. Louis Perfectos (9-2). The Colonels, by the way, are the only 111-loss team ever to finish first the next year, but only because most of the good players in their league (the late, great American Association) had bolted to the Players League.

2) HAPPY TO ASSIST: Astros center fielder Willy Taveras had himself one amazing series last weekend. He threw out a runner at the plate in all three games of the Astros' series against the Cubs. And trust us: You don't see that happen real often.

In fact, according to retrosheet.org founder Dave Smith, there has been only one other series in the last 33 seasons in which any outfielder wiped out a runner at home in three straight games of the same series. The culprit: Cardinals left fielder Bernard Gilkey, on July 22-24, 1993, against the Rockies.

There have been only four other instances of an outfielder throwing out runners at the plate in three straight games over two different series: Gilkey again on June 10, 11 and 13, 1997 (White Sox, Red Sox); Pat Burrell on June 2, 3 and 5, 2001 (Expos, Mets); Geoff Jenkins on May 7, 9 and 10, 2003 (Cubs, Reds); and Melvin Mora on June 7, 8 and 10, 2003 (Cardinals, Cubs).

1) DEJA NEW DEPT.: Monday in New York, Pedro Martinez matched up with Jon Lieber in the first game of a Phillies-Mets series. If that matchup sounded familiar, it might be because the same two pitchers faced each other in New York last October – except with Lieber starting for the Yankees and Pedro for the Red Sox.

That inspired loyal reader Jim Nolan to wonder about the last time two starters faced each other in a postseason game one year, and then met again the following year, except this time with both pitching for different teams in a different league.

And the answer, according to Elias, would be …

Uh, would you believe NEVER? And you know how much we love it when the answer is: NEVER.

So now it's up to the rest of you Useless Infomaniacs to find something in baseball that has never, ever happened before (or close). Send your contributions, as always, to uselessinfodept@yahoo.com.

Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com.