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Baseball’s Most Unusual Season Is Halfway Over


“People were like, ‘Why?’” Neshek said. “Nobody had it before — pretty simple explanation.”

Another reliever, Adam Cimber, became the first to wear No. 90 that season, first for San Diego and then for Cleveland. After Neshek took 93, only four numbers were still unused: 80, 86, 89 and 92.

No. 80 came off the board last year, when pitcher Ryan Eades wore it for Minnesota. Two more numbers fell this month, with St. Louis reliever Genesis Cabrera donning No. 92 on Aug. 15 and another Cardinals reliever, Jesus Cruz, using No. 86 three days later.

Now, the final frontier has arrived: No. 89, issued to Yankees pitcher Miguel Yajure, who was promoted to the majors last week. Yajure, a 22-year-old right-hander from Venezuela, is awaiting his quirkily groundbreaking debut.

Last Monday was the 100th anniversary of the death of Ray Chapman, the only major league player to be killed by a pitched ball. Chapman, the Cleveland Indians’ shortstop, was struck in the head by the Yankees’ Carl Mays at the Polo Grounds the day before. Mays, a submariner, had noticed Chapman moving his back foot, perhaps to bunt, as he delivered the fatal fastball up and in.

Chapman holds a lesser known distinction in baseball: He remains the single-season leader in sacrifice bunts, with 67 in 1917, a record that may stand forever. Without pitchers batting this season, teams were averaging 0.07 sacrifices per game through Saturday, the lowest percentage ever. Nine teams have zero sacrifice bunts all season.

Before opening day last month, the Reds’ Trevor Bauer pointed out that every start would feel more like a series than a single game. One game in a 60-game season is the equivalent of 2.7 games in the usual 162-game schedule.

“Higher stakes,” he wrote in a text message. “My favorite.”

It sure seems that way. Through the weekend, Bauer was 3-0 with a major-league-best 0.68 E.R.A. in four starts, including two seven-inning shutouts. He also led the majors in walks plus hits per inning pitched (0.57) and fewest hits per nine innings (2.7).

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