Ronel Blanco’s no-hitter history, Rockies’ (and Mets’) rocky start, Bryce Harper’s homers

Welcome to Weird and Wildness, 2024! A pitcher gave up 10 runs on Opening Day — but somehow didn’t even finish the day with the highest ERA on his own team. … A manager got suspended before he’d even managed his third game in the big leagues. … And then there’s Ronel Blanco. He didn’t just make no-hitter history. He made pitch-clock history!

But those are just the highlights (or possibly lowlights) of the first week of another action-packed baseball season. There’s lots more Weirdness and Wildness where that came from.

No-Hit Fever — catch it

Houston, we have a(nother) no-hitter: Ronel Blanco and Yainer Diaz celebrate the no-no. (Troy Taormina / USA Today)

We all know the things in life that are contagious: Hitting. Catching your 4-year-old’s runny nose. And, of course … no-hitters in Houston!

All right, in truth, we didn’t used to think of no-hitters in Houston as contagious. But at this point, how could you not? They just keep happening.

That amazing tidbit was inspired by the latest in the never-ending parade of Astros no-hitters — this one Monday, versus the Blue Jays, by 30-year-old baseball survivor Ronel Blanco. Blanco had made seven previous starts in the big leagues in a nine-season professional career. He’d only made it through one of those without allowing a homer, let alone a hit.

But here at Weird and Wild World HQ, we’re now huge fans of his, if only because he made all these fabulous no-hitter notes possible:

Ronel gave his manager a great claim to fame! Joe Espada is the new manager of the Astros. How about this for a unique niche in baseball history: A week into his big-league managerial career, he has never won a game when his team allowed more than one hit. Oh, and also: He’s the only manager in history whose first career win was a no-hitter.

Ronel also gave his catcher a great claim to fame! Yainer Diaz caught Blanco’s no-hitter. When he wasn’t busy doing that, he also launched two home runs. So how many other catchers have had a day like Diaz — a two-homer show in the middle of catching a no-hitter? That would be exactly none in the modern era, according to the ever-inquisitive Jessica Brand.

Ronel even gave the clock operator a great claim to fame! A Weird But Wild thing happened to Blanco on the way to no-hit glory. Before his first pitch to Daulton Varsho in the first inning, he got nabbed for a pitch-clock violation. It was baseball’s fifth no-hitter since pitch clocks arrived in the big leagues. But it was the first that included a clock violation. Hat tip to Marquee Sports’ Chris Kamka for alerting us to that historic development.

But mostly, Ronel gave his rotation a great claim to fame! I can’t even say for sure that Blanco will stay in this team’s rotation once Justin Verlander gets healthy. But let’s assume he does. That would give this rotation four pitchers who have started a no-hitter: Verlander, Blanco, Framber Valdez and Cristian Javier.

Loyal reader K.C. Richards wondered how rare that is. Excellent question. We posed it to our friends from STATS Perform.

Turns out that would make the Astros the seventh team in history that could say that — but it’s been a while:

1996 Mariners — Randy Johnson, Chris Bosio, Terry Mulholland, Bob Milacki
1979 Pirates — Bert Blyleven, John Candelaria, Jim Bibby, Dock Ellis
1975 A’s — Vida Blue, Ken Holtzman, Dick Bosman, Sonny Siebert
1973 Angels — Nolan Ryan, Bill Singer, Clyde Wright, Steve Barber
1972 A’s — Catfish Hunter, Vida Blue, Ken Holtzman, Joe Horlen
1917 Browns — Bob Groom, Ernie Koob, Dave Davenport, Earl Hamilton

(Source: STATS Perform)

Not-No-Hit Fever — don’t catch it!

Rockies starter Kyle Freeland exits during the Diamondbacks’ 14-run third inning on Opening Day. (Joe Camporeale / USA Today)

On the other hand, there’s Kyle Freeland. His season isn’t going quite as pristinely as Ronel Blanco’s.

Last week, Freeland went out to start for the Rockies on Opening Day in Arizona. He was down 2-0 after six pitches. And that was the best part of his day. Because in the third inning, you know what happened? Just your basic 14-run inning.

Along the way, Freeland piled up this epic Opening Day Box Score Line for the Ages:

2 1/3 IP, 10 H, 10 R, 10 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 HR and a 38.57 Opening Day ERA

Youch. There was so much there. Let’s discuss it.

That 14-run inning! It was the third inning of the season. Here’s how that one went:

Single, single, walk, single, double, single, single, out, double, pitching change. Take a deep breath. Let’s resume. Single, single, walk, single, single, double, sac fly, single, another pitching change. Followed (finally) by the third out.

Whew. Those 14 runs were the most ever by a team in any inning on Opening Day. In fact, only three teams since 1900 have ever piled up more runs in an inning on any day.

It was also the most runs ever allowed in an inning by those crooked-number specialists, the Colorado Rockies. But here comes the Weird and Wild part: The first time in team history they gave up that many runs, they weren’t even playing at Coors Field. How mysterious is baseball?

That box-score line! I’m thinking Kyle Freeland will be relieved to hear that he was not the first pitcher to give up 10 earned runs (or more) on Opening Day. According to Baseball Reference/Stathead, 15 pitchers have done that since 1901, believe it or not. But …

Here comes the Weird and Wild part: On the way to giving up those 10 earned runs, Freeland only got seven outs. Want to guess how many pitchers in that Gave Up 10 Runs on Opening Day Club got fewer outs than he did? “None” would be a savvy guess.

That 38.57 ERA! Not one Opening Day starter in the modern era got as deep into his start as Freeland did and came out of it with an ERA as high as this guy’s. But once again, that wasn’t even the Weird and Wild part, because …

He didn’t even emerge from this game with the highest ERA on his own team. That honor belonged to the pitcher who relieved him, Anthony Molina — because Molina came in and gave up six runs while only getting one out. So his ERA, after Opening Day, was a picturesque 162.00.

If we don’t count guys who got no outs, I couldn’t find any pitcher who staggered out of Opening Day with an ERA higher than that (although there were three who tied him).

So we’re now a week into the season. Freeland and Molina have faced a combined 64 hitters in four outings … and 38 of them have reached base! They’ve combined for 28 runs, but only 27 outs. At least they’ve both nudged their ERAs under 30.00. But they’re a reminder that while Opening Day is only one game, it sometimes takes a whole year for your ERA to forget it!

This week in useless info

THE BRYCE WAS RIGHT — It was Tuesday night in South Philadelphia. The raindrops were pelting out of the sky. And Bryce Harper showed up for work with no hits all season (as in 0 for 11 at-bats/13 plate appearances). Then this happened.

From 0-for-the-season to three bombs, with a grand slam as the finale? Does it get much Weirder (or Wilder) than that? Let’s think this through.

That 0-for-the-season thing! How many players have ever turned an 0-for-the-year into a long-ball trifecta? Baseball Reference’s Kenny Jackelen dived into that question for us. The answer: About what you’d expect.

Only three other players since 1901 have hit three home runs in a game they began with no hits all season. Somehow or other, they’ve all done it since 2018.

2018 — Christian Villanueva (0 for 4 PA)
2019 — Paul Goldschmidt (0 for 4 PA)
2023 — Trayce Thompson (0 for 0 PA)

But if you noticed that Harper had more at-bats than those other three combined, that tells you there was everyone else who did this … and then him.

Bryce Harper hit two solo shots and a slam to end his season O-fer in emphatic fashion. (Mitchell Leff / Getty Images)

That grand-slam finale thing! How cool is it to top off a three-homer game with a grand slam for the final homer? So cool that it’s only happened 17 times in the last 75 seasons. Our friend Jessica Brand did the heavy lifting to dig up that list. It’s a fun one, including …

Active players who have done it: Harper, Manny Machado, Adam Duvall, Joey Votto.

The only other Phillie to do it: Dick Allen, 1968 (off Tom Seaver, Cal Koonce and Ron Taylor).

Hall of Famers to do it: Eddie Murray, Orlando Cepeda, Harold Baines.

And the only man to do it twice: Nomar Garciaparra (once in 1999, then on his birthday in 2002).

Bryce Harper. He’s a name-dropper, isn’t he? But also a creator of incredible moments and memories.

FROM BOTH SIDES NOW — Six months ago, Jordan Montgomery started Game 2 of the World Series for Texas against the Diamondbacks. Thanks to his fun-filled journey through free agency, his next start will be for the Diamondbacks.

Perhaps you’re wondering: How rare is it for any starting pitcher to go from the team that won the World Series one year to starting for the team that lost the World Series the next year? My friends from STATS had the answer.


John Lackey


Red Sox


Don Gullett  




Sal Maglie 




(Source: STATS Perform)

WHAT AN ENTRANCE — Speaking of the team that won the World Series … we need to talk about Wyatt Langford.

Not even nine months after the Rangers took him with the fourth overall pick in the draft, he was batting fifth — for the World Series champs — on Opening Day. But that isn’t even the Weird and Wild part, because …

The Cubs intentionally walked him! In his fourth trip to the plate in the big leagues, on Opening Day, Wyatt Langford got intentionally walked. Wow.

On one hand, that’s not quite as rare as you’d think, in part because a lot of hitters making their debut used to bat in front of the pitcher. On the other hand, here’s a thing that’s probably more rare than you’d think:

He was intentionally walked in the first game of his career even though he was batting in the lineup of a team that won the last World Series. After a fun spin through Baseball Reference, I can tell you just how unusual that is.

Langford was the first player to get intentionally walked in his major-league debut for the defending World Series champs in nearly 70 years. Last to pull off that feat: Chico Fernandez, for the Brooklyn Dodgers, on July 14, 1956. But wait. There’s more, because …

He also drove in the first run of the season! Think about that. The dude who drove in the first run of the season — for the defending World Series champions — was making his big-league debut. I got kind of curious about how rare that is. Baseball Reference’s Kenny Jackelen solved that mystery.

We’re now 120 years into the World Series era. The Baseball Reference play-by-play database is mostly complete back to 1912. And in all those years, only one other man has ever knocked in the first run of the season for The Champs in the first game of his big-league career.

That was Ryan Jackson, who drove in Cliff Floyd for the first run of the 1998 Florida (Fire Sale) Marlins’ season. Alas, Jackson would drive in only 40 more runs in his career. But if 40 is the over/under on Wyatt Langford, I’ll take the “over.” As in way over.

EASY AS 1-2-3 — Apparently, it’s Big League Debut Day here at the Wild and Weird column. So here’s a toast to Yankees rookie Clayton Beeter.

He undoubtedly would never have forgotten his first trip to the mound in the big leagues no matter how that worked out. But on March 29, when he pitched the ninth inning in Houston, he did something we literally have no record of anyone else doing.

Here’s how his first inning in the big leagues went. First pitch: Jose Altuve single … second pitch: Yordan Alvarez double play … third pitch: Kyle Tucker fly ball.

Anyone adding along at home out there? That’s three outs … on three pitches! And that struck loyal reader Dylan Vazzano as, uh, not normal.

Good call, Dylan! The pitch-count era goes back to 1988 (37 seasons). Here’s your complete rundown of every pitcher whose debut went “one inning pitched … three pitches:”

Clayton Beeter.
End of list!

SALE OF THE CENTURY — Chris Sale has made 264 starts in the majors. But last Saturday, he did something in his first start for the Braves that definitely didn’t look familiar. Namely, this …

So what was so Weird and Wild about that? Oh, only this little tidbit: After all those starts and more than 7,000 batters faced in the American League, what did he do against the first batter he ever faced in the National League? He gave up his first leadoff home run … to a left-handed hitter. Baseball is something, isn’t it?

START SPREADING THIS NEWS — Just in case you haven’t ridden through the Lincoln Tunnel lately, I thought I’d helpfully point out this Weird and Wild trend sweeping through the busy streets of New York.

The Yankees: started 5-0

The Mets: started 0-5

Hey, those two things are not like each other, right? So I asked the great Katie Sharp of Baseball Reference how rare it is for one New York team to be undefeated and another winless five games (or more) into any season. It won’t take long to go through this list!

(For the record, she didn’t count ties in the years before lights.)



Yanks (5-0)

Mets (0-5*)


Giants (7-0)

Yanks (0-5)


Giants (9-0)

Robins (0-9)

SUSPENDED ANIMATION — Before we move on from the Mets … how’s Carlos Mendoza’s tenure as Mets manager going so far? It’s been historically rocky, as a matter of fact. And would you believe we’re not even talking about the standings part of that tenure?

That’s because, thanks to some entertaining Rhys Hoskins drama, Mendoza got suspended for his third game as a big-league manager.

We don’t have enough suspension data to tell you if that’s an all-time record. But we do have enough suspension data to tell you it’s a record for the last 25 seasons. And not just for a first-year manager.

Earliest any manager got suspended in those 25 seasons: Game 10, by David Bell in 2019. The back story of that one: Thank you, Yasiel Puig!

MISSING PERSONS BUREAU — Once upon a time, in a creative attempt to fill space, I used to turn attendance figures upside-down and compute baseball’s non-attendance leaders. All it took was a little subtraction, and boom. We had ourselves an empty seats leaderboard.

Well, it’s a good thing for what’s left of the Oakland A’s that we’re not doing that leaderboard this year because they might make empty seat history. I don’t need to spend any time on how we got here. Just know this part:

Attendance at this team’s first home series of the year: 26,902 — for four games.

That seemed kind of sparse. So Katie Sharp went hunting for the last time any team had played before that few witnesses in its first series of the year. Let’s just say it wasn’t in this century.

We should note that attendance data isn’t complete back to the beginning of baseball time. And obviously, this research excluded the 2020-21 pandemic seasons. But now that that’s out of the way, the last team we know for sure drew that few fans in any four-game opening series was Whitey Wietelmann’s 1945 Boston Braves!

That team attracted only 15,327 customers for four games against the Giants. And even though there was a doubleheader in there, yikes!

That Braves team’s average attendance that year, according to Baseball Reference, was a whopping 1,663. I don’t think even these A’s can beat that record. But the fact that we’re even two paragraphs into that comparison is basically terrifying.

ONE MORE REASON TO VISIT PHILADELPHIA — If you’re trying to win the World Series, it’s now clear which team you want the schedule-makers to match you up with on Opening Day. Take a look.











 (*Scheduled as the opener, but changed because of the lockout)

That’s right. Three years in a row now, the schedule-makers have lined up the Phillies to face the team that would go on to win that year’s World Series. (Yeah, yeah. That Astros series actually wound up being moved to the last series of the season, but humor me.)

And which team did the Phillies open up against this season? That would be the winningest team in baseball last season, the Braves. We should note here that past performance is no guarantee of future results. But when I mentioned this tidbit to a few Braves last week, they seemed to think it was kinda meaningful!

This week in Strange But Trueness

TROUT FISHING IN AMERICA — The good news for Mike Trout was, he homered on Opening Day … for the fourth time.

OK, ready for the bad news? As Tungsten Arm O’Doyle undoubtedly could tell you (if he existed), the Angels have never won an Opening Day game in which Mike Trout homered.

WE INTERRUPT THIS TRIP TO THE DOUGHNUT SHOP — Let’s recap the Blue Jays’ exceptionally Strange But True visit to Houston this week.

Monday — get no hits
Tuesday — get shut out for 8 2/3 innings*
Wednesday — get one hit

*We left out the important part!

So here’s what the Jays’ offensive output for that series nearly looked like: 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000. But instead, with two outs in the ninth on Tuesday and the Astros leading, 1-0, the darndest thing happened:

So I don’t know what you were thinking when Davis Schneider’s shocking game-winning home run left the bat. But I know what I was thinking:

Has any team ever been no-hit one day, then shut out by the same team for eight innings the next day and then, whaddayaknow, hit a go-ahead home run with two outs in the ninth?

That answer, according to Katie Sharp, was … nope! In the Baseball Reference play-by-play database back to 1912, no team had ever won a game quite like that … until Davis Schneider had other plans.

YOU CAN GO HOME AGAIN — One of the cool things about baseball is that there are so many ways to win a game. But here’s what we have to say about the way the Pirates won on Opening Day in Miami:

Don’t try that at home!

In an all-time Strange But True special, the Pirates had a runner thrown out at home in the 10th and 11th and 12th innings — and won anyway! Even in a world in which the Zombie Runner has made all kinds of extra-inning wackiness possible, winning that way just can’t be possible.

How many times since 1912 has any team had runners thrown out at the plate in three straight extra innings and still won? That would be none in the entire Baseball Reference database, according to Kenny Jackelen.

In fact, he could find only one other game in that database in which a team won a game after having three runners wiped out at home in any combination of three different extra innings. That was a game on June 4, 1959, in which the White Sox had runners thrown out at the plate in the 10th, 12th and 13th, but wound up beating the Orioles in the 17th on a walk-off home run by Earl (Enough Already) Torgeson.

Hey, that was 65 years ago. So how Strange But True was that Pirates game? SBT enough to make this column!

PITCHING IN — An even Stranger But Truer thing happened to the Diamondbacks on Tuesday. They ended the game with the bases loaded in the 11th inning, down a run to the Yankees and a pitcher at the plate?

Here you go. See for yourself.

That was poor D-Backs reliever Scott McGough, forced into the lineup after a 10th-inning injury to Geraldo Perdomo, getting rung up (dubiously!) by plate ump Brian Walsh. And that was your ball game. But that’s not all. That was Strange But True history being made.

The last time a pitcher struck out with the bases full to end a regular-season game — That was July 13, 2019. Luis Perdomo (Padres) taking a third strike from Luke Jackson (Braves) in the 10th. But that was a game played under good old fashioned NL rules. So …

The last time that happened in a regular-season game played with a designated hitter — Whoa. That answer would be … never!

The last time it happened where the tying run was on third, in a game with a DH — Wait. That also would be … never!

The last time it happened where the tying run was on any base, in a game with a DH — One more time, that answer is … never!

Closest I could find — Quick question: Was Darnell McDonald really a “pitcher?” Not in real life, but he got dragged from the Boston outfield to the mound at Fenway Park in the 17th inning on May 6, 2012, in one of the wildest games of the 21st century.

He then gave up three runs to the Orioles in the top of the 17th. And a few minutes later, he wound up as the final batter of the game, facing fellow position player Chris Davis with two on … and bounced into a 6-4-3 double play. But since the tying run wasn’t on base and Darnell wasn’t even really a pitcher, that wasn’t the same thing at all. Was it?

But here’s the point. The DH era began 52 seasons ago. And in all that time, under DH rules, only one pitcher has ever made the final out of a regular-season game with the tying (let alone go-ahead) run on base. And that pitcher was … Scott McGough on Tuesday night!

Take a bow, Scott McGough. (Darren Yamashita / USA Today)

Strange but True Video Daily Doubles

Sometimes in baseball, the pictures speak weirder (and also wilder) than the words. So I thought I’d prove that point this week!

THE OLD 5-3-1 TWO-FOR-ONE SPECIAL — Ever seen a 5-3-1 double play, third to first to the pitcher? I can almost guarantee you haven’t. Not with the second out at home plate. But check out this Wyatt Langford base-running adventure on Monday in Tampa Bay — a play we only know about because Texas radio legend Eric Nadel made sure we didn’t miss it.

Yep, that was really the sight of a guy trying to score from first on a groundball to the third baseman. So when’s the last time that happened? How about never!

Katie Sharp was cool enough to rummage through the entire Baseball Reference play-by-play database, back to 1912. And how many double plays did she find like that — with a “routine” groundball to the third baseman turning into outs at first and home, with the pitcher covering?

Yep. That would be none. But hang on. We’re not done here.

FEEL THE BURNES — All right, next! Ever heard of a 1-2-5-1-2-3 out at home plate? I doubt it. But it happened Wednesday night in waterlogged Baltimore. The voice of the Orioles, Kevin Brown, had barely entered this one on his scorecard when he checked in to ask how rare a play that was. So take a look. You’ll probably never see one like this again.

There were all sorts of amazing things that happened during this adventure. Bobby Witt Jr. stayed in the rundown so long, I think Chiefs training camp had opened by the time he got tagged out. And the hitter, Vinnie Pasquantino, somehow managed to chug all the way to third base on a one-hopper back to the pitcher.

But here’s the most amazing part of all. Katie Sharp again combed through the Baseball Reference database to see how unusual this was. She found only one other 1-2-5-1-2-3 out in over a century’s worth of baseball games. But here’s the Strange But True part:

The previous 1-2-5-1-2-3 was almost exactly the same play!

Pirates-Cubs, on Aug. 2, 2011. Marlon Byrd was the hitter. And just like this 1-2-5-1-2-3 special, it happened in the top of the first … with one out. And like these Orioles, those Cubs wriggled out of that inning moments later. Déjà vu!

Since it’s the first Weird and Wild column of 2024, how can I not wax poetic about the sheer impossibility of stuff like this. How can the planets line up exactly the same way twice, to produce almost identical plays, but then no other plays like it in a century? It makes no sense, does it? But that, my friends, is why we love it — because it’s one more reminder of the quintessential Strangeness But Trueness of the one-of-a-kind sport of …




Happy New Year, Baseball: 15 wild ways Week 1 of the 2024 season was nothing like 2023

(Top photo of Ronel Blanco: Logan Riely / Getty Images)

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *