In the playoffs, anything goes
Anything can happen in the postseason. Don't believe it? Then you haven't checked out Useless Info.
When they say baseball in October takes on a life of its own, who knew these guys would take that so literally?
Just check out the Useless Information Department's list of stuff that already has happened in October -- but never happened (or nearly never) all season long:
• Yankees good-luck charm Aaron Small went 10-0 in the regular season. So how did he fare in the only game he pitched during the postseason (Game 3 of the Angels series)? He got the loss in relief, naturally. The Elias Sports Bureau reports he's the only pitcher in history to go 5-0 or better in the regular season and then get stuck with a postseason loss.
• Braves pitcher Jorge Sosa went 9-0 on the road during the regular season. So what did he do in his only start of the postseason? He lost Game 3 in Houston.
• Andy Pettitte never allowed more than one home run in a single game all season. So how many did he give up in his first start of the postseason (Game 1 against the Braves)? Two, of course.
• White Sox leadoff whiz Scott Podsednik made 568 trips to home plate during the season and hit zero home runs. But what did he do in his fourth trip of the postseason? He homered off Boston's Jeremi Gonzalez. What else? According to Elias, only one player in history (Lance Johnson, in 1993) had more homerless plate appearances in any season before homering in that postseason.
• Angels catcher Bengie Molina has been in the big leagues since 1998 and has never homered in three straight regular-season games. So what happened in his first three of this postseason? He homered in all three. Obviously.
• Speaking of catchers, White Sox shinguard king A.J. Pierzynski hasn't had a two-homer game in either of the last two regular seasons. So how many home runs did he hit in his first game of this postseason? Yep, two.
• But our old buddy A.J. wasn't through with his own unprecedented exploits. He hasn't stolen a base in the regular season in more than two years. But guess what he did the first time he reached first base in this postseason when second base was unoccupied? You got it. He stole second.
• Mr. October, Alex Rodriguez, committed one error in the months of July, August and September combined. But how many did he commit in October? Two. (OK, so one was in an Oct. 1 regular-season game against the Red Sox -- but it felt like a postseason game.)
• Mariano Rivera gave up one run in 35 innings on the road this year. But in his very first postseason inning on the road (Game 1 in Anaheim, Los Angeles or wherever the heck he was), guess what happened? Uh-huh. It took him 14 pitches (to three hitters) for him to give up a run.
• The White Sox didn't score more than 12 runs in any home game all season. So how many did they score in their first home game of the postseason? The correct answer would be: 14.
• The Red Sox, meanwhile, hadn't lost a road game by 12 runs or more in any of the last three regular seasons. So what was the score of their first road game of the postseason? White Sox 14, Red Sox 2.
• But that game was a veritable Useless Info fest. Another thing the White Sox didn't do all season was hit five home runs in any home game. How many did they hit in Game 1 at U.S. Cellular? That would be five.
• So maybe the Red Sox should have known where that series was leading. They didn't lose three games in a row at any point in their last 70 regular-season games. But you know what they did in this postseason: Lost all three they played.
• David Wells has been around for 19 years, and Elias reports he has never lost a regular-season game in which he was handed a lead of at least four runs (135-0, with 16 no-decisions). But what happened when the Red Sox handed him a 4-0 lead in his only start of this postseason? He took the loss, 5-4.
• Not only did Cardinals good-humor man Reggie Sanders not drive in six runs in any game all season. He hadn't driven in six in any regular-season game over the last five seasons. So how could he not knock in six in his first game of this postseason?
• But wait. There's more Reggie-mania. No player hit a grand slam on a 3-0 count in any of the last three seasons, according to Elias. But when Sanders ran a 3-0 count with the bases full in the fifth inning of the first game of this postseason, what transpired? A 3-0 slam. Of course.
• Not one National League team played a game all year that lasted more than 14 innings or even five hours. So how could the Astros and Braves not go 18 innings and play for 5 hours, 50 minutes in Game 4 of their playoff series?
• The Astros didn't win a game all season in which they trailed by five runs or more at any point. And they didn't win a game all season in which they trailed by more than one run in the eighth inning or beyond. So what happened when they found themselves down by five in the eighth inning of Game 4 of this postseason? They came back and won. What else?
• The Braves, meanwhile, didn't lose a game all season in which they led by five or more at any point. And they didn't lose a game in which they held a lead of more than three runs in the eighth inning or beyond. But if you read the paragraph before this one, you know what happened to their 6-1 lead in the eighth inning of Game 4. We'll say no more.
• There were 2,431 games played during the regular season. According to Elias, not one of them featured a player who drove in five runs without at least one extra-base hit. But how many RBI did Houston RBI machine Morgan Ensberg have in his first game of the postseason? Five. And how many extra-base hits did he get that night? Zero, naturally.
• Finally, Randy Johnson now has pitched in 523 regular-season games in his career, and faced 1,739 left-handed hitters in those games. So what did he do in his first start of this postseason that he has never done in any of those 523 games? He gave up three extra-base hits to guys who bat left-handed in the same game. Amazing.
So you thought it couldn't be done, huh? Sorry. In October, apparently, anything can be done.
CabreraUseless Yankee-killer info
Orlando Cabrera probably has no idea about this. But boy, is he ever the answer to an amazing trivia question. Since the Yankees were beaten by the Giants in both the 1921 and 1922 World Series, only one player has played on the team that eliminated the Yankees from the postseason in back-to-back years: Right. Orlando Cabrera -- the shortstop for the 2004 Red Sox and 2005 Angels.Useless sweep-crew info
Only four teams before this year's Padres managed to get swept in a postseason series, even though they got more hits than the team that swept them. But one of those occasions was in 1995 -- in the only other Cardinals-Padres postseason series in history. Here's the whole list:
1970 Pirates (23 hits) swept by Reds (22)
1976 Phillies (27) swept by Reds (25)
1995 Dodgers (31) swept by Reds (29)
1995 Padres (25) swept by Cardinals (24)
2005 Padres (32) swept by Cardinals (29)Useless pitching-staff schizophrenia info
If you paid close attention to that Cardinals sweep of the Padres, you might have noticed that the Cardinals' relief pitchers gave up eight runs (in 8.1 innings) -- while their starters gave up only three (in 18.2 innings). So how many other teams have ever won a postseason series in which their relievers gave up more than twice as many runs as their starters? Exactly one, according to Elias: the fabled 1939 Yankees (Starters 2, Relievers 6).Useless walk-off info
Houston walk-off wizard Chris Burke just became the seventh player ever to hit a series-ending home run -- after homering only five times in the regular season. But that's not the record for fewest homers by a guy who hit a series-ender. That honor goes to the Mets' Todd Pratt, whose Game 4 homer pulled the plug on the 1999 Diamondbacks' season even though he'd made just three home run trots all year.
RenteriaUseless final-outmaker info
Speaking of series enders, countless loyal readers wanted to know where Boston's Edgar Renteria stood in the annals of postseason minutiae. Renteria, of course, made the final out of Boston's postseason this year after making the final out of St. Louis' postseason (that one against the Red Sox) last year.
Well, ESPN research guru Mark Simon looked into that and reports that Renteria became just the fourth player in history to make the last out in a postseason series in back-to-back years. But not surprisingly, he's the only guy to do it for two different teams. So even less surprisingly, he's the only guy to make the last out for a World Series loser, then join the winners the next year and make the final out of their postseason, too.
The other three members of the two-time Grand Finale Club: Omar Vizquel (made the last out for Cleveland in the 1998 ALCS and 1999 ALDS), Bill Spiers (made the last out for Houston in the 1997 and '98 NLDS) and the fearsome Boss Schmidt (made the last out for Detroit in the 1907 and '08 World Series).Useless deja vu info
When Roger Clemens came stalking out of the bullpen Sunday for the first time in 21 years, and started his day by facing a hitter older than he was (Julio Franco), one of our most loyal useless-info-holics, Doug Greenwald, wondered about the first time those two guys met. So he looked it up at the increasingly indispensable retrosheet.org site.
And guess what he found: When Clemens made the very first start of his career -- 21 years and 5 months earlier -- the No. 6 hitter in the opposing lineup in Cleveland just happened to be (yup) Julio Franco.Useless generation-gap info
Before we leave the Roger Clemens portion of this column, you might have noticed that while Clemens was the winning pitcher Sunday, the losing pitcher was just slightly younger than him. That would be Braves rookie Joey Devine, age 22. So we couldn't help but check with Elias -- and learned (what a shock) that their 21-year age gap was the biggest ever between a postseason winner and loser.
The (ahem) old record was 18 years (22-year-old Bob Wolcott over 40-year-old Dennis Martinez in Game 1 of the 1995 ALCS). But since the younger pitcher won that game, you should know that Clemens broke his own previous record for old-guy winning pitchers -- by five years. Former record: Clemens (then 41) over Minnesota's Kyle Lohse (25) in Game 3 of the 2003 ALDS).Useless marathoner info
So will the real marathoners please stand up? One of our all-time loyal readers, David Hallstrom, reports that, according to the Chicago Tribune, 31,134 runners finished Sunday's Chicago Marathon in less time than it took the Astros and Braves to play 18 innings.Useless reader gem dept.
Another king of loyal-reader Useless Infomania -- Eric Orns, of baseballesoterica.blogspot.com fame -- reports that in that Angels-Yankees series, the Angels did something you don't see much: They had almost as many triples in that series (three) as walks (five).
Orns also reports that the Braves now have been involved in 10 straight postseasons without winning a World Series. But that isn't even the longest current streak. The longest belongs to (who else?) the Cubs, who are zero for their last 11 trips to the postseason. One big difference between the Braves and Cubs: The Cubs have been working on their streak for almost a century. It's taken the Braves a mere decade..Useless Sultan information
Finally, the Sultan of Swat Stats, SABR's David Vincent, reports that Atlanta's Brian McCann became the first player in postseason history to hit a homer off a pitcher (Clemens) whose big-league debut came in the same year as the hitter's debut on planet Earth (in this case 1984).
But that isn't something that happens much in the regular season, either. Here are the only nine times that pitchers who debuted in the last half-century gave up a homer to a hitter who was born in the year they arrived in the big leagues:
Batter Pitcher Birth Year Mark McGwire Tommy John 1963 Luis Medina Tommy John 1963 Jose Canseco Phil Niekro 1964 Pete Incaviglia Phil Niekro 1964 Albert Belle Nolan Ryan 1966 Greg Myers Nolan Ryan 1966 Kevin Koslofski Nolan Ryan 1966 Jose Guillen Dennis Martinez 1976 Vernon Wells Mike Morgan 1978
Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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