Soto, and a history of time-bending feats in MLB

June 19th, 2018

Juan Soto, the 19-year-old Nationals rookie outfielder, is such a phenom that he can even bend time.
Well, not really. But Soto did find himself in the middle of a bizarre baseball incident on Monday, inking his name permanently in the "oddities" section of the MLB history books. In doing so, he joined an esteemed collection of players who also have experienced the wackiness that occurs when games are suspended.
Here's what happened. On May 15, when Soto went 3-for-4 for the Double-A Harrisburg Senators, the Nationals hosted the Yankees in a game that was tied, 3-3, when it was suspended due to rain in the middle of the sixth inning.
Five days later, Soto debuted for Washington and has been raking ever since. On Monday evening, the Nats and Yankees resumed the suspended game, and in the bottom of the sixth, Soto pinch-hit for Matt Adams and walloped a huge two-run homer to right field to send his club on to a 5-3 victory. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, while the stats for the entire game will count as occurring on May 15, Soto's debut will remain May 20, and the homer he hit May 21 will continue to be recognized as his first in the Majors.

Soto wasn't the only player caught up in Monday's time-bending events. For example, Yankees right-hander started the game and pitched five innings, but by the time it resumed, was on the 10-day disabled list. , New York's original starter at first base, homered in the fourth inning, but wasn't available Monday because he'd been optioned to Triple-A in the interim.
The Nationals, meanwhile, lost a pair of their original starting position players, with second baseman out for the season with an Achilles injury and center fielder sent to the Minors. The Nats even looked different -- having started the game in blue jerseys and finished it in red ones -- while began the game bearded and ended it clean-shaven.
And this wasn't the first time that a suspended game created some unusual situations. Here is a look back through baseball history at some other related oddities:
• Soto has company when it comes to playing before his official MLB debut. Among the other notable players to have done so is none other than Barry Bonds, who went 0-for-5 with a walk and three strikeouts for the Pirates in his actual first game, against the Dodgers, on May 30, 1986. However, on Aug. 11, Pittsburgh resumed an April 20 game at Wrigley Field in the top of the 14th inning, and three innings later, Bonds smacked a pinch-hit, go-ahead, RBI single in a 10-8 Bucs victory.
6 players who somehow debuted before their debuts
• Soto now has something in common with another sweet-swinging lefty outfielder who made it to the Majors as a teenager. That would be Ken Griffey Jr., who was caught in some suspended-game shenanigans in 2008. Look at Griffey's game log for that year, and you will notice something strange -- he played for two different teams on April 28.
Did Junior teleport? Not really. In reality, he was dealt from the Reds to the White Sox at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, and then, on Aug. 25, his new ballclub resumed a suspended game against the Orioles. In the bottom of the 14th, Griffey pinch-hit and was intentionally walked, on the same day that, technically, he had gone 2-for-4 for the Reds at St. Louis.

• Suspended games have had some confusing implications on milestone chases, too. Take Alex Rodriguez, who was pursuing his 500th career home run while playing for the Yankees in 2007. On July 25, A-Rod cracked No. 499 at Kansas City. He had not yet hit No. 500, when on July 27, the Yankees resumed a game at Baltimore that had been suspended on June 28. Had Rodriguez homered after the game was resumed, it would have retroactively counted as No. 493 and pushed the 499th big fly to No. 500.
Rodriguez had saved the ball from No. 499, just in case. But, perhaps fortunately, he grounded out in his only at-bat after play restarted. He went on to hit his 500th homer on Aug. 4 instead.
• In one of the most infamous incidents in baseball history, Hall of Famer George Brett of the Royals hit a home run in the top of the ninth inning of a game at Yankee Stadium on July 24, 1983, only to be ruled out by the umpiring crew for his use of pine tar on his bat. Brett went ballistic, rushing out of the dugout. The Royals protested the game, and MLB upheld it, reinstating Brett's homer and resuming the game from that point on Aug. 18, with Kansas City finishing off a 5-4 win.
Looking back on Brett's pine-tar game
Perhaps the strangest part of the resumed game was the Yankees' lineup for the remainder of the top of the ninth. Left-handed first baseman Don Mattingly played second base in place of starter Bert Campaneris, who had since landed on the DL. Pitcher Ron Guidry was stationed in center field in place of Jerry Mumphrey, who was traded to Houston on Aug. 10. Neither Mattingly nor Guidry factored into the action, as Hal McRae -- the only Royals batter to step to the plate after play resumed -- struck out.
• Two-time All-Star closer Joel Hanrahan once won a game for the Nationals while he was actually with the Pirates. On May 5, 2009, Hanrahan entered a game for Washington in the top of the 11th inning against the Astros and worked around three hits to pitch a scoreless frame. The game was then suspended. It didn't resume until July 9, but Hanrahan wasn't there for it, because he was traded to the Pirates on June 30. In his absence, his former teammates scored the walk-off run in the bottom of the 11th, handing Hanrahan a "W."
• The reverse situation befell pitcher Frank DiPino in 1986. Instead of winning a game when no longer with the winning team, he lost a game before he was with the losing team. On April 20 that year, the southpaw was with the Astros when the Cubs had a game against the Pirates suspended in the 14th inning. By the time it resumed on Aug. 11, DiPino had been traded to the Cubs, and in the 17th inning he was charged with the winning run on Bonds' aforementioned RBI single off Dave Gumpert.
• Imagine driving in runs for two teams … on the same day. This seemingly impossible situation became a reality -- according to the official stats -- for Cliff Johnson in 1980. On May 28 that season, Johnson went 2-for-4 with a walk and an RBI for the Indians in a win at Baltimore. On June 23, Cleveland traded Johnson to the Cubs, and on Aug. 8, Chicago resumed a suspended game against the Expos that began on May 28. Johnson entered for the Cubs as a pinch-hitter, and eventually smacked a walk-off grand slam in the 14th inning to finish his busy "day" in style.