[Note: a lot of stuff happened in this game and you’ve no doubt already heard most of the obvious stuff that you don’t need me to recap. So if I focus a little too much on the infirmities of the Braves starting pitching staff in this midst of a historic run outburst, my excuse is that I wrote all this while it was happening. If we score 30 runs every day, we could let Tommy Milone pitch every game. But you ain’t gonna score 30 runs in a playoff game, and it’s still worthwhile talking about starting pitching.]
I don’t usually participate in game threads on days I’m recapping: I get enough words already on those days. But the Braves entered tonight with a long, and interesting, dispute about Braves pitching. This continued a thread from the day before where there was a dispute about whether the Braves starting pitching was historically bad or just really bad. In the service of throwing some facts in that dispute I generated a list of every Braves starter with 20 or more starts in his Braves career, sorted by reverse ERA. At the “top” of that listed is one Joseph Albert Reyes, with the more common cognomen Jo-Jo. He was a 2nd round pick out of high school in Riverside, CA and put up a 6.40 ERA for the Braves in 37 starts, the worst performance in Braves history. He went on to play for Baltimore, the Angels and Miami and was much better at the tail end of his career, dropping his career ERA to 6.04. His peak performance came with the Orioles in 2011: a 79 ERA+.
But the requirement that you have 20 Braves starts restricted the field. Coming into tonight, Tommy Milone has two starts for the Braves and an ERA of 11.37. If you relax the filter to two games started, Tommy came into tonight the 2nd worst starter in Braves history, trailing only Mark Redman (11.63) and just barely edging out the late José Capellán (11.25) who also made two starts. Those three, coming into tonight, are the only two-or-more-game-starters in Braves history with career ERAs over 11. (I know what you’re thinking. What if I restricted to pitchers who started at least one game? If you do, you get a few more guys you never heard of, and Kolby Allard (12.38). And Kolby’s ERA in the one game he started, and “won,” was 7.20.)
Amazingly, the ever-started-at-least-one-game-for-the-Braves, but stunk, has some pretty familiar names on it besides Milone: Huascar Ynoa (9.82) is 15th, The Big Sexy (8.14) is 21st, Roberto (aka Fausto Carmona) Hernández (8.0) is 23rd, Aaron Blair (7.89) is 25th, Kyle Wright (7.86) is 26th, Bryse Wilson (7.58) is 28th, and Trevor Cahill (7.52) is 29th. The Braves have been playing baseball since 1876, with 549 different starting pitchers, and the fact that 9 of the worst 30 starting pitchers of all time have started for the Braves in the last 6 years makes you think that just maybe Chief Nocahoma is on to something. (Robbie Erlin (7.06) is 35th, but you have to stop somewhere.) The good news is that none of them have started that many games: Blair and Colon have more starts (29) than the rest of them put together. Ian Anderson (2.40 in 3 starts), on the other hand is 521st out of 549, still ahead of Greg Maddux (2.63 in 363 starts) who is 513th.
And one more historical note: on that list of Stinky Starters is one of my favorite baseball names ever – Tony von Fricken, whose entire career was an 8 inning start in 1890, yielding 16 runs, but only 9 earned. From now on, I’m going to call every bad start a von Fricken outing.
But two starts is pretty much the exemplar of Small Sample Size, right? So I came into this game with two questions. Would Tommy improve, and was Ozzie ready to return and overcome whatever hair ball Tommy coughed up? What I didn’t expect was 29 runs.
So Tommy got out of the first, overcoming a dubious fielding play by Inciarte, lowering his Braves ERA to 9.82, tying him with Ynoa. The second inning showed a reversion to form: two runs allowed, but a Braves ERA that was still lower than when he started the game: 10.80, tying him for 10th place with a Braves starter during the 1918 pandemic: Cal Crum.
Ozzie cut the lead in half on a bases-loaded fielder’s choice in the bottom of the 2nd. Inciarte then tied the game on a sac fly on the next pitch. Or did he? A very close review kept the 2nd run on the board as Duvall was nearly erased at 3rd on the tag-up. Freeman broke the tie with a line drive. The 4th run came in on an Ozuna Texas Leaguer. Then a 3 run d’Arnaud Dinger gave the Braves a 7-2 lead – still not Milone Margin, but at least in shouting distance of it. Pablo López, perhaps inspired by the example of Tommy Milone, had the shortest outing of his career. He was replaced by Admiral Yamamoto who, unlike his namesake, didn’t even make it past Midway in this game. Hits to Swanson and Riley, and another 3 run homer by Duvall made it 10-2, followed by an Ozzie oppo, to make it 11-2. Ender then did what Ender does to finally bring the inning to a close.
OK…. Back to the Retrosheet database, but so many historical stats were thrown around tonight, I had to go for something original. 11 run innings are pretty rare, as is batting around after 2 outs. But it’s not unheard of. Less than a month after I was born, the Kansas City A’s scored 13 runs in the 2nd inning, all with 2 out. Of the 173 times since 1920 that a team had greater than 10 runs scored in an inning, 14 of them had 10 or more runs scoring with 2 outs.
The last time Milone had a 10 run lead, the Braves just held on to win. This lead is only 9. In the top of the 3rd, Too Slow Tommy gave up another 3 runs, raising his ERA to 12.53, passing Kolby for #4 on the All-Time List (12.54).
The Braves, clearly worried about Milone Margin, got two more in the bottom of the 3rd with Freddie’s 1500th hit, a line drive homer, to make it 13-5. Tommy, still plugging away, gave up another run in the 4th and left with two men on and one out. It only remained to be seen just where he would rank among the Stinkiest of All Time. His Braves ERA has risen to 13.03 and Dayton Gryboed them both to leave Milone at an outstanding 14.90, just behind Jack Leary, whose lone start in 1880 was 3 innings and 5 earned runs for an even 15.00. I want to be as fair as I can to Jack: he was a outfielder/shortstop making an emergency start, apparently.
In the bottom of the 4th, Freddie knocked in three more on a bases-loaded single – 16-8. In the bottom of the 5th, another 3-run Duvall Dinger made it 19-4. At that point, if the rules would allow it, you could bring back Milone and still be favored. Yamamato was then shot down, and a 3 run Acuña artillery shot made it 22-8.
The sixth inning saw an appearance from the aforementioned Bryse Wilson. A clean inning dropped him from the Stinkiest 30, but still ahead of Erlin. The bottom of the 6th saw three more come home on a bases-loaded bullet off the wall by Acuña: 25-8.
Wilson’s 7th found him loading the bases and giving up a run, moving him back to the 30th slot. 29-9.
The bottom of the 7th found Duvall hitting his 3rd homer, this one a grand slam. 29-8. This one tied Duvall with Tony Cloninger’s 1966 game with 9 RBIs.
After a scoreless 8th, Wilson pitched a scoreless 9th and dropped his career ERA below Robbie Erlin’s Braves ERA, down below 7.00. Things are looking up.
I am not alone is assuming that Tommy Milone’s tenure will shortly come to a halt. While he was here, he was historically bad. But 29 runs can cover up a lot of shortcomings. We head to DC tomorrow. Someone stinky will pitch. Keep the bats hot, boys.