I'm obsessed with baseball -- the numbers, the history, the people who play.
Each game features a unique sequence of events. I like to think there's something to be found in each game that has never happened before.
I love the rare events, the oddities, freak pitches, position player pitchers, odd shifts, bizarre errors, milestone moments. I love old box scores to see which combination of individuals existed as a team on that given day.
I watch games differently than the average fan. I look for patterns. It's my job to provide unique information, so I'm always looking. Oftentimes, my observations are a stretch...but I don't care. I don't take myself too seriously. I like to present what I see with the understanding that we're all fans, and baseball is supposed to be fun.
So here's my narrative of Tuesday night's Pirates vs. Cubs game, which I attended at Wrigley (I went to work on the Baseball-reference.com play index after the fact, but I was jotting down notes as the game went on).
Neil Walker pumps his fist just before passing first base on his grand slam trot. First inning slam? Wow...wonder when the last time that happened against the Cubs.
It was last year. Ryan Dempster, nonetheless, whose trade made this start by Casey Coleman possible in the first place. Stephen Drew gave the Diamondbacks a 4-0 lead at Chase Field back on April 28th, 2011.
Last one at Wrigley Field? Adam Kennedy of the Cardinals touched Carlos Zambrano for a four-run four-bagger on September 19, 2008.
Last Pirate with a first inning slam against the Cubs? Hall of Famer Willie Stargell April 22, 1969 (Game 2 of doubleheader) off Joe Niekro.
Ironically, while doing grand slam research, I find that since Ryan Dempster first set foot on a Major League mound in 1998, no pitcher has surrendered more grand slams -- Dempster 9; Brad Penny, Kyle Lohse, Cliff Lee, and Kevin Milllwood tied for second with 8 each.
It was an innocuous comment to my girlfriend between innings..."You know...this guy pitching for the Pirates tonight...he HAS thrown a no-hitter..."
The Cubs have the longest active streak of not being no-hit. Nobody has thrown a no-hitter against the Cubs since Sandy Koufax tossed his perfect game September 9, 1965 in an epic pitcher's duel with Bob Hendley...
...come to think of it, there hasn't been a no-hitter pitched against OR FOR the Cubs at Wrigley Field since Milt Pappas' near miss of a perfect game (Bruce Froemming's infamous Ball Four call) September 2, 1972.
Besides, I'd never seen a perfect game live. The closest I have ever come was when Jim Thome broke up Anthony Reyes' no-hit bid with a 7th inning blast in a 1-0 White Sox win over the Cardinals back in 2006.
Andrew McCutchen leads off the third with a single. He has been truly incredible, boasting a .371 batting average.
When's the last time a Pirate finished a season with a batting average that high? Seventy-six years ago, that's when. It was Hall of Famer Paul "Big Poison" Waner with a .373 clip.
Waner note: "Big Poison" was actually Brooklyn-ese for Big PERSON. Waner was 5'8" 153 lbs. In contrast, Paul's Hall of Fame brother Lloyd, nicknamed "Little Poison" stood 5'9" and weighed 150. Hmmm...
Burnett keeps rolling...The Pirates would be his second different team with which he'd throw a no-hitter. Must be a short list for multiple-team no-hitters:
Cy Young - Cleveland Spiders & Boston Red Sox
Jim Bunning - Philadelphia Phillies & Detroit Tigers
Nolan Ryan - California Angels, Houston Astros & Texas Rangers
Hideo Nomo - Los Angeles Dodgers & Boston Red Sox
Randy Johnson - Seattle Mariners & Arizona Diamondbacks
Coleman's finished for the day; 4 ER in 4.2 IP; season ERA now 7.40.
I remembered him last season on the verge of setting a franchise record of highest season ERA of anyone with 50 innings (Ruben Quevedo - 7.47 in 88.0 IP), before battling back and lowering his mark to 6.40 by season's end.
But with another rocky start, where does he rank as far as career ERA with Cubs?
Answer: For all Cubs with at least a season's worth of ERA (162 IP), dead last.
His 5.76 ERA in 165.2 IP is highest of the 251 Cubs pitchers to qualify. It's 10 points higher than Jim Brewer; 36 points north of Ernie "traded for Lou Brock" Broglio.
Am I picking on Coleman? No, just presenting information. You've got to be incredibly good just to pitch one inning in the Major Leagues. If you were to take the 17,871 players (according to Baseball-reference.com) who have ever played a game in the Majors over its nearly 150 years of existence, you wouldn't be able to fill Wrigley Field halfway. If you took the 3661 men ever to pitch 162 innings in the majors, you couldn't even fill the Wrigley bleachers (you'd fill it to about 74 percent of capacity).
Could the first-inning Grand Slam be all the scoring in this game? That would be amazing.
Consider the feeling as Coleman allowed the homer to Walker. I figured this could be a really long night, but the recently promoted righty had managed to slip out of trouble despite being on the ropes.
When is the last time a game ended 4-0 on a single grand slam? June 20, 2010: Mark Teixeira's 3rd inning slam off Johan Santana was all the Yankees needed in a 4-0 win against the Mets.
How about the last time a first inning grand slam ended in a 4-0 score? May 23, 1994, when Luis Lopez took Mark Portugal deep in the first in a 4-0 Padres win over the Giants.
Pirates strike again. Neil Walker sac fly. He's knocked in all five Pirates runs. It's his 33rd career game against the Cubs. And he now has 27 RBI in those 33 games, a 162-game average of 132.5.
Who's the last player to have 5 RBI and knock in ALL of his team's runs against the Cubs? Russell Branyan of the Brewers on Aug. 18, 2004 in a 7-5 Cubs win...
...and the previous time a player did this, the Cubs won that game too -- Will Clark Sept. 24, 2000 in a 10-5 Cubs win.
You have to go back to Sept. 15, 1996 for the last time a player knocked in all of his team's runs (with at least 5 RBI) in a winning cause against the Cubs. Benito Santiago of the Phillies had 3 HR and 6 RBI in 6-1 Phillies win.
The last Pirate to knock in all his team's runs (minimum 5 RBI) had been Daryle Ward -- Aug. 30, 2004 in a 5-1 win vs Brewers.
There it goes...Adrian Cardenas singles to right and Burnett's no-hit bid is over. I'm thinking of one-hitters thrown against the Cubs and a list of the players who collected the sole hits.
Ryan Theriot -- 8212009
Jerry Hairston, Jr. -- 8312005
Michael Barrett -- 5182004
Corey Patterson -- 4262002
Ron Coomer -- 5182001
Dave Hansen -- 4101997
And you have to go back to Hansen to find the last Cub who came off the bench to record the only hit in a game. Hansen entered the game in a double switch as a defensive replacement at third for Kevin Orie. He ended the Marlins' Alex Fernandez' no-hit bid with one out in the ninth.
Game over. Burnett gets his one-hitter the first complete game one-hitter thrown against the Cubs since Derek Lowe on Aug. 31, 2005...first by a Pirate against the Cubs since Don Cardwell on Oct. 2, 1965.
Also amusing: The last seven complete game one-hitters tossed against the Cubs have all come at Wrigley Field, with Tom Browning's June 4, 1986 performance for the Reds at Riverfront Stadium being the last time a pitcher tossed a complete game one-hitter against the Cuibs on the road.
I don't get my first no-hitter, but it was well worth it. This is every game for me. And I love it.