As all of you remember—you all are reading every column, right?—back in July I did a column on the worst games for a handful of teams: the Red Sox, Yankees, Rangers, Giants and Marlins. This week, we look at a few more of the worst games for each team.
A quick review: as I mentioned in the first column, I am interested only in the worst game for each team in its current city. I doubt very much that San Franciscans feel the pain of Merkle’s Boner, any more than Philadelphians tear their clothes at the thought of Kirk Gibson’s home run. Lastly, these are only “worst” games in the baseball sense, we’re not discussing actual tragedy.
Washington Nationals: 2012 NLDS, Game 5
Before this game, I would have argued the National fans in DC did not truly have a “worst” game to claim their own. Of course, National fans no doubt wish it stayed that way. Being recent history, you all no doubt know the story: up by six runs early, the Nats’ Win Expectancy got as high as 96 percent by the end of the third inning. The Cards closed to within one by the eighth but Washington scored a run in the bottom half of the inning and at one point in the ninth had two outs and just one runner on base.
|The Cards celebrate the worst loss in Nats’ team history (US Presswire)|
It all went wrong though, and by the time the Nationals got the final out of the inning, St. Louis had a two-run lead. Despite having the top of their order coming to the plate, the Nats could mount no kind of rally and the team—and its city—were saddled with their worst loss.
San Diego Padres: 1998 World Series, Game 3
No Padres team ever won more than the 1998 squad’s 98 wins—in fact, the franchise has bettered 90 wins just three other times, with none more than 92. So it is not an unreasonable statement to say the 1998 San Diego Padres were the best team in franchise history, and not be a small measure either. Greg Vaughn set a franchise record for home runs with 50 while Kevin Brown posted the best season for a pitcher in franchise history going 18-7 with a 2.38 in 257 innings.
After defeating the Astros and Braves—winners of a combined 208 games—in the Division and Championship Series respectively, the Padres found themselves facing the 114-win Yankees. Although the team lost the first two games in New York, they headed to San Diego for Game Three. If the Friars could win the game, they would have Brown going in Game Four and a real chance to get themselves back into the Series.
Early on in Game Three, things were going to plan for the Padres. They took a 3-0 lead into the seventh inning. That was cut to just a run by the top of the eighth, when the Padres brought in Trevor Hoffman. Unfortunately for San Diego, their ace reliever was hapless in the face of the Yankees’ juggernaut and surrendered a three-run home run to Scott Brosius to give New York the lead.
This game ranks as San Diego’s—rather than any of the others in the Series—because it was the game above all others that illustrated that the Padres were simply overmatched. They had lost giving their ace a three-run lead in Game One, and now with Hoffman, who had tied the single-season NL saves record in ’98, they could still not defeat the Yankees. It was now clear that the best the Padres’ franchise could do was no match for maybe the Greatest Team Ever Assembled.
The Padres were swept next night, but Game Three remains the worst.
Pittsburgh Pirates: 1992 NLCS, Game 7
As tyme hem hurt, a tyme doth hem cure. So said Geoffrey Chaucer, better known in modern English as “time heals all wounds.” This is true for virtually all of the “worst” games: as time goes on new seasons begin, the team has some success, the distance of history makes things look better.
Unfortunately for the Pirates, the time since this game, has, if anything, only poured salt in the wound. Up two runs heading into the ninth inning, the Pirates imploded giving up a double, an error and walk to load the bases. They managed to get their act together sufficiently to record two outs, and still hold a one-run lead.
Facing Francisco Cabrera—owner of just 69 Major League hits to that point in his career, and coming off a season when he played primarily in Triple-A and batted just .272 at that level—Bucs’ reliever Stan Belinda gave up a line-drive single, scoring two runs and giving Atlanta the pennant. This was the third consecutive year the Pirates lost the NLCS, the second time they did so in Game Seven.
That would be painful enough for Pittsburgh fans, but things have only gotten worse for the franchise since then. Barry Bonds left the franchise in that off-season, and within five years Jim Leyland had left for the Florida Marlins while the Pirates descended into mediocrity and worse. The team has still not recorded a winning season since ’92, and has suffered a number of embarrassments, most recently when a top prospect was apparently injured while taking part in a Navy SEAL-inspired series of exercises.
For many fans, the farther one gets from the worst game, the better things look. For the Pirates, Francisco Cabrera is still a name worth cursing.
Seattle Mariners: 2001 ALCS, Game 5
Speaking of discovering the best the franchise can offer is just not good enough, we reach the 2001 Mariners.
|At a 10-year reunion celebration, the 2001 Mariners finally make good on Piniella’s promise (US Presswire)|
No Major League team has ever won more games than the Mariners’ 116 in 2001. Ichiro Suzuki won both the Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards, and the team seemed to be proving that losing Ken Griffey, Jr. and Alex Rodriguez in consecutive seasons was merely a setback.
Unfortunately for those in the Pacific Northwest, it all came undone in the playoffs. After barely escaping the Indians in the Division Series, the Mariners found themselves facing the Yankees in the LCS. The previous year, Seattle had taken the Yankees to six games in the Championship Series, and no doubt hoped to turn the tables.
Instead, the Yankees won the first two games of the series in Seattle. After Game Two, M’s manager Lou Piniella declared, “we’re going to be back [in Seattle] for a Game 6. Print it.” Piniella later added that the Mariners had “gone to New York and beat them five out of six times [in 2001] and we’re going to do it again.”
Though the Mariners dominated in Game Three, they lost Game Four. By the sixth inning of Game Five, they were down 8-1, ultimately losing 12-3. This loss ranks as the worst in Mariners’ history for being the final nail in the coffin of the Mariners being in the conversation for the best team ever. Going just 4-6 in the playoffs—their most important games of the season—and unable to even follow through on their manager’s promise to win two of three in New York was an inglorious end to a previous great season.