K Times 4

Baseball’s very mathematical, a game of discreet events. I think that’s why it works so well on radio. Just one thing happens at a time. Fastball up. Breaking ball away. Outfield shifted around toward left. Jones delivers, and it’s a ground ball to short – Gregorio up with it, fires to first, in time for the out. There is much more to it than that, of course, texture beneath the discreet events, but the steps can all be captured verbally.

I grew up on Vin Scully (go ahead, click on the link, it’s worth it, I’ll wait). When I was a kid, had a record album, a centennial history of baseball, and on it Scully told the story of a pitcher who had four strikeouts in a single inning. That is possible because of rule 6.05(c) , which spells out in rather complicated detail the consequences should the catcher not catch the third strike while first base is unoccupied. Four strikeouts in an inning is possible if a batter reaches first safely under 6.05(c) and the pitcher strikes out the side.

It’s a rare occurence – 24 times in National League history (twice last year!) and 18 times in American League history. Chuck Finley has amazingly done it thrice.

Out at the ballpark this afternoon, I saw it happen. It was Triple-A ball, the local nine (the Isotopes) against the Salt Lake Stingers. Greg Jones, a right-handed throwing relief pitcher whose statistics suggested no great promise, took the hill in the bottom of the sixth to face ‘Topes second baseman Jesus Medrano. I wish at this point that I kept a better scorecard, and could give you the pitch count, but you will have to settle for this – Medrano swung at a third strike that was in the dirt, it kicked past Stingers catcher Wil Nieves and went to the backstop, Medrano sprinting down to first ahead of Nieves’ throw.

Jones struck out ‘Topes left-fielder Chris Wakeland, Medrano stole second, then Jones walked Chad Allen. Allen is our big trouble at the plate, had tripled earlier, so Jones didn’t seem to want to give him much. Designated hitter Rob Stratton hitting behind Allen is weak, so the walk seemed a safe bet. And sure enough, Stratton K’d, bringing up ‘Topes third bagger Jason Wood. I leaned over to Lissa, as baseball smart know-it-all, and pointed out that Jones had the opportunity for minor baseball history. She gave me a look of confusion, as if she did not fully grasp the elegant possibilities offered by 6.05(c). But Jones did it, and some small piece of Triple-A history is now his.

And the ‘Topes won. It was a sloppy game, but they won.

I’ve not yet seen a triple play in person, nor a no-hitter. But I’ve seen a pitcher strike out four batters in an inning.