If you’re going to engage in an exercise of futility, you might as well go all the way.
By all means, be more futile than any team in history.
Until Sunday, no team in Major League Baseball history had ever amassed only a single hit over the course of a doubleheader.
The Braves managed to halve the record set by the team once known as the Indians against the Red Sox on April 12, 1992. Cruelly, that twin bill came the day after the two teams battled through a 19-inning contest.
In the opener, the Red Sox’ Matt Young managed to lose, 2-1, despite throwing a no-hitter. Creatively, he issued seven walks. In the nightcap, Roger Clemens pitched a two-hit shutout, the Sox winning, 3-0.
If Ford Frick were commissioner today, doubtless he’d be placing an asterisk next to the Diamondbacks’ feat, since both games lasted only seven innings. Frick, who ghostwrote “Babe Ruth’s Own Book of Baseball,” in 1928, had advanced to commissioner by 1961.
Since that was the year the schedule expanded from 154 games to 162, Frick declared that if Maris broke Ruth’s home run record in more than 154 games, his total would forever bear an asterisk. Which is exactly what happened. Hence, 61*. Fortunately, it didn’t last. Neither did Frick.
In the instant case, I don’t care a whit about the games lasting only seven innings apiece. After 14 innings, I had seen enough. And based upon their hideous performance, the Braves weren’t due to get another hit until Tuesday.
But ponder this for just a moment. On Friday night, starting pitcher Huascar Ynoa amassed more hits [two] that the entire Braves team managed on Sunday. Yikes!
“We just didn’t have it today,” observant Freddie Freeman told Mark Bowman of MLB.com. And that’s from the guy who produced the only hit, a harmless sixth-inning single in the first game. “It’s April. We’re okay. It’s just that April 25 wasn’t the Atlanta Braves day. We’ll come back tomorrow and get them.”
I’ve got to admire Freeman’s optimism. His team had just been no-hit by Madison Bumgarner, who entered the contest allowing almost one run per inning pitched on the season, lugging an earned run average of 8.62.
“It feels good,” Bumgarner said during a post-game television interview. “I just want to say two things before I go celebrate with the guys. I want to thank those shadows in Atlanta. They helped me out a good bit. That was awesome. And I want to thank Rob Manfred for making these seven-inning games.”
Bumgarner left the Braves with nowhere to go but up. “I’m not concerned,” continued Freeman, thus placing himself in the vast minority. “We still have 141 games to go. We do need to start hitting. We haven’t been consistent at all.”
And while the Braves’ hitters were historically bad, the starting pitchers were enough to cause Freeman concern. Bryse Wilson started the first game and produced a second inning worthy of a follies reel.
He walked the leadoff batter on five pitches, missing low by a foot for ball four. He then hurled a pickoff throw high over Freeman’s head, which is no easy feat. Thoroughly upset with himself, he grooved the next pitch for a two-run homer. Another walk and another pickoff throw over Freeman’s head ensued.
Little did anyone know that the game was already over. It’s a good thing they’re only allowed to fill the ballpark to half-capacity. The venom spewing from packed stands might have created a tsunami.
Even manager Brian Snitker, who always has his players’ backs, seemed exasperated after the first game. When asked about Wilson’s start, Snitker replied, “It was OK. He gave up two homers. It was … OK.”
Snitkner hadn’t seen anything yet. Drew Smyly returned from the injured list to start the second game, and it only took one inning for all of us to wonder where he could be sent next.
After one pitch, he was down 1-0. After 20 pitches, he was down 4-0. He exited after four innings, trailing 6-0, with an era of 7.20. Bumgarner would finish the day with an ERA of 6.31.
“It wasn’t our day, for sure,” said Snitker, showing great restraint. “You’ve got to put it behind you and hopefully start a winning streak tomorrow.
It would be just like the Braves to look like the worst team in baseball on Sunday, and then go off on a nice six-game winning streak.
But for now, let’s settle for a couple of hits and a quality start.