Highs - and Lows - of Baseball '94

Memories of half a season include home-run rallies, amazing comebacks, and a one-man triple-playmaker

Move back the fences!

Initial indications that 1994 would be the year of the home run (and perhaps a livelier ball) came early and often. St. Louis's Ray Lankford, the season's first batter, hit a home run against Cincinnati April 3. The next day, in Wrigley Field's opener, Chicago Cubs' centerfielder Karl Rhodes set a major league opening-game record with three homers in his first three at-bats. By the end of the week, 186 homers were belted in 79 games, 58 more than were hit during 80 games in the first week of the '93 season.

Unexpected pitching gems

Atlanta's Kent Mercker lived up to manager Bobby Cox's decision to name him the fifth starter by tossing the season's first no-hitter, shutting down the Dodgers, 6 to 0, on April 8.

Minnesota turned up its own surprise ace in Scott Erickson, a struggling journeyman pitcher who handcuffed the hitless Milwaukee Brewers on the night of April 27. His next start was more typical, as Erickson gave up a hit to Milwaukee's first batter and proceeded to allow nine hits and seven runs before being lifted after five innings.

`Coop loop

Boston third baseman Scott Cooper broke out of a slump April 12 most emphatically - hitting for the cycle, with a single, double, triple, and home run in one game (actually collecting two doubles while driving in five runs during a 5-for-6 outing against Kansas City.) Cooper had never before hit for the cycle, not even as a Little Leaguer, and wouldn't have this time if he hadn't been thrown out attempting an inside-the-park home run. As a result, he was credited with an often-elusive triple.

Futility record

The Chicago Cubs tortured their faithful fans prematurely this year, losing the team's first 12 home games. The slump broke a 92-year club record for futility. The streak was halted two games short of the National League record for consecutive home losses set by the Boston Braves.

Assorted lowlights

* Six months after appearing in the World Series, the Philadelphia Phillies set a club record for losses in April, with 14.

* Oakland's Manny Jiminez walked five runners in the fourth inning of a 7-to-5 loss to the Yankees on April 30, Oakland's 12th straight.

* Before a home crowd, St. Louis set a major-league record by stranding 16 runners in a 4-to-0 loss to the Phillies on May 24.

Impressive comeback

Trailing 8-to-1 in the ninth inning, the Atlanta Braves rallied to tie Philadelphia and eventually win the May 10 contest in extra innings, 9 to 8. Pitcher Mike Stanton bunted home the winning run in the 15th inning.

Notable efforts

* Kansas City's David Cone pitched his third straight shutout, a one-hitter, in a 4-to-0 defeat of California May 22.

* On July 8, Boston shortstop John Valentin became the 11th player in major league history to complete an unassisted triple play, retiring the Seattle Mariners by snagging a line drive, then putting out two runners caught off base, one by stepping on second base and the other by tagging him as he headed to second.

* Giants centerfielder Darren Lewis committed the first error of his career, ending a major league record 392-game streak when he charged a grounder and the ball skipped under his glove in a June 30 game against Montreal.

Expo's heartbreak hurlers

On April 13, Montreal's Pedro Martinez took a no-hitter against Cincinnati into the ninth, but had it spoiled by a leadoff single. The inning before, his bid for a perfect game was ended when he plunked Reggie Sanders, who caused a bench-clearing brawl when he charged the mound. Montreal won, 3 to 2.

On June 13, Jeff Fassero lost his bid for a no-hitter against Pittsburgh with two outs in the top of the ninth when Carlos Garcia's line drive bounced off his glove. Fassero scrambled after the ball as it rolled toward third base and threw to first, but Garcia barely beat it out with a head-first slide. Montreal went on to win, 10 to 2, but Fassero was removed from the game after allowing a two-run homer.

Big score, small crowd

The smallest Yankee Stadium crowd (5,851) in 22 years witnessed New York's highest-run output at the stadium in 39 years, during an 18-6 April 7 shellacking of the Texas Rangers.

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