Here are the weirdest stats and plays from the last month in the Minors

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Welcome to Crooked Numbers, a monthly column dedicated to Minor League Baseball on-field oddities and absurdities. This edition, covering the month of May, features reptile cameos, offensive explosions, oppositional surnames and, of course, much more. Keeping track of this type of thing is a team effort, so get in touch if you’ve witnessed something weird at a Minor League game ([email protected]).

Last month’s Crooked Numbers column highlighted the curious case of Sacramento River Cats infielder Donovan Walton, who became the team’s first “pitcher” to notch two wins this season. This pair of unlikely victories were accumulated over the span of just three days, and under remarkably similar circumstances: two-inning appearances to close out an extra-inning, 9-8 road win over the Reno Aces.

When this writer visited Sacramento early last month, a chat with the River Cats’ unlikely early-season ace was a key item on the agenda. Walton revealed that his success on the mound was due, in part, to improving upon his first career pitching appearance. That occurred with the San Francisco Giants in 2022, when he allowed three runs over an inning of work against the Miami Marlins to close out a 15-6 win.

“I was just floating it in there and honestly it didn’t go too well,” said Walton with a laugh, recalling his professional pitching debut. “After that I was like, ‘If I get a chance to do that again, I want to try to make the ball move, make it a little bit harder for ‘em.’”

While Walton gave up pitching following his freshman year of high school, he was nonetheless able to draw on the lessons learned when he was younger. His father, Rob, pitched for three seasons in the Orioles system and is now the pitching coach at Oklahoma State (where Walton played collegiately).

“Yeah, I was thinking of my pops and all the stuff we’ve talked about,” he said. “He taught me a cutter when I was young, like in middle school, so I had that little pitch in the back of my mind.”

Walton said that he sent the game balls from his two April victories home to his parents, and that it was a cool moment to share, and laugh about, with his dad.

“I feel like you see something new every day when you go out in the field,” he said. “And, you know, I just got lucky.”

Walton’s “luck” has continued since then, to an extent that perhaps it’s not luck at all. He appeared on the mound three more times in the month of May – on the 7th, 9th and 29th — notching a scoreless inning on each occasion. On the season he has scattered nine hits and two walks over seven innings, allowing just one unearned run.

“Baseball,” he said, “is a crazy game.”

We now return to our regularly scheduled Crooked Numbers column, already in progress.

A calamitous cameoWhen it comes to position players taking the mound, Donovan Walton is the exception rather than the rule. Sugar Land’s Cooper Hummel had a particularly rough outing on May 9, when he came in from left field to pitch the eighth inning of a game his team was losing to Oklahoma City, 11-0. Hummel allowed nine runs on seven hits and three walks over two-thirds of an inning, and then swapped spots with first baseman Luke Berryhill, who closed out the game. Final score: 22-3.

From second to new homeOn May 3, in the second game of a doubleheader against the Arkansas Travelers, the San Antonio Missions’ Nathan Martorella hit a single with one out in the third inning and moved to second on a walk. Then, while standing on second base, he was pulled from the game. Martorella, visibly confused, jogged back to the dugout and was summarily informed that he had been traded to Miami as part of the deal that sent Luis Arraez to San Diego. Also part of the deal was his teammate Jakob Marsee, who had struck out to start the inning. Chase Valentine was inserted into the game as a pinch-runner for Martorella, and he subsequently scored on a single. This remains the only run that Valentine has scored at the Double-A level.

Youth vs. ExperienceMay 11’s tilt between the Portland Sea Dogs and visiting Binghamton Rumble Ponies featured a matchup for the ages: Wyatt Young vs. Wyatt Olds. The former is Binghamton’s second baseman, the latter a righty reliever for Portland. Young came to bat with two outs and the bases loaded in the fifth inning and Olds struck him out. For those wondering: Olds really is the older of the two Wyatts, but only by four months.

Hero in a half shellTurtle-centric happenings in the Florida State League usually involve the Daytona Tortugas, but that club had nothing to do with what transpired on May 11. The Bradenton Marauders were hosting the St. Lucie Mets, and in the second inning the game was delayed by a turtle plodding across the outfield. Marauders reliever Magdiel Cotto took matters into his own hands, literally, as he picked up the slowly absconding reptile and then nudged it through the bullpen door.

Hence, his ERA went downSpringfield Cardinals right-hander Tink Hence suffered through a rough outing on May 12, allowing nine runs over 3 1/3 innings of work against the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. However, thanks to three Springfield errors, one committed by Hence himself, none of the runs were earned. The last time a Minor League pitcher allowed more unearned runs in a game was Aug. 2, 2019, when Richmond’s Logan Webb allowed 10 against Harrisburg. At the Major League level one has to go back all the way to June 5, 1989, when the Yankees’ Andy Hawkins yielded 10 unearned runs over 2 1/3 innings against the Baltimore Orioles.

Dozen it amaze you?Twelve runs, seven hits, four walks, four errors, two sac flies and two stolen bases. This loaded drive-thru order of a half-inning was brought to you by the Vancouver Canadians, who posted these numbers against a momentarily dysfunctional Tri-City Dust Devils squad in the fifth inning on May 4. The Canadians did not score after that Brobdingnagian fifth frame, and held on to win 13-10.

Two touchdowns, two extra pointsVancouver’s dozen wasn’t the most runs scored in an inning this month. On May 7, the Syracuse Mets scored 14 runs in the seventh inning against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Trayce Thompson was the hero of this massive frame, hitting a grand slam in his first at-bat and a two-run double in his second. Less successful was Hayden Senger, who came to the plate three times in the inning and made both the first and final out.

The Syracuse Mets are a Triple-A team, Minor League Baseball’s highest level. The Florida Complex League (FCL) Phillies, competing at the Minors’ lowest level, also scored 14 runs in an inning this month. They accomplished the feat in the top of the fifth inning against the FCL Yankees on May 24, getting things going via six consecutive one-out walks. Guillermo Rosario was the star of the frame, hitting a two-run double before capping the scoring with a three-run homer.

One hit, a lot of airIn this case, the video explains it all. You’ve got to appreciate the effort.

Making up for lost timeEntering a May 26 doubleheader against the Akron RubberDucks, the Double-A Harrisburg Senators had not had a pitcher throw a complete-game shutout since 2016. You can guess what happened next:

Unhittable stuffZack Thompson started for the Memphis Redbirds against the Norfolk Tides on May 9, and was pulled after three innings of work despite not allowing a hit. He walked a career-high seven batters, however, including one with the bases loaded in the third. The Redbirds nonetheless went on to the game, 3-2.

A spectacular and unexpected conclusionWinning a ballgame on a two-run sac fly is a strange occurrence, but that was just the anomalous icing on the bizarre cake that was the May 14 tilt between the Salem Red Sox and the Columbia Fireflies. Salem’s Noah Dean and Trennor O’Connell combined to hurl nine no-hit innings, but the game went into extra-innings in a scoreless tie. Both teams pushed across a run in the 10th, with Columbia doing it without getting a hit. Salem scored three in the top of the 11th, highlighted by Natanel Yuten’s two-run inside-the-park home run. Columbia finally got a hit in the bottom of the 11th – their only one of the game – courtesy of Chris Brito’s two-run double. The next batter, Austin Charles, hit a two-run sac fly to give Columbia a supremely unlikely 5-4 win.