The worst pitching performance in the history of baseball began innocently. Vin Mazzaro entered the Kansas City-Cleveland game Monday in the top of the third inning, with his Royals losing 3-0. He had to come into the game early because Royals starter Kyle Davies left in the first inning with a sore shoulder. Reliever Nate Adcock came in, allowed a run in the second, walked the leadoff man in the third.
Thus entered Mazzaro.
The Royals had traded David DeJesus to Oakland for Mazzaro during the off-season. The word from scouts was that Mazzaro had good stuff. The Royals had intended to make Mazzaro their fifth starter, but he did not impress the Royals much during spring training or in his early minor league work. He pitched a little better after that, though, and the Royals brought him up when Bruce Chen got hurt.
In his first inning, he got Travis Hafner to fly out, he struck out Orlando Cabrera and then, after uncorking a wild pitch -- which I only mention to use a favorite verb "uncork" -- he induced Travis Buck into an inning ending groundout.
You never would have guessed from that first inning that Mazzaro was about to make history. But isn't that thing about history? You rarely see it coming. Who saw the Smoot-Hawley Tariff act coming? Point is, Matt LaPorta led off the fourth inning with a single, and then Mazzaro got Jack Hannahan to hit into a fielders choice. Man on first, one out, no runs allowed yet.
Mazzaro walked Michael Brantley. ... Asdrubal Cabrera blooped a single over short to score Hannahan (Run 1). ... Pitching coach Bob McClure went to the mound to calm down Mazzaro. Hey, no big deal. A single, a walk, a bloop, can happen to anyone. ... And the talk may have calmed Mazzaro. He got Shin Soo Choo to fly to center. Yes, it was deep to center. But it was still an out -- there were now two outs with runners on first and third.
And here we go:
A.Cabrera stole second ... Mazzaro walked Carlos Santana to load the bases ... Hafner doubled to clear those bases (Runs 2, 3, 4). ... O. Cabrera singled home Hafner (Run 5). ... Buck hit an infield single. ... Laporta crushed a double into the left field corner (Runs 6, 7). ... Hannahan hit a ground ball single. ... And Michael Brantley homered (Runs 8, 9, 10).
Yep, that's a 10-run inning. Mazzaro struck out A. Cabrera to end the nastiness, but, as the announcers like to say, the damage was done. But, bad as it was to allow 10 runs, it was not HISTORIC damage. Lots of relievers have given up 10 runs in an appearance -- heck, just since 1919, 148 pitchers have done it. Shoot, it wasn't even historic for the Royals: Kansas City's Jimmy Gobble did it less than three years ago. There are some pretty familiar names on the list of relievers who have allowed 10 runs -- Joe Sambito, Calvin Schiraldi, Mel Rojas, Dave LaRoche, Spec Shea, Art Ditmar and so on.
So, no, Vin Mazzaro did not make any real history in the fourth inning in Kansas City, Mo. on Monday night.
But ... then he came out for the fifth inning.
We can speculate all we want why Royals manager Ned Yost sent Mazzaro out there for the fifth inning. He certainly wanted to save some of his other arms in what had become a lost game. He probably wanted to give Mazzaro a chance to get some outs and at least cushion the horror of the night. Maybe he just ticked off.
Whatever, Mazzaro got the first out of the inning getting Choo on another fly out. But then Carlos Santana doubled. ... Travis Hafner walked. .. Again McClure visited the mound, though at this point I'm not sure what there was to say. You would have expected that everyone realized there would be no happy ending, and Mazzaro would have been pulled for his own good.
But no. He stayed. And he gave up an infield single to O. Cabrera, which loaded the bases.
Travis Buck then hit a line drive single to left SO HARD that only one run could score (Run 11). And that, finally, was the last pitch thrown by Vin Mazzaro.
Unfortunately for him, the bases loaded he left out there -- well, as you know, all those runners were his responsibility. Reliever Jeremy Jeffress came into the game, and he could have done Mazzaro a solid by getting a double play and ending the nightmare. He did not. He instead threw a 95-mph fastball that Matt LaPorta scorched off the wall in left field (Runs 12, 13). Man did LaPorta hit that one. The ball didn't have enough lift to be a grand slam, but it was smashed hard enough that it could have gone through the wall. And when Hannahan grounded out to short (Run 14), the night of Vin Mazzaro was officially over.
His line: 2 1/3 innings, 11 hits, 14 runs, all earned, three walks and two strikeouts.
And that's history: No reliever since World War II has allowed 14 runs in a game -- that unlucky soul was the somewhat unfortunately named Les McCrabb, who teammates called "Buster." Heck, no STARTING PITCHER has allowed 14 runs in a game since 1998 when Mike Oquist did the deed, and it has now only happened three times in the last 60 years.
What's more amazing is that nobody in baseball history had ever allowed 14 earned runs in fewer than three innings pitched until Mazzaro did it. True, you could argue that Lefty O'Doul's outing in 1923, when he allowed 16 runs in three innings was worse ... except THIRTEEN of those runs were unearned (That's right: 13 were unearned). It seems pretty clear. Vin Mazzaro -- through a combination of bad luck, bad pitching and bad timing -- had the worst pitching performance in baseball history.
There's no telling what happens to Mazzaro now. It seems unlikely that he will stay in the big leagues. But you never know about the future. Mazzaro should take a little solace knowing that one game, a 20-year-old pitcher gave up 15 hits and 15 runs -- including home runs to a couple of guys named DiMaggio and Gehrig. He walked nine. He threw away a wild pitch. It wasn't good.
That guy was named Bob Feller, and he led the American League in victories the next three years.
Les McCrabb had a different destiny. After his rough game when he gave up 14 runs in four innings, he disappeared from the big leagues for eight years. He managed to show up for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1950, though. He gave up seven hits in an inning. Buster McCrabb pitched a scoreless third of an inning the next time out and retired to Quarryville, PA where he grew mushrooms and lived to be 94 years old. So that's not too bad either.