Tales of the Unexpected – Baseball edition

I was a comic book fan growing up and considering both my height and level of maturity one could comfortably say that I still hope to grow up. I liked most any comic book, Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Fantastic Four, Donald Duck, even Archie, it really didn’t matter I was pretty flexible. I found them pure escapist relaxation.

I also enjoyed comic books like Crypt of Horrors, House of Mystery and Tales of the Unexpected. The good guys didn’t always win and there really quite frequently was a neat twist at the end. These clearly weren’t to the standards of the television shows like the Twilight Zone and Outer Limits, but they worked in a pinch.

I was thinking about Tales of the Unexpected this morning as I was reviewing the games last night because it seems to me that baseball is a continual series of unexpected occurrences. Not shocking mind you, just events seem to happen each day that you would not expect.

For instance, I never expect anyone to get a hit, a run, or beat Mariano Rivera, but last night allthree happened in Texas. The Rangers beat Mo and the Yankees 4-3  when the 10th David Murphy hit a walkoff single with the bases filled. Mariano had given up a couple of scratch singles and intentional pass before Murphy picked up his hit. To make that event more unexpected was the fact that it was the first loss for Mariano in 32 career appearances at Rangers Ballpark, where he had been 2-0 with 17 saves while the Yankees had won 29 consecutive games there since August 1996 when he pitched.

How about Tim Lincecum last night? He is the two-time defending Cy Young Award winner and facing the Cubs in a game that the Giants should be winning, the Freak gave up six runs in four innings in the 8-6 loss. Over his past five starts, Lincecum is 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA. He has lost consecutive starts for the third time this season. The six runs are the second most allowed by Tim in his career and to make it even more unexpected, Chicago had scored just 10 runs in its previous four games.

In his last 9 starts, Mike Pelfrey of the Mets was 1-5 with a 7.74 ERA. Last night against Ubaldo Jimenez, Pelfrey went seven innings for the first time since June 19 and gave up four hits. He struck out four and walked one. The Mets won, 1-0.

The Red Sox beat the Blue Jays last night, 8-6. In the unexpected category, Mike Lowell, who returned to the lineup Aug. 3 after missing 34 games with a sore right hip, infielder Jed Lowrie, who missed 94 games with mononucleosis, and outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, absent for 58 games with fractured ribs, drove home five Boston runs. Lowell, who has twice almost been traded, to Texas and the Yankees, then was kept when the trades didn’t work out, homered as he has become an unexpectedly critical component as the Sox stagger on without Kevin Youkilis who is out for the season. Two things that were expected did happen; Toronto hit three homers and Daisuke Matsuzaka only lasted 5.2 innings.

Nobody expected the brawl that occurred in the Cardinals 8-4 win over the Reds. St. Louis has won the first two games of the series between the team competing teams and moved a few percentage points ahead of the Reds, who had led the division for the last eight days. Adding to the unexpected stew, St. Louis has now won consecutive road games for the first time since June 22-23 and Cincinnati has lost two straight home games for the first time since July 21-22. I do expect some suspensions.

Freddie Garcia was 7-1 in his previous 12 starts, but last night against the Twins Garcia allowed six runs and eight hits over 2.1 innings as Minnesota topped the White Sox, 12-6 in the on-going battle for the AL Central lead.

Come on, who expected Stephen Strasburg to get racked by the Florida Marlins in what amounted to a rehab start for the youngster? Nobody expects that. He allowed a career-high six earned runs

in a career-low 4.1 innings in his first start since coming of the DL. The Marlins beat theNats, 8-2.

You might have expected the Dodgers to top the Phillies but you couldn’t have expected them to score a season-high 15 runs. Andre Ethier had four hits, scored four runs and reached base six times, and Casey Blake and Jay Gibbons hit home runs to lead the Dodgers to a 15-9 romp.

Finally, I expect to turn the page and see the Devil himself feasting on Buck Showalter’s soul. Baltimore beat the Indians last night, 14-8 and Bucky’s Boys are now 7-1 (.875 win percentage) since Showalter took command. They were a horrid 32-73 (.305) before he took over. It sends a chill down my spine.

Share some baseball tales of the unexpected with me in the Comments section that follows this column on Billy-Ball.com. Who knows, if I get enough of these maybe I will be able to thank you in a book of these stories. Events stranger than that have happened before.

And always remember, you never can expect the unexpected.