A rundown of the odd, offbeat and unexpected occurrences of the equally unusual 2020 season
Baseball seasons are nothing if not unique, with history being made one way or another nearly every day. In a feature from the Athlon Sports 2021 Baseball Annual, Sarah Langs takes a look back at the most extraordinary (and weird) things to happen in the historic 2020 season.
Feb. 10: The Red Sox trade Mookie Betts to the Dodgers, marking the fifth time an MVP winner has been traded since Aug. 2017.
July 23: The 2020 season begins, snapping a stretch of 266 days without regular-season or postseason games since the 2019 World Series ended — the longest such stretch in MLB history.
July 23: New Yankee and former Astro Gerrit Cole faces off against the Nationals' Max Scherzer on Opening Day, after the two started against each other in Game 1 of the 2019 World Series. It's just the second time that two starters who faced off in a game of the prior World Series have met on Opening Day.
July 24: The Blue Jays start an infield — Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Travis Shaw — in which every player's father played professionally, becoming the second team to start such an infield. The Dodgers started Ivan DeJesus Jr., Jerry Hairston Jr., Dee Gordon, and Scott Van Slyke on June 1, 2012.
July 26: After 861 career plate appearances batting lefty, Ji-Man Choi bats righty against the Blue Jays. After a strikeout, he homers in the sixth inning, marking the most career plate appearances from one side before a homer from the other among non-switch-hitters since Hal Trosky in 1935.
July 27: Tyler Stephenson homers in his first career at-bat, becoming the first Reds player to do so since Ted Tappe on Sept. 14, 1950.
Aug. 4: Mike Trout homers in his first plate appearance in his return from paternity leave after the birth of his first child. His "dad strength" is on display the next day, too, when he has a multi-homer game.
Aug. 8: The Pirates' Derek Holland allows four home runs in the first inning to the Tigers, the first time in franchise history that Pittsburgh has allowed four home runs in the first. Holland is the eighth pitcher to allow four home runs in the first inning of a game. It is the first time the Tigers have hit four home runs in the first inning of a game since July 29, 1974, against the Indians.
Aug. 11: For the first time since 1915, the state of New York hosts MLB games at three different ballparks on the same day, when the Yankees and Mets have home games on the first day that the Blue Jays play as the home team at Buffalo's Sahlen Field.
Aug. 11: Daniel Bard gets a save for the Rockies against the Diamondbacks, his first at the MLB level since 2011 with the Red Sox. The 2020 season was Bard's first in the majors since 2013.
Aug. 17: Brothers Kyle and Corey Seager both hit home runs in the Mariners' game at the Dodgers. They're the first pair of brothers to homer as opponents in a game since Felipe and Cesar Crespo on June 7, 2001.
Aug. 23: Jose Abreu ties an MLB record by homering in four straight at-bats.
Aug. 31: Shane Bieber strikes out 82 batters in his first 50 innings of the season, the most all-time for a pitcher's first 50 IP of a season.
Sept. 1: Alex Dickerson becomes the first player in Giants history with five extra-base hits in a game, knocking three homers and two doubles vs. the Rockies at Coors Field.
Sept. 4: Freddie Freeman hits his first career grand slam on his 233rd career home run, the second-most homers for any player before hitting his first career grand slam. Two days later, Freeman hits homer No. 234 — another grand slam.
Sept. 5: In the second game of a doubleheader at Angel Stadium, with the Angels batting first, Anthony Rendon hits a go-ahead, three-run homer in the top of the seventh in the final scheduled frame — but the home run is not a walk-off, with the Astros batting second in the rescheduled game that was initially slated to be played in Houston.
Sept. 8: Minnesota's Nelson Cruz homers in both ends of a doubleheader for the third time in 2020. He's the first player with three such doubleheaders in a season since 1964, when the Twins' Harmon Killebrew and the Indians' Johnny Romano each homered in both games of a doubleheader three times.
Sept. 9: Adam Duvall crushes three home runs in the Braves' 29–9 victory over the Marlins, marking his second three-homer game in Sept. 2020. He is the only player in Braves history with multiple three-homer games in a career, let alone a single season or month. On Sept. 2, Duvall had knocked three home runs the night after teammate Marcell Ozuna did the same, making them the first teammates in MLB history with three-homer outputs in back-to-back games.
Sept. 10: The Dodgers' Mookie Betts makes his 15th career MLB start at second base, and first since Sept. 28, 2014, for the Red Sox against the Yankees.
Sept. 11: Luis Garcia allows four runs on one hit without recording an out in a start against the A's, when Matt Olson hits a grand slam. Garcia is the first Rangers pitcher to allow four or more runs in a start in which he did not record an out since Nolan Ryan on Sept. 22, 1993.
Sept. 13: The Cubs' Alec Mills throws the second no-hitter of 2020, joining Lucas Giolito of the White Sox, who did so on Aug. 25. It's the first time both Chicago teams have thrown no-hitters in the same season.
Sept. 13: Albert Pujols hits his 660th career home run, tying Willie Mays for fifth most all-time, on the same day of Alec Mills' no-hitter. It's the third time he's shared the spotlight when reaching a major milestone: In 2018, he got his 3,000th hit on the day the Dodgers threw a no-hitter, and in 2017, he hit his 600th homer the day Edinson Volquez threw a no-hitter for the Marlins.
Sept. 16: Kyle Higashioka hits three home runs batting ninth, becoming the first Yankees player ever to do so and the sixth player to do it in the modern era for any team.
Sept. 16: Jacob deGrom does not record a strikeout in his first time through the Phillies' batting order, the first time he has faced the first nine batters without a strikeout since April 10, 2017.
Sept. 17: The Yankees hit five home runs in the fourth inning against the Blue Jays, tying the MLB record for a single inning and posting the seventh such inning.
Sept. 17: Both the Yankees and Phillies hit three straight home runs, in separate games. It's the third day in MLB history in which multiple teams hit three straight home runs on the same day, along with April 9, 2000 (Royals, Twins in same game) and Aug. 22, 1999 (D-backs, Giants).
Sept. 18: Todd Frazier pitches the ninth inning in a 15–2 Mets loss, making his first career professional pitching appearance. He was the winning pitcher and finished the game when his team won the Little League World Series in 1998.
Sept. 22: The White Sox and Cubs both lose via walk-off home runs, doing so on the same day for the first time ever.
Sept. 23: Shane Bieber's regular season concludes with him striking out at least eight batters in each of his 12 starts. That's the second-longest streak of games with at least eight strikeouts to start a season and tied for the longest such streak to end a season (Pedro Martinez, 1997).
Sept. 26: Joe Musgrove throws seven scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts, his second straight start with 10 or more punchouts and no runs allowed. He's the first Pirates pitcher in the modern era to do that in back-to-back outings.
Sept. 29: Adam Engel homers off Jesus Luzardo in the second inning, becoming the first White Sox player with a home run in his first career postseason at-bat.
Sept. 30: There are eight playoff games on this date, the most on a single day in postseason history.
Sept. 30: The Twins lose ALWC Game 2 to the Astros and are swept out of the postseason. It's Minnesota's 18th straight postseason loss, the longest streak in the four major North American sports — by two losses.
Oct. 1: Fernando Tatis Jr. and Wil Myers each record multi-homer games in NLWC Game 2. It's the second time in postseason history that a team has two players with multi-homer games in the same game, joining the 1932 Yankees in World Series Game 3, when Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig did so.
Oct. 5: Alex Bregman homers on the precise date of Oct. 5 for the fourth straight postseason. He's the only player to hit a home run on the same date in four postseasons, let alone four consecutive, as he's done.
Oct. 6: Ryan Weathers makes his MLB debut for the Padres in Game 1 of the NLDS. He is the third player to make his debut in the 2020 postseason, joining the Twins' Alex Kirilloff and the Rays' Shane McClanahan. Prior to 2020, only two players had made their MLB debuts in the postseason in the modern era — Mark Kiger in 2006 and Adalberto MondesÃ in 2015.
Oct. 6: George Springer hits two home runs in ALDS Game 2 at Dodger Stadium, which is serving as a neutral site, to tie for the second-most postseason home runs at the venue, behind Reggie Jackson (six).
Oct. 9: The Rays beat the Yankees in the ALDS thanks to a go-ahead solo homer from Mike Brosseau off Aroldis Chapman in the eighth inning. Chapman is the only pitcher in postseason history to allow a go-ahead home run in the eighth inning or later with his team facing elimination multiple times (2019 ALCS Game 6).
Oct. 12-15: The Braves' first four starters in the NLCS have a combined 75 career regular-season starts (Max Fried 50, Ian Anderson six, Kyle Wright 12, Bryse Wilson seven), the fewest combined regular-season starts by the first four starters for a team in a postseason series.
Oct. 14: Cristian Pache hits his first career home run, doing so in NLCS Game 3. He's the seventh player in MLB history to hit his first career home run in the postseason and the third non-pitcher on the list, joining Melvin Mora (1999) and Frank Demaree (1932).
Oct. 16: Corey Seager hits two home runs in NLCS Game 5, marking the third multi-homer game by a shortstop in the 2020 postseason. It's the first time there have been even two such games by shortstops in a single postseason, let alone three.
Oct. 17: The Rays win the ALCS in seven games, which were decided by a combined 13 runs. That's tied for the fewest runs deciding any seven-game series in postseason history, with the 1972 World Series and 1924 World Series.
Oct. 23: Austin Barnes has a run-scoring sac bunt and a home run in World Series Game 3. The last player with each of those in a World Series game was Hector Lopez in 1961 Game 5 for the Yankees.
Oct. 27: The Dodgers win the World Series, giving Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen each their first title. Kershaw and Jansen's 19 and 16 postseason rounds before winning the '20 World Series are the most and second-most, respectively, by anyone before winning his first title.
Oct. 27: The Dodgers use seven pitchers in their World Series-clinching win in Game 6, the most by a team in a nine-inning title-clinching game.
Nov. 11: Trevor Bauer wins NL Cy Young Award honors, the first Reds pitcher to do so. The only teams left to never win one are the Rangers, Marlins, and Rockies.
(Source for some of this material: Elias Sports Bureau)
— Compiled by Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) for the Athlon Sports 2021 MLB Annual. At 224 pages, it's the largest on the newsstand and the most complete preview available today. Click here to get your copy.
(Freddie Freeman photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon via AP)