In what might end up being the weirdest baseball season in all of human history (if this season is even possible to be finished), it is my quest to search for the weirdest things I can find in this sport. Every Tuesday, I will be bringing you various strange things that happened from the previous week. If it’s both remotely baseball-related and weird, it has a chance to be in this article. Okay, let’s go.
Things got weird in the very first game of the season as the New York Yankees defeated the Washington Nationals 4-1 in a rain-shortened five-inning affair. Gerrit Cole got the complete-game victory in his Yankees debut. A shortened game to start off the shortened season seems just about par for the course.
Just for Kicks
Later that night, the Los Angeles Dodgers hosted the San Francisco Giants. This is the game where we got our first look at the cardboard cutout fans. I enjoy our new cardboard friends. I think it’s funny that the lighting in each picture is different with some heads looking way too huge and others looking way too small. It’s a wonderful mess.
Anyways, Mike Yastrzemski‘s baserunning caught my eye early in this game. Pablo Sandoval was hitting with one out in the top of the first. Yastrzemski was on first base. Sandoval hit a ground ball to second base that in all likelihood would have ended the inning in a double play. Instead, the ground ball hit Yastrzemski on the foot, ending the play as dead. Because of that, only one out was recorded. Although no run was scored in the inning and the Giants would eventually lose the game 8-1, I found this play interesting and wondered to myself if Yastrzemski had kicked the ball on purpose.
Fast-forward to Opening Day. During the top of the seventh inning in a game between the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets, something occurred that I have never seen in any game. In a scoreless game, the Braves had a man on third base with one out and Matt Adams up to bat. The Mets had their infield in while also shifting three men on the right side. Quite predictably, Adams hit a sharp ground ball to third baseman Jeff McNeil (who was shifted in between the first and second basemen). Because of said shift, McNeil was positioned close enough to the first base bag that he could record the out himself unassisted. It was a five unassisted out.
The Mets would eventually get out of the inning and win the game 1-0 thanks to a Yoenis Cespedes home run in the bottom of the seventh.
First Extra Innings Experience
Later that night, in a game between the Los Angeles Angels and Oakland Athletics, we got our first taste of the new extra innings format. I was extremely interested in how each team would manage and react to this weird new rule. Shohei Ohtani was the Angels’ runner on second base in the top of the tenth as he was the last out of the previous inning. Pinch-hitter Jared Walsh started the inning with a firm ground ball to first baseman Matt Olson who immediately whipped the ball over to third baseman Matt Chapman. Ohtani was then caught in a rundown. Alas, the very first experience with the new extra innings rule ended in a TOOTBLAN. Perfect.
The A’s had much better luck in the bottom of the tenth. Marcus Semien started the inning on second base. Ramon Laureano began the inning with a walk. After a Chapman strikeout, Khris Davis drew a walk. With the bases loaded, Olson stepped up to the plate and…
We had ourselves a walk-off grand slam on Opening Day.
Lorenzo Cain‘s Baserunning Aptitude
On Saturday afternoon, Lorenzo Cain showed us a stroke of his baseball genius in a game between the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs. With Ben Gamel hitting, Cain stood at second base. Gamel hit a sharp ground ball to shortstop, and it looked as though Cain was going to be caught in a rundown. Cain was able to stay in the rundown until Gamel reached second base. Normally, the job would have been done. Cain did a great job of staying alive to let Gamel reach the base that he previously occupied. In this case, though, the Cubs had no one covering first base. Cain was able to get back to second base while directing his teammate to rush back to first because no one was there. An out was not made on the play. Yes, it could be argued that the Cubs messed this play up with unsound fundamentals of not covering each base. That said, Cain showed elite wherewithal to be able to keep the play alive, snuff out the Cubs’ mistake, and direct his teammate to make the right play.
CGI FOX Fans
There is nothing weird about this next baseball play. It’s a just normal Wilmer Flores home run from Saturday afternoon in a game between the Giants and Dodgers.
Because this game was on Fox, I got my first look at the virtual video game fans that were “placed” into the seats. That was the weird part, at least for now. For afar, the fans look normal and real enough to momentarily fool the viewer. As the ball gets closer to landing in the bleachers though, yeah, those are obviously video game fans. Once again, I am all for whatever crazy production means the networks and baseball, in general, find necessary. The crowd noise has not been overbearing. The fake fans, whether made out of paper or CGI, seem fine to me.
Mr. Home Opener
In the 2018 home opener for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Colin Moran hit a grand slam in his first at-bat at PNC Park. In 2019, he also went yard in the home opener. Last night was the Pirates’ first home game of the year against the Brewers. Moran hit two dingers, including this river shot.
The Pirates lost this game 6-5 in 11 innings after blowing a 5-1 lead in the ninth inning. At one point, their win expectancy was over 98 percent.
One last thing: My favorite weird fact coming from the opening weekend of play was that no team started 3-0. This is the first time in baseball that this has happened since 1954. It is the first time it has happened in any major American sport since the NHL in 2001.
If anyone finds any weird baseball things that seem weird enough to be in this weekly piece, please DM me on Twitter @Nathan_Hursh.
Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)