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Weirdest Things That Happened in Major League Baseball Last Season

Shane Bieber, Cleveland Indians

Cleveland's Shane Bieber did something extraordinary on Opening Day last season, setting the stage for another MLB campaign full of weird occurrences

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 2022 Baseball Annual, Sarah Langs takes a look back at the most extraordinary (and weird) things to happen in the 2021 season.

April

April 1 – Cleveland’s Shane Bieber strikes out 12 batters on Opening Day, a year after having 14 Ks on Opening Day 2020, joining Nolan Ryan, Bob Gibson and Randy Johnson as the only modern-era (since 1900) pitchers with multiple 12-strikeout season openers.

April 2 – Yermín Mercedes of the White Sox goes 5-for-5 in his first career start, joining Washington’s Cecil Travis (5/16/1933) as the only MLB players in the modern era to have five hits in their first career starts.

April 16 – The A’s become the third team in MLB history with a six-game win streak and six-game losing streak — each within the team’s first 14 games of the season in the same year. They join the 1991 Mariners and 1915 White Sox.

April 17 – Of the 21 outs Mets pitchers get in the first game of a doubleheader, 17 are strikeouts (81 percent). That is the highest percentage of outs via strikeouts by a team’s pitchers in a game in the modern era.

April 18 – The Braves and Cubs beat each other 13-4 on consecutive days, the first time two teams have done that with that score since 1936.

April 23 – Tyler Glasnow of the Rays becomes the second pitcher in MLB history with at least four strikeouts and at least four runs allowed in an inning, joining the Phillies’ Doc White (July 21, 1902).

April 28 – Anthony Rizzo’s strikeout of Freddie Freeman is the third time in the expansion era (since 1961) that a position player who had already been an All-Star strikes out another All-Star.

Related: 54 Things That Never Happened in Baseball Until 2021

May

May 12 – Shohei Ohtani of the Angels becomes the first player to start a game on the mound then bat leadoff in his team’s next game since Ray Caldwell on July 25-26, 1916.

May 13 – Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes sets a record for most strikeouts without a walk to start a season (58) since the mound was moved to its current distance in 1893.

May 17 – Albert Pujols plays his first game for the Dodgers, making them the fourth team to have four former MVPs appear for them in a season (along with Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger and Clayton Kershaw), joining the 1996 Red Sox, 1982 Angels and 1978 Reds.

May 19 – Corey Kluber throws a no-hitter for the Yankees, marking the fourth no-no in a 15-day span, tied with a stretch in 1917 for the most over a similar span in MLB history.

May 29 – Scott Kazmir pitches in relief, 16 years and 262 days after his most recent (and only) relief appearance in 2004, marking the third-longest stretch between sequential relief appearances since 1893.

June

June 6 – Jesse Winker becomes the first player in Reds franchise history with multiple three-homer games in a single season.

June 8 – Patrick Wisdom makes his 10th start for the Cubs and hits his eighth homer in those games, tying 2019 Aristides Aquino of the Reds for most home runs by a player in his first 10 starts with a team in the modern era.

June 11 – After his 10th start of the season, the Mets’ Jacob deGrom has a .121 opponent batting average and 0.53 WHIP, both records for pitchers through their first 10 starts of a season since 1893.

June 12 – At 22 years and 88 days old, Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr. becomes the third-youngest player in MLB history to be first in MLB to 20 home runs in a season, older than only Mel Ott (1929) and Eddie Mathews (1953) when they did it.

June 19 – Each of the Orioles’ first six hits in their game vs. Toronto is a home run, the second time in the expansion era a team has done that.

June 20 – The Yankees turn their third triple play of the season, tying an MLB record done 12 times.

June 25 – Aaron Nola of the Phillies strikes out 10 straight Mets, tying the MLB record held by Tom Seaver. On Aug. 11, Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes ties Nola and Seaver with 10 straight of his own.

June 26 – Jacob deGrom allows multiple earned runs in a game for the first time all season, snapping a record streak of 12 straight starts allowing one or zero earned runs (since ER became an official stat in both leagues in 1913, among traditional starters).

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July

July 8 – Relief pitcher Daniel Camarena hits a grand slam off Max Scherzer, becoming the second player in Padres history with a grand slam as a pitcher, joining Mike Corkins, on Sept. 4, 1970, and the first reliever with a grand slam MLB-wide since Don Robinson on Sept. 12, 1985.

July 12 – Pete Alonso joins Ken Griffey Jr. (three), Yoenis Céspedes and Prince Fielder as multi-time Home Run Derby winners.

July 13 – At 22 years and 119 days old, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is the youngest player to win All-Star Game MVP.

July 29 – Joey Votto sets a Reds franchise record with a home run in his sixth straight game (the streak stretches to seven before ending).

July 30 – Ten players who were All-Stars in 2021 are traded leading up to the trade deadline: Joey Gallo, Nelson Cruz, Kyle Gibson, Adam Frazier, Eduardo Escobar, Kyle Schwarber, Max Scherzer, Craig Kimbrel, Trea Turner and Kris Bryant. That’s the most players to make the All-Star game and change teams in a single season.

August

Aug. 3 – On the day Roy Halladay's number is retired in Philadelphia, Zack Wheeler sits down 22 consecutive batters after allowing a leadoff hit, the first Phillies pitcher to retire 22 or more consecutive batters at any point in a game since Halladay in his perfect game on May 29, 2010.

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Aug. 10 – In a game of a doubleheader (which is a makeup game), the Blue Jays bat second at Angel Stadium, the fourth venue where they’ve done that in 2021. Excluding 2020, only two other teams in the modern era have batted second at that many venues in a season: the 1903 Tigers and 1902 Cleveland Bronchos.

Aug. 12 – The Cubs’ Andrew Romine makes a position player pitching appearance in which he throws to his brother, catcher Austin. The Romines are the first pair of brothers to make up the same battery in the same game since Norm and Larry Sherry in 1962, and the ninth brother pair to make up the same battery in at least one game in the modern era overall.

Aug. 14 – Tyler Gilbert of Arizona becomes the fourth pitcher to throw a no-hitter in his first career start, joining Bobo Holloman (1953), Bumpus Jones (1892) and Ted Breitenstein (1891).

September

Sept. 2 – The Giants and Dodgers enter a head-to-head series with identical .634 winning percentages, just the second time those two teams have met 130 or more games into a season each with at least.630 winning percentages, along with a September series in 1962 — a season that ended with a tiebreaker series between these same teams.

Sept. 2 – Miguel Rojas and Jonathan Villar each hit first-pitch leadoff homers in a Marlins at Mets game, the first time that both teams’ leadoff hitters have hit a first-pitch leadoff HR in the same game since pitch counts have been tracked (1988).

Sept. 3 – Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina of St. Louis make their 300th career start as a battery, the fourth battery to reach the milestone since 1900.

Sept. 6 – Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hits his 40th home run of the season, making him and his father the second father-son combo to each hit 40 homers in a season, along with Cecil and Prince Fielder.

Sept. 10 – Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera becomes the first player to have hits in at least nine straight at-bats at age 38 or older since Ty Cobb, also for the Tigers, in 1925.

Sept. 12 – Max Scherzer reaches 3,000 strikeouts in his 404th career game, the second-fewest games needed to reach the milestone, behind only Randy Johnson (362).

Sept. 13 – The Giants are the first team to clinch a postseason berth, the first time they have been the first team to clinch a playoff spot since the 1987 season, when they clinched on Sept 28.

October

Oct. 7 – At 20 years and 220 days, Tampa Bay’s Wander Franco becomes the youngest player in postseason history with multiple hits in his playoff debut.

Oct. 8 – Shane Baz starts ALDS Game 2 for the Rays after just three career regular-season appearances, tied with Matt Moore (2011), also a Ray, for fewest appearances before a pitcher’s first career postseason start in MLB history.

Oct. 8 – In NLDS Game 1, Logan Webb becomes the second pitcher with a scoreless outing with 10 or more strikeouts and no walks in his postseason debut, joining Jake Arrieta (2015).

Oct. 10 – In ALDS Game 3, and in 11 total games in the 2021 playoffs, Yuli Gurriel becomes the third player to start a postseason game batting seventh or lower the year he won a batting title, joining Bill Mueller (2003) and Carl Furillo (1953).

Oct. 11 – Eduardo Rodríguez strikes out Austin Meadows on 18 pitches in the third inning of ALDS Game 4, the most pitches in a postseason plate appearance as far back as we have pitch counts (1988).

Oct. 11 – Max Scherzer notches a 10-strikeout postseason game for the Dodgers in NLDS Game 3, making him the first pitcher to do so for three franchises (also Tigers, Nationals).

Oct. 14 – At 37 years and 79 days old in NLDS Game 5, Max Scherzer becomes the oldest pitcher to record a save in a winner-take-all game since saves became official in 1969.

Oct. 18 – With Boston’s win in ALCS Game 3, Alex Cora joins Tony La Russa as the only managers with multiple postseason managerial wins on their birthdays.

Oct. 22 – The Astros clinch the pennant in ALCS Game 6, bringing Dusty Baker back to the World Series for the first time since 2002. Between World Series appearances, Baker managed 54 postseason games, the most postseason games managed between World Series games.

Oct. 30 – Houston’s Zack Greinke bats eighth in World Series Game 4, becoming the second pitcher in World Series history to start a game batting anywhere other than 9th, joining Babe Ruth in 1918 World Series Game 4, who hit sixth in that game.

Oct. 31 – In World Series Game 5, Atlanta’s Adam Duvall hits the third first-inning grand slam of the 2021 postseason. There had been six grannies in postseason history entering 2021, and no year had ever had multiple.

Oct. 31 – Zack Greinke of the Astros becomes the first pitcher with a pinch-hit base hit in the playoffs since Jack Bentley, in Games 1 and 4 of the 1923 World Series.

November

Nov. 2 – The Braves finish their World Series-winning run with 12 postseason home runs from players who played for another team the same season, the most by any team in a single postseason. They had 59 total homers by players who were not on their Opening Day roster, including postseason, the most in MLB history.

Nov. 2 – At 66 years and 16 days old, Atlanta’s Brian Snitker is the second-oldest manager at the time of his first World Series title, behind only 72-year-old Jack McKeon (Marlins) in 2003.

Nov. 15 – Ian Anderson and Ryan Mountcastle join Gregg Jefferies as the only players to receive Rookie of the Year votes in multiple seasons.

Nov. 16 – Tampa’s Kevin Cash becomes the second manager to win Manager of the Year in back-to-back years, joining Atlanta’s Bobby Cox (2004-05).

Nov. 17 – Toronto’s Robbie Ray wins the AL Cy Young the year after posting a 6.62 ERA. That is the highest-ever ERA for a pitcher in the season prior to winning a Cy Young.

Nov. 18 – Bryce Harper wins his second MVP Award with his second franchise (Phillies, after Nationals in 2015), becoming the fifth player to win MVP with multiple franchises since the BBWAA began voting in 1931, joining Frank Robinson (Reds, Orioles), Barry Bonds (Pirates, Giants), Alex Rodriguez (Rangers, Yankees) and Jimmie Foxx (Athletics, Red Sox).

(Source for some of this material: Elias Sports Bureau; pending the inclusion of Negro Leagues stats)

— Compiled by Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) for the Athlon Sports 2022 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.