Looking back at one strange October
Homers from Edgar Renteria, errors from Brooks Conrad and a no-no from Roy Halladay
Once again this year, the relentlessly creative sport of baseball was stranger than Lady Gaga's taste in meat, stranger than the concept behind "Bridal Plasty," even stranger (believe it or not) than Brian Wilson's beard.
So before Ryan Seacrest instructs that big ball to start dropping in Times Square, let's look back at baseball's Strange But True Feats of 2010 -- arriving this year in five spectacular parts, spread throughout this holiday week. In Part 1, we explore the Strangest But Truest Postseason Feats of the year.
Strange But True Team Of The Year
How strange were your official World Series champions, huh?
That lineup those unbeatable San Francisco Giants ran out there in Game 1 of the World Series had exactly two position players playing in the same place you could have located them on Opening Day. (That would be Edgar Renteria, at shortstop, and Aubrey Huff, at first base.) Not to mention
A No. 5 hitter (Cody Ross) who showed up as a waiver-claim special.
A No. 3 hitter (Buster Posey) who had started the year in the minor leagues.
A leadoff hitter (Andres Torres) who had been a six-time minor league free agent.
And precisely two position players who had ever made an All-Star team. (They were Freddy Sanchez -- who made it three times in Pittsburgh -- and Renteria -- who was batting eighth.)
In the previous half century in their franchise history, the Giants assembled teams so talented, they produced nine MVP awards, three Cy Young awards, four Rookie of the Year awards -- and won no World Series.
Then this collection of Giants came along and ended the third-longest title drought in baseball.
Of course it did.
Five Strange-But-True October All-Timers
• Joe Mauer has played in nine postseason games -- and lost them all. But he's never been part of a nine-game regular-season losing streak.
• The Reds scored the most runs and tied for the fewest errors of any team in the National League in the regular season. How did their postseason go? They had more errors (seven) than runs scored (four). That's how.
• Just in the span of the first six ground balls hit to him in Game 3 of the NLDS, Braves second baseman Brooks Conrad committed as many errors (three) as Robinson Cano committed all season -- in 1,393 innings.
• The Rays had never allowed a runner to score from second base on an infield out in any game of their history -- then allowed two Rangers to do it in the same game, a fairly important Game 5 of the ALDS.
• And for sheer impossible, déjà vu box-score craziness, you can't beat Braves reliever Peter Moylan. Thanks to defensive debacles beyond his control, he unfurled exactly the same pitching line back-to-back in Games 3 and 4 of the NLDS: 0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 0 HBP, 0 WP, 0 Balks. Just so you know how hard that is, only one relief pitcher in the past 60 years ever went all-zeros on us in back-to-back regular-season games: Dennys Reyes, on Sept. 20 and 23, 2001. Now that's October nuttiness at its finest.
Strange But True World Series Insanity
• Cody Ross hit cleanup in zero regular-season games. So naturally Giants manager Bruce Bochy batted him cleanup in the clinching game of the World Series.
• Aubrey Huff has been to the plate 6,112 times in his regular-season big league career without ever laying down a sacrifice bunt -- the second-most sac-free trips of any active hitter. So who got a sac bunt down in the Giants' game-winning rally in the last game of the World Series. Right you are. Aubrey Huff.
• Guess how many three-RBI games Edgar Renteria had all season? Not a one. Of course. So was there even any doubt the only Giant with two three-RBI games in the World Series would be Edgar Renteria?
• And guess how many home runs Renteria hit after April 27? That would be two. And how many homers did he hit in the World Series? Yep. That would also be two. That's why he's Mr. Nov-Edgar.
• Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland hit no big league home runs against a left-handed pitcher all season. So who hit the Rangers' first home run of the World Series? Mitch Moreland -- off a left-hander (Jonathan Sanchez).
• The Giants went almost four weeks (from Sept. 26 to Oct. 20) without scoring more than four runs in a game. Then (naturally) they became the first National League team in history to score nine runs or more in Games 1 and 2 of a World Series.
• Not one American League pitcher all season had an outing in which he threw at least 13 pitches and had only one of them called a strike. But the Rangers' Derek Holland unfurled that terrifying line in Game 2 of the World Series: 13 pitches, 1 strike. Oof.
• And the craziest game of this World Series was Game 1 -- a game featuring 18 runs, 25 hits, 10 extra-base hits, six errors and 12 pitchers. Guess which two pitchers started it? Those noted bums, Tim Lincecum and Cliff Lee. Yeah, who else?
Strange But True Playoff Madness
• The game-winning home run that put the Giants in the World Series was an opposite-field shot by Juan Uribe. So how many opposite-field homers did Uribe hit all season? Not one, of course.
• In Game 4 of the NLCS, both teams hooked their starting pitchers (Joe Blanton and Madison Bumgarner) before the fifth inning -- which was kind of unusual because they were both leading when they were pulled. How many times had that happened in a postseason game? That would be nada.
• Cody Ross hit five home runs for the Giants in the postseason. How many did he hit for the Giants during the season (in 33 games)? That would be three.
• When John Jaso caught Wade Davis in the Rays' Game 4 victory in Texas, it was the first time in 63 years (according to the Elias Sports Bureau) that a rookie catcher caught a rookie starting pitcher in a postseason victory. And how long did it take until it happened again? Until the next day, when Buster Posey caught Madison Bumgarner in the Giants' 3-2 NLDS win over Atlanta.
• Josh Hamilton walked four times in the second game of the ALCS. How many four-walk games has he had in his regular-season career? Yup. Zero in 468 games.
• Cole Hamels threw zero regular-season shutouts. So what did he do in his first postseason start? Throw a shutout, obviously.
• The Reds haven't had a no-hitter thrown against them in the regular season since June 23, 1971. So what happened in their first postseason game in 15 years? Roy Halladay no-hit them. What else?
• And what did the Reds do the game after having nobody get a hit? Their first batter (Brandon Phillips) the next game hit a homer. No team has done that in the game after a regular-season no-hitter since 2003.
• In the first postseason game of his career, Posey stole a base. How many bases did he steal in the regular season? That would be none.
• Lincecum has made 122 regular-season starts -- and never once had a game in which he struck out as many as 14 hitters and allowed no more than three men to reach base. So what did he do in the first postseason game of his career? Strike out 14 and allow only three baserunners. Naturally.
• In the four ALCS games in which the Rangers beat the Yankees, they won every one of those games by at least five runs. So when was the last time the Rangers' margin of victory in four consecutive regular-season games was at least five runs? Would you believe September 2006 -- 664 games ago?
• And CC Sabathia and C.J. Wilson faced 391 left-handed hitters this year and gave up four home runs combined. Then they both served one up in Game 1 of the ALCS. But we appreciate it. Without stuff like that, this Strange But True column just wouldn't be possible.
Coming Tuesday: "Team"-ing up for strange-but-true madness.
Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His latest book, "Worth The Wait: Tales of the 2008 Phillies," was published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores and online. Click here to order a copy.
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