When “just one bad inning” is an understatement

How many times have you listened to a post-game interview, and the manager or pitcher of the losing team states that it was just “one bad inning” that did them in?

Now, to be sure, there are plenty of occasions where the “one bad inning” really isn’t horrible.  Take this Red Sox/Yankees game from August.  Jon Lester pitched quite well, except for allowing three runs in the sixth inning.  Lots of pitchers/teams have given up three runs in an inning.  No big deal, right?

Well, what about those contests where a starting pitcher or team gives up all of their opponent’s runs in a single inning . . . so that the scoreboard would show a bunch of zeros with one VERY large crooked number stuck in there somewhere?  What do you think the record is for most runs allowed in one inning, with no other runs allowed in a game?  We’ll limit our discussion to games of nine innings or more with available boxscores.

Let’s first consider complete game pitchers, who supply all of the zeroes and crooked numbers in a given game.  Back when men were men (i.e. pitchers threw complete games as the rule, not the exception), managers routinely left their starters in to endure “total wipeout” innings, even if they had already thrown 100+ pitches.

On May 19, 1871, the Washington Olympics faced the Chicago White Sox in a National Association game.  Olympics’ pitcher Asa Brainard tossed eight scoreless innings, and held a 4-0 lead entering the ninth.  The Sox scored nine times in the ninth, all off of Brainard, and won 9-7.

Nearly 48 years later, on May 15, 1919, the Brooklyn Dodgers hosted the Cincinnati Reds at Ebbets Field.  The Reds’ Hod Eller dueled the Dodgers’ Al Mamaux through 12 scoreless innings.  In the top of the 13th, the Reds broke through for 10 runs, all off of Mamaux (only one of them earned), and ended up winning 10-0.  We don’t have a play-by-play account of the game, but Mamaux gave up 13 hits and 10 walks in his complete game, so its likely a good many of those baserunners piled up in that last fateful inning.

As for “team” wipeout innings, would you believe the record for most runs scored in the only inning of scoring is  . . . 13 . . . and its happened twice?

On a Wednesday evening, September 20, 1972, in front of 2,071 fans at Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium, the Braves hosted the Houston Astros.  The Astros were still mathematically alive in the NL West, 7.5 games back of the Cincinnati Reds with 11 to play.  The Braves were 11 games below .500 and just looking to end the season quickly.  Swingman Tom Griffin was making only his fourth start of the year for Houston, but came into the game with a 2.98 ERA and 77 Ks in 87.2 innings.

Griffin got through the first inning yielding only a harmless two-out single.  But the second inning?  Oh mama, did Griffin (and the Astros bullpen, including one very young J.R. Richard,) get torched:

Score Out Batter Pitcher Play Description
Bottom of the 2nd, Braves Batting, Tied 0-0, Astros’ Tom Griffin facing 5-6-7
0-0 0 D. Baker T. Griffin Double
0-0 0 M. Lum T. Griffin Strikeout
0-0 1 S. Jackson T. Griffin Single; Baker Scores; Jackson to 2B/Adv on throw
1-0 1 B. Didier T. Griffin Single; Jackson Scores
2-0 1 G. Stone T. Griffin Walk; Didier to 2B
Dave Roberts replaces Tom Griffin pitching and batting 9th
2-0 1 R. Garr D. Roberts Single; Didier to 3B; Stone to 2B
2-0 1 F. Millan D. Roberts Triple; Didier Scores; Stone Scores; Garr Scores
Bob Stinson replaces Larry Howard playing C batting 8th
5-0 1 D. Evans D. Roberts Double; Millan Scores
6-0 1 E. Williams D. Roberts Single; Evans to 3B/Adv on E8
Jim York replaces Dave Roberts pitching and batting 9th
6-0 1 D. Baker J. York Home Run; Evans Scores; Williams Scores
9-0 1 M. Lum J. York Single
9-0 1 S. Jackson J. York Groundout: 2B-SS/Forceout at 2B
9-0 2 B. Didier J. York Single; Jackson to 2B
9-0 2 G. Stone J. York Single; Jackson Scores; Didier to 2B
J.R. Richard replaces Jim York pitching and batting 9th
10-0 2 R. Garr J. Richard Hit By Pitch; Didier to 3B; Stone to 2B
10-0 2 F. Millan J. Richard Single; Didier Scores; Stone Scores; Garr to 2B
12-0 2 D. Evans J. Richard Walk; Garr to 3B; Millan to 2B
12-0 2 E. Williams J. Richard Hit By Pitch; Garr Scores; Millan to 3B; Evans to 2B
13-0 2 D. Baker J. Richard Groundout: SS-1B
13 runs, 12 hits, 1 error, 3 LOB. Astros 0, Braves 13.
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/9/2011.

Once that inning finally ended, the Astros pitching returned to normalcy . . . 6 innings of scoreless, two hit, two walk ball.  But as they say, the damage had been done.

HOU N   0  0  0    1  0  5    0  0  0  -   6 10  2
ATL N    0 13  0    0  0  0    0  0  x  -  13 15  0

More than 30 years later, on a Sunday afternoon at Great American Ball Park, the Reds hosted the Philadelphia Phillies in an early-season tilt.  This was only the ninth game in the Reds’ new “GABP” after spending the prior three decades at Riverfront Stadium.  For the 24,535 fans who may have been checking out their team’s new home, it was a rude surprise.

But it didn’t start out that way.  Reds’ starting pitcher Ryan Dempster cruised through the first three innings, allowing only a first inning double and striking out three.  Now, the prior year (2002) was Dempster’s first year allowing fewer than four walks per nine innings, and so it shouldn’t shock anyone to read that his control fell apart in the fourth.

Score Batter Pitcher Play Description
Top of the 4th, Phillies Batting, Tied 0-0, Reds’ Ryan Dempster facing 3-4-5
0-0 B. Abreu R. Dempster Walk
0-0 J. Thome R. Dempster Single to RF (Line Drive); Abreu to 2B
0-0 P. Burrell R. Dempster Double to LF (Line Drive to Deep LF); Abreu Scores; Thome to 3B
1-0 D. Bell R. Dempster Groundout: 2B-1B; Thome Scores; Burrell to 3B
2-0 M. Lieberthal R. Dempster Popfly: 2B
2-0 R. Ledee R. Dempster Intentional Walk
2-0 R. Wolf R. Dempster Single to RF (Line Drive); Burrell Scores; Ledee to 2B
3-0 J. Rollins R. Dempster Walk; Ledee to 3B; Wolf to 2B
3-0 P. Polanco R. Dempster Walk; Ledee Scores; Wolf to 3B; Rollins to 2B
4-0 B. Abreu R. Dempster Walk; Wolf Scores; Rollins to 3B; Polanco to 2B
5-0 J. Thome R. Dempster Single to CF (Ground Ball thru Deep SS-2B); Rollins Scores; Polanco Scores; Abreu to 2B
Scott Sullivan replaces Ryan Dempster pitching and batting 9th
7-0 P. Burrell S. Sullivan Walk; Abreu to 3B; Thome to 2B
7-0 D. Bell S. Sullivan Walk; Abreu Scores; Thome to 3B; Burrell to 2B
8-0 M. Lieberthal S. Sullivan Single to CF (Line Drive); Thome Scores; Burrell Scores; Bell to 2B
10-0 R. Ledee S. Sullivan Home Run (Line Drive); Bell Scores; Lieberthal Scores
13-0 R. Wolf S. Sullivan Strikeout Swinging
13 runs, 6 hits, 0 errors, 0 LOB. Phillies 13, Reds 0.
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/9/2011.

Once that inning finally ended, the Reds pitching settled down, allowing two innocent doubles in the last five innings.

PHI N    0  0  0   13  0  0    0  0  0  -  13  9  0
CIN N    0  0  0    0  1  0    0  0  0  -   1  6  1

2 thoughts on “When “just one bad inning” is an understatement

  1. I remember that April 13, 2003, Phillies-Reds game. It was the first one that came to mind as I started reading this entry. I thought it was interesting that the Phillies scored 13 runs in the 4th inning on the 13th day of the 4th month.

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