There are a 100 reasons to love baseball and 100 is just one of them. It’s a number. Numbers are important to baseball. They chronicle the game’s history. They are very cool.
Here’s three examples:
714: The number of home runs Babe Ruth hit in his career.
56: The length of Joe DiMaggio’s record consecutive game hitting streak.
4,256: The number of hits in Pete Rose’s career.
In the context of Major League Baseball, if someone spits one of those numbers out in a trivia contest, the true baseball fan will slug a home run in response.
We have two more to add to the 2019 list. Mind you, they aren’t quite as dramatic as those above. But we guarantee they will make you shake your head in amazement.
During his MLB career dating back to 2007, Cincinnati Reds slugger Joey Votto has played in 1,592 games and has done many things multiple times.
He’s had 1,742 hits. He’s hit 270 homers. He’s walked 1,111 times. And he’s stuck out 1,205 times.
And yet, there is one thing he’d never done until Wednesday against the Los Angeles Dodgers until he stepped to the plate for the 6,828th time.
He had never popped out to first base.
How did anyone know this was going on? Was there a Votto “Pop Out To First” contest going on that we didn’t know about? And what in the world of metrics has happened to our beloved game. Does every action and reaction have a number stamped on it now?
The odds that this would have happened, that Votto, a left-handed pull hitter, could have played for so long without popping out to first are staggering.
We are told there were 2,206 pop-outs to first base in the majors just in 2018. And Baseball-Reference.com says Votto had grounded out to first 341 times and lined out to the first baseman on 15 occasions in his 13-year career. The six-time All-Star also had popped up only 88 previous times in his career, including only seven from 2010 to 2018.
And then it happened on a 3-1 pitch from Dodgers righty Pedro Baez in the eighth inning of the Reds 3-2 loss at Dodgers Stadium. Votto got under it and Cody Bellinger settled under it in foul territory.
Earlier this season, the Seattle Mariners set a record by hitting at least one homer in their first 15 games this season.
On Wednesday, in the same game Votto’s streak ended, the Dodgers did something even more remarkable.
They hit a homer in their 32th straight regular season home game. And that tied the MLB record for such things.
A.J. Pollock hit a three-run homer off Sonny Gray in the sixth inning to set the record.
“It’s a cool stat, for sure,” Pollock said. “Honestly, there’s a lot of power on this team. These guys are really trying to do damage. They’re trying to get pitches to hit, and we like hitting at home.”
The streak dates to Aug. 21, 2018 when Manny Machado hit one against the St. Louis Cardinals and it includes the first 13 home games this season. They have combined to hit 60 homers from 15 different players in the 32 games and have hit multiple shots in 15 of them. They are averaging a home run in every 17.9 at-bats during the streak.
They are now tied with the 1999 Colorado Rockies who did it over a span of three months (April 19 to July 3) in that season. The Dodgers are now on the road and won’t have a chance to break it until April 26.
The two-time defending National League champions have hit 38 homers in 20 games with 27 of them coming at home starting with a record on Opening Day.
“I think the key to success is we’re taking good at-bats,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “We’re taking walks when we need to. We’re staying in the strike zone. And we have guys that do elevate the baseball and have some power, so when we do that, the home runs are gonna come.”