Archive for category Low-hit Gems
On July 12, lefty Paul Maholm got his first start in two months and pitched his best game of the season, in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 1-0 victory over the San Diego Padres.
For Maholm, it was his first start since a 3.2-inning, 10-run disaster against the Miami Marlins on May 14, and also his 250th career major-league start. The lefty tossed six-plus shutout innings of two-hit, no-walk ball against the Padres, and the Dodgers won it in the bottom of the ninth off San Diego rookie Kevin Quackenbush .
Because the Dodgers couldn’t score when Maholm was still in the game, he received a no-decision to remain 1-4 on the season, though his ERA dropped from 5.18 to 4.69 .
Of course, Maholm hasn’t had a good season so far, with a 4.74 ERA as a starter and an equally-mediocre 4.58 earned-run average as a reliever. But hey, if you pitch into the seventh inning and give up just two hits, you deserve a win, right? Especially in a milestone appearance, such as Maholm’s 250th career big-league start.
Then again, sometimes in baseball you have certain pitchers who just don’t seem to have any luck, even when they pitch well.
I remember lefty Brian Bohanon’s 1998 season when he was acquired by the Dodgers in mid-July from the New York Mets in exchange for veteran reliever Greg McMichael. At the time, eyebrows were probably raised, because Bohanon hadn’t had a stellar career up to that point (and wouldn’t the rest of his days in the big leagues after that ’98 campaign) .
Since making his major-league debut with Texas in April of 1990, Bohanon had compiled a 5.35 ERA in his first eight seasons with four teams (Rangers, Tigers, Blue Jays, Mets). He had appeared in 178 big-league games, only 61 of them starts. In 1994, his last season with the Rangers, his ERA was 7.23. The following year, in his lone season with Detroit, it was 5.54. Then a 7.77 ERA for Toronto in 1996 in 20 appearances, all in relief.
Yet, with the Dodgers in 1998 following the trade with the Mets, Bohanon was immediately inserted into the starting rotation, and the veteran lefty somehow delivered. He logged a 2.40 ERA in 14 starts, tossing two complete games. In 97.1 innings, he allowed only 74 hits and struck out 72 batters.
The problem? The Dodgers couldn’t score for him. As a result, Bohanon was only 5-7 with the Dodgers. Also, as mentioned above, he tossed two complete games with Los Angeles – but he lost both games. On September 11, Bohanon pitched eight innings of seven-hit ball with eight strikeouts in San Diego, but the Dodgers lost 1-0 to Padres righty Joey Hamilton. In his final appearance of the season – and as it turned out, his final game with the Dodgers – he gave up only three runs over his nine innings of work, but lost a 3-2 decision to San Diego right-hander Andy Ashby.
Following the season, he joined the Colorado Rockies, where he would pitch his final three major-league seasons. Though he won 29 games for the Rockies, he also lost 30 and pitched to a 5.82 ERA with Colorado.
But a 5-7 record even with a 2.40 ERA for the Dodgers? That’s pitching in hard luck.
There’s also lefty Odalis Perez – who like Maholm also used to pitch for the Braves. Sure, Perez was mediocre toward the end of his career. But he also won 15 games for the Dodgers in 2002, his first season in Los Angeles. Two years later, he logged a 3.25 ERA in 31 starts, but managed just a 7-6 record as the Dodgers scored two runs or fewer for him 10 times.
Ismael Valdez won 15 games in 1996 with the Dodgers, but the following year was only 10-11 despite a 2.65 ERA in 30 starts. For the 1997 season, he received only 3.38 runs of support .
Then there was Tom Candiotti, who on June 16, 1995, made his 300th career major-league start and pitched eight shutout innings of three-hit ball at Wrigley Field. He also took a no-hitter into the sixth in his matchup against Cubs right-hander Steve Trachsel, who at that point in his career was known for his inability to win at home. Alas, the Dodgers couldn’t score at all, and Howard Johnson’s two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth off Rudy Seanez won it 2-0 for the Cubs.
A no-decision for Candiotti despite pitching shutout ball in a milestone start – much like Paul Maholm back on July 12 this year. And that was the type of season for Candiotti, who despite a 3.50 ERA went 7-14.
Sometimes that’s how things are in baseball. Some pitchers are just plain unlucky. Paul Maholm surely knows the feeling.
 The Dodgers would beat the Padres by the same 1-0 score the following afternoon to take three of four in the series.
 His mound opponent, right-hander Ian Kennedy, pitched eight shutout innings of three-hit ball.
 Another interesting part of the deal was that McMichael began the season with the Mets and was traded in early June to Los Angeles with Dave Mlicki for former Atlanta teammate Brad Clontz as well as Hideo Nomo. Just a month later, McMichael was sent back to the Mets for Bohanon. Mlicki, by the way, was 7-3 with the Dodgers despite a 4.05 ERA in his 20 starts. Probably best known for tossing a shutout in 1997 in the first-ever interleague regular-season game between the Mets and Yankees, Mlicki did throw a complete-game shutout in Colorado while with the Dodgers in ’98, though.
 It should be noted, though, that three of his losses came during a stretch from May 31 to June 20, when he really struggled. In that five-start span, Valdez was 0-3 with a 6.41 ERA, with the Dodgers losing four of those games. On June 20, he was chased after only 5.1 innings despite being staked to a huge 7-0 lead against the Giants, a game which the Dodgers eventually won in extra innings.
Dan Johnson, called up by the Blue Jays from Triple-A Buffalo on July 11, made his Toronto debut that same night against his old team, the Tampa Bay Rays, and had the most interesting stat line in his new club’s 8-5 victory.
Johnson, probably best known for his ninth-inning homer for Tampa Bay against the Red Sox in September of 2008 in a contest which gave the Rays the AL East lead and then another dinger against the Yankees in the 2011 season finale to help the Rays clinch the wild card, posted the following line in his Toronto debut:
0 AB, 3 R, 0 H, 0 RBI, 4 BB, 0 SO.
Though Johnson couldn’t get a hit, he still made a huge contribution for Toronto. The Blue Jays’ newest DH was still was able to reach base in all four plate appearances and, more importantly, came around to score three times – including the tie-breaking run in the ninth inning after he had drawn a leadoff walk against the struggling Grant Balfour.
Definitely an odd and crooked-looking line score.
This reminds me of a couple of weird-looking stat lines for Tom Candiotti, where he lost a couple of games despite allowing zero earned runs. Same with John Smoltz, who lost a pivotal game to the Philadelphia Phillies in Game Four of the 1993 NLCS.
Let’s start with the Smoltz game, with the Atlanta right-hander owning a career postseason record of 5-0 with a 2.13 ERA in nine starts heading into the October 10, 1993 contest against lefty Danny Jackson (a playoff veteran himself) and the Phillies. Thanks to a Mark Lemke error at second base in the fourth inning, the Phillies scored two runs off Smoltz to take a 2-1 lead. The Braves almost tied it in the eighth when they put two runners on with two outs and erratic closer Mitch “The Wild Thing” Williams took over for Jackson.
Lemke, looking to redeem himself for the earlier fielding error, took Williams’s second pitch to deep left – which would have tied the game but leftfielder Milt Thompson made a circus catch to end the inning.
Atlanta then put two runners on to lead off the ninth but Williams fielded Jeff Blauser’s sacrifice bunt attempt and threw out the lead runner at third base, before inducing Ron Gant – arguably the league’s best clutch hitter down the stretch – to hit into a game-ending double play. The Phillies won 2-1 to even the series at 2-2, and then won the next two games to clinch the NL pennant.
But here was Smoltz’s line in the game:
6.1 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 5 BB, 10 SO.
It was Smoltz’s first career postseason loss – despite the fact he struck out 10 Phillies and gave up zero earned runs. What was interesting too, was that reliever Mark Wohlers walked three and struck out five in two hitless innings, meaning Atlanta pitching struck out 15 Philadelphia hitters but the Phillies still prevailed .
Then, on to Tom Candiotti. On August 3, 1990, the Cleveland Indians knuckleballer took a no-hitter into the bottom of the eighth inning at Yankee Stadium. He retired the first two batters and was four outs away from history, with a 4-2 lead. The Yankees had scored two runs in the first inning on a hit batsman, an error by second baseman Jerry Browne, a Candiotti wild pitch, and an RBI groundout by Mel Hall.
With two outs in the eighth, Steve Sax walked before Jim Leyritz reached on an error by shortstop Felix Fermin. Yankees rookie Oscar Azocar, in his first month in the majors, broke up the no-hitter with a single up the middle, cutting the deficit to 4-3.
At that juncture, Indians skipper John McNamara pulled Candiotti in favor of closer Doug Jones, who gave up a first-pitch home run to Hall, turning the 4-3 lead into a 6-4 deficit. That was the way the game ended, with Candiotti charged with the loss and the following line:
7.2 IP, 1 H, 5 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 7 SO.
All five runs off Candiotti were unearned because of the fielding errors by Browne and Fermin.
Then on June 30, 1995, Candiotti was pitching for the Dodgers against the Colorado Rockies, and gave up two first-inning runs because of an error by third baseman Tim Wallach. At the time, the two runs seemed insignificant because Rockies starter Kevin Ritz was just 11-24 with a 5.78 ERA going into the season, and you would figure a lineup featuring Mike Piazza, Eric Karros, and Raul Mondesi would do some damage against a mediocre pitcher.
Unfortunately, the Dodgers couldn’t touch Ritz, who gave up just three hits over six shutout innings (though he also walked five and struck out only one). Karros finally homered off Curtis Leskanic in the ninth to break the shutout, but the Dodgers couldn’t get the tying run home in the 2-1 loss.
The line for Candiotti:
7 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 7 SO.
It was as good a start as Candiotti had had at Yankee Stadium five years earlier – but again only good enough for a loss. It would be that type of a season for the knuckleballer, who went 7-14 despite a respectable 3.50 ERA for a first-place Dodger team .
Funny stat lines – they happen in baseball from time to time, and thanks to Dan Johnson for reminding me of these couple of examples.
 Kent Mercker, who also appeared in the game for the Braves, recorded two outs but did not issue a walk or notch a strikeout.
 Teammate Ramon Martinez was 17-7 with a 3.66 ERA.
Back on June 29, Seattle Mariners ace right-hander Felix Hernandez allowed only one hit over eight shutout innings to defeat the visiting Cleveland Indians 3-0, giving up just Lonnie Chisenhall’s fifth-inning single.
For Hernandez, who walked three, it was his ninth consecutive start where he had pitched at least seven innings while giving up two runs or fewer. During that stretch, Hernandez was 6-1 with a 1.30 ERA with 77 strikeouts and just 10 walks over 69 innings. In those nine outings, he surrendered a total of 42 hits and one homer.
The nine consecutive starts with seven or more innings with two or fewer runs is a Mariners club record, and in fact is a rare feat in baseball. According to Baseball-Reference.com, Tom Seaver holds the longest such streak in big-league history, going 13 straight starts in 1971 where he allowed two runs or fewer while working at least seven innings.
From 2001-2013, only six pitchers had such a streak of at least eight consecutive starts, which shows how rare Hernandez’s feat has been.
As for the 1990s? Well, only five pitchers in that decade had a stretch of eight straight starts where they gave up only two runs or fewer while pitching at least seven innings. The list includes fireballers Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, and Pedro Martinez. You would expect to see those names, as Clemens, Johnson, and Martinez were three of the most dominant pitchers in the 1990s, as well as in baseball history. Surprisingly, Ed Whitson accomplished this feat during the 1990 season, when he went 5-0 with a 0.99 ERA in those eight consecutive starts from July 25 to September 2 for the San Diego Padres. During his streak, Whitson walked just eight batters in 63.1 innings.
Who was the fifth pitcher to accomplish that rare feat in the 1990s with eight consecutive such starts? No, not Greg Maddux . Not Tom Glavine or John Smoltz. Not Mike Mussina.
Nope. The fifth guy who did it was Los Angeles Dodgers knuckleballer Tom Candiotti, who accomplished the feat in 1993.
During a season which saw the Dodgers finish 81-81, the highlights were rookie Mike Piazza’s monster season and the team’s 12-1 rout over the Giants on the final day of the year to knock San Francisco out of the postseason.
But there was also the overlooked Candiotti and his pitching throughout the summer, as he had a 1.85 ERA in 22 starts from May 1 to the end of August. Entering play on September 1, Candiotti’s 2.43 ERA was the best in the major leagues, marking the second time in three years that he had the ERA lead at one point in the final weeks of the season.
The knuckleballer’s streak of eight straight starts with two or fewer runs and seven or more innings took place from July 18 to August 25, when he pitched to a 1.32 ERA over 61.1 innings while allowing only 17 walks and four home runs. Included in that streak was a 2-1 win on July 28 in San Francisco, where he held Giants sluggers Will Clark, Matt Williams, and Barry Bonds to one hit in 10 at-bats.
Candiotti went only 5-0 in that streak because he didn’t get enough support in the other three starts. On August 9, he gave up two runs over eight frames but the Dodgers lost 3-2 in 11 innings against Colorado. (The Dodgers couldn’t touch Rockies right-hander Greg Harris, who would be 4-20 with a 6.60 ERA in a Colorado uniform in 1993-94.) On August 20 in St. Louis, Candiotti allowed two runs over seven innings but left the game trailing 2-0 against rookie Rene Arocha, before the Dodgers rallied for three runs in the ninth to spare him a heart-breaking loss. Five nights later, he gave up one run on four hits over eight innings against Pittsburgh, only to leave the game trailing 1-0 to Pirates rookie Paul Wagner. The Dodgers tied it in the bottom of the eighth but ultimately lost 2-1 in 12 innings.
That performance in that last outing on August 25 lowered Candiotti’s ERA to 2.43, tops in all of baseball.
Certainly, when you think about long stretches of dominant pitching, you think of guys such as Felix Hernandez, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, and Pedro Martinez. Ed Whitson? Well, at least he threw a fastball.
Tom Candiotti, a guy who threw a knuckleball? You would have never figured he had had such a long run of great pitching. But it happened. Back in that underrated 1993 season.
 Even in Maddux’s dominant 1994-95 seasons, when he had sub-2.00 ERAs of 1.56 and 1.63, respectively, he didn’t have that many starts in a row with seven or more innings with two or fewer runs allowed. The longest streak he had in those seasons lasted “only” a half-dozen. Maddux had six consecutive such starts in 1994, and again six straight in 1995.
While the two Detroit Cy Young winners – Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer – made headlines by getting lit up for 17 runs in the first two games of the Tigers’ series with Kansas City earlier this week, an unheralded pitcher in the same division has quietly put together a brilliant run without much fanfare .
On June 18, Minnesota’s Kyle Gibson tossed seven shutout innings for the third consecutive start, blanking the Boston Red Sox on only one hit at Fenway Park. Unfortunately for the Twins right-hander, who is in his second season in the majors, got a no-decision as Minnesota couldn’t score against Red Sox starter John Lackey, who allowed only three hits over nine shutout innings.
The Twins eventually lost 2-1 in 10 innings on back-to-back homers by David Ortiz and Mike Napoli.
Gibson retired the first 14 Red Sox batters before Daniel Nava stroked a fifth-inning double for the only Boston hit off of him. Back on June 7, the sophomore righty pitched three-hit ball in his seven innings of work to beat Houston 8-0. Six nights later, he won 2-0 in Detroit with a seven-inning five-hitter. Then in the Red Sox game, one hit over seven innings with no walks and eight strikeouts.
But that’s not all for the young right-hander, who now sports a 3.25 ERA. Back on May 28, he tossed six shutout innings of six-hit, no-walk ball against Texas but received a no-decision in the Twins’ 1-0 loss. In Minnesota’s 1-0 win at Cleveland on May 5, Gibson pitched seven innings of two-hit ball in another no-decision. He also blanked Toronto on a four-hitter over eight innings on April 17, winning 7-0. That’s six scoreless starts through his first 14 outings. In three other starts, he gave up exactly one run.
So, a fantastic season so far for Kyle Gibson, and three straight scoreless starts and counting.
I do want to bring up Tom Candiotti’s 1991 season, where the knuckleball specialist had six scoreless starts and also seven outings where he allowed only one run. That’s 13 of his 34 starts where he gave up one run or none, not bad for a knuckleball pitcher.
Candiotti nearly had the same streak as Kyle Gibson, but it ended in the ninth inning on July 16, 1991 in Kansas City.
Candiotti had been traded from Cleveland to Toronto on June 27, and in his second start with the Blue Jays threw seven shutout innings against Minnesota on July 3 for a 4-0 win. On July 11, it was eight shutout innings in a 2-0 victory over Texas.
Then came July 16, where Candiotti took a 1-0 shutout in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Royals. So, if he came out of the game then, he would have had three straight scoreless starts. However, he was left in the game to try and complete the one-run shutout, and Kirk Gibson tripled before scoring on a passed ball by catcher Greg Myers. The Royals then got the winning run off Candiotti in the bottom of the 10th, thanks to a throwing error by Myers.
So, Candiotti was that close to getting a third straight scoreless game.
That wasn’t it for the knuckleballer. On September 18, he took a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the eighth in Seattle before the Mariners tied the game off of him on an Omar Vizquel triple followed by a Ken Griffey Jr. single. On September 7, Candiotti took a shutout into the ninth inning but gave up a home run to Carlos Martinez in the eventual 4-1 Blue Jays victory.
In eight of his first 16 starts with Toronto following the mid-season trade, he took a shutout into the eighth inning – that’s half of his outings with the Blue Jays!
With Kyle Gibson in 2014, six scoreless starts through his first 14 outings…perhaps he’ll add on to those numbers before the season is done.
 According to the June 17 game recap on ESPN, STATS noted that the 17 runs allowed by the two Tiger aces were the most ever by two teammates with Cy Young Awards in back-to-back team games. The Royals moved ahead of the Tigers atop the AL Central in the Scherzer game, and then defeated Detroit again the following afternoon by a 2-1 final in the third of their four-game set, ensuring that they would leave town in first place regardless of what happened in the series finale.
“Tom Candiotti: A Life of Knuckleballs,” a biography of former big-league pitcher Tom Candiotti, will be released in July of 2014. You may pick up a copy either from Amazon.com or through the McFarland & Company website.
On June 14th, San Diego Padres rookie Jesse Hahn gave up just one hit – an infield single by Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada to lead off the bottom of the first – over six innings in only his second major-league appearance, winning a 5-0 decision over New York.
The right-handed Hahn, who was just called up from Double-A San Antonio to make the start, even contributed an RBI single as he picked up his first major-league win. He had made his big-league debut on June 3rd against Pittsburgh, allowing four runs on six hits – including two home runs – over 3.2 innings. Hahn was then optioned to Double-A the following day.
But with lefty Robbie Erlin on the disabled list since May 22nd and Tim Stauffer struggling while briefly being used in the rotation (a total of nine runs allowed over three innings in his last two starts), the Padres turned back to Hahn.
If the rookie right-hander can continue pitching the way he did in his second career start in the majors, he might stick around for a while. Doesn’t get much better than six innings and allowing just one hit in your second major-league start.
That reminds me of a game between Cleveland and Toronto 23 years ago – almost to the day. Back on June 12th, 1991, a rookie right-hander by the name of Mike Timlin made his first big-league start for the Blue Jays, facing Tom Candiotti and the Indians. Timlin had already appeared in 26 major-league games – and had notched four victories against three defeats – but was making his first start since Single-A ball in 1989. Used as a closer in the minors, Timlin had pitched to an unimpressive 3.92 ERA in his first two months in the majors.
And yet Timlin opened the game with three perfect innings before walking Alex Cole to lead off the fourth. He took a no-hitter in the sixth inning, before Felix Fermin broke it up with an infield single. That proved to be the only hit the Indians managed off Timlin in his six full innings of work.
Cleveland would get just one more hit after that, coming in the seventh off lefty Bob MacDonald – another rookie. Thanks to the Indians’ punchless offense, Candiotti was a hard-luck 1-0 loser despite throwing a complete-game three-hitter of his own .
Timlin, meanwhile, would appear in 1,054 major-league games as a reliever while making just four starts. In his second start six days after beating Candiotti, Timlin was roughed up for three runs on seven hits and two walks over 3.2 innings in a loss to the Yankees. Naturally, in his third major-league start on June 23rd, he tossed five shutout innings against Cleveland. The opposing pitcher that night? Once again, Tom Candiotti.
Timlin wouldn’t make another start until 2002 with the St. Louis Cardinals, when he allowed four runs over 4.1 innings in Milwaukee in what turned out to be his final starting assignment in the majors. Remarkably, in two starts against Candiotti, Timlin had a 0.00 ERA. In his two other starts, 0-2 with a 7.88 ERA.
Obviously, though, Timlin was a successful reliever in the majors for 18 years, notching 141 career saves while pitching for six clubs. He was also part of four World Series championship teams, winning rings with the 1992-93 Blue Jays and the 2004 and 2007 Boston Red Sox. He was also on the mound for Toronto for the final out of the 1992 Series, throwing out Atlanta’s Otis Nixon at first base – with the Braves fleet-footed outfielder trying to bunt for a hit – to clinch the title for the Blue Jays.
Getting back to Jesse Hahn, perhaps the San Diego rookie will torment the Mets again the next time he faces them – like he did in his second major-league start. Or he might just dominate the rest of the National League. Perhaps he’ll turn out to be a dominant reliever some day. He might even pitch the Padres to the World Series. We’ll see how he does moving forward.
 It was an interesting – albeit low-scoring – three-game series between the two clubs. One day earlier, in the series opener, the Blue Jays took a 1-0 lead into the eighth before Jerry Browne’s two-out RBI single off David Wells brought home the tying run. The Indians ultimately won it in the bottom of the 12th when, with the bases loaded, Toronto lefty Ken Dayley hit Cole with a pitch to force home the winning run. Then in the series finale, Jimmy Key tossed a complete-game two-hitter and the Blue Jays beat Charles Nagy and the Indians 1-0, with the only run of the game coming on a throwing error by second baseman Mark Lewis.
“Tom Candiotti: A Life of Knuckleballs,” a biography of former big-league pitcher Tom Candiotti, will be released in July of 2014. You may pick up a copy either from Amazon.com or through the McFarland & Company website.