The latest episode of "Weird Baseball" takes us to Tropicana Field, where the Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Alex Cobb pulled off one of the more unusual pitching feats you'll see by striking out four San Diego Padres batters in the third inning of Friday night's series opener.
I say unusual, because it's not necessarily rare. In fact, the last time a Rays pitcher pulled it off was Aug. 25, 2011, when Jeremy Hellickson did it against the Detroit Tigers. Tony Cingrani of the Cincinnati Reds also turned the trick back on April 28, so we've seen it happen with some degree of frequency lately, but certainly not in the manner Cobb did it.
Here's what makes it different and historic: Cobb only faced four batters in the inning — Will Venable, Chase Headley, Carlos Quentin and Yonder Alonso — and struck them out in order. That achievement is not a first, either. However, the fact that Cobb still managed to allow a run in the inning is something that has not happened in baseball since at least 1916, which is when gamelogs were first kept.
As Matt Snyder of Eye on Baseball points out, there have been several occurrences in which one (all four batters in an inning strikeout) or the other (pitcher allows run in same inning as four strikeouts) have happened, but never have they occurred in the same inning. And that's not a bit surprising considering all of the craziness that had to take place for it to happen on Friday.
First, Venable reached base safely to start the inning after striking out on a ball that bounced away from catcher Jose Lobaton. Venable then stole second and third base over the course of the next two hitters, which is easily the most conventional thing to happen in the entire inning. He finished his trip around the bases when Cobb balked — yes, balked — him home.
For those scoring at home: Four batters. No hits. No walks. No errors. No hit batters. Not even a single piece of contact.
And one run.
I'll allow you to absorb that information before I tell what else Cobb did that hasn't been done in the modern era.
According to Elias, Cobb also became the first pitcher since 1900 to strikeout 13 batters in an appearance that lasted less than five innings (four and two-thirds to be exact). That means of the 14 outs he officially recorded, only two were put into play. His final line includes three earned runs, five hits, two home runs, two walks, one hit batsman, one wild pitch, and yes, the one balk.
That's basically one of every possible stat, but he did not factor in the decision thanks to his offense rallying for four runs in the seventh to steal a 6-3 victory.
One more thing: According to DRays Bay, Cobb's relatively short start also ended the Rays streak of 34 straight starters lasting at least five innings. That was the second longest streak in baseball since 1916.
Whew. That's about as wild and weird as it gets.
Oh, and you might be interested to hear that the home plate umpire for all of this madness was none other than Fieldin Culbreth.
No, he didn't do anything wrong, but it just makes perfect sense.