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When good Yankees relievers go bad

Every reliever is going to have a bad day at some point. George Frazier’s just happened to be really bad.

Boston Red Sox v New York Yankees Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

George Frazier had a 10 year major league career as a reliever, and for a decent chunk of it, he was pretty good. He famously was the losing pitcher three times in the 1981 World Series as the Yankees lost in six. However, in all three games, he came in before the seventh inning, so while he wasn’t great, it can’t be totally blamed on him. The Yankees still had chances.

Despite the World Series struggles, he put up good numbers as a Yankee. In three seasons in New York, he had a 3.25 ERA in over 200 innings. Were it not for a game on August 3, 1982, that ERA would be even lower.

In the opening game of a doubleheader on August 3rd, Frazier threw 0.2 of an inning, retiring both batters he faced. The Yankees lost the opener to the White Sox 1-0 anyway.

Roger Erickson started the second game of the day for the Yankees. He allowed two runs through the first three innings. After allowing a double and a walk, he was pulled with two outs in the fourth. Frazier was called on to make his second appearance of the day, and struck out Bill Almon to end the inning.

Frazier was sent back out for the fifth inning and allowed a triple to the first batter. Here is how the rest of the inning played out: single, wild pitch, lineout, groundout, intentional walk, single, walk, single, single, fly ball. The White Sox got five hits, two walks, and five runs. There was even a throwing error mixed in there for fun. The Yankees went into the fourth trailing 3-1, and left it down 8-1.

In the bottom of the fourth, the Yankees got one of those runs back. It was only one run, though, and wouldn’t be close to enough.

The top of the fifth started with Frazier allowing a home run to Tony Bernazard. The next six hitters proceeded to all get singles. Six straight singles. After two straight innings of constant hits and baserunners, Frazier was removed with the Yankees down 12-2. It got slightly worse as one of the runners Dave Righetti inherited from Frazier scored.

George Frazier’s final line for the day was: 1.1 innings, 11 hits, two walks, and 10 runs. He came into the day with a 2.49 ERA, and came out with a 3.88. The Yankees lost 14-2.

He eventually managed to get his ERA back down to 3.47. Frazier threw 49 innings over the rest of the season, allowing just 16 more runs. Were it not for this one outing, his season ERA would have been 2.69.

After losing both games of the doubleheader, the Yankees fired manager Gene Michael. While it may not have been due to these two games alone, it was George Steinbrenner, so you never know. The Yankees actually announced that fans could exchange their tickets while Frazier was pitching.

The following season, the pitcher had another perfectly good year out of the bullpen. In February of 1984, he was traded to Cleveland before finishing out his career playing for the Cubs and Twins. He was part of Minnesota’s World Series winning team in 1987, and didn’t play again in the majors after that season.

George Frazier retired with a 96 ERA+, meaning he was close to average over the course of his major league career. With the Yankees, his ERA+ was 120, which is pretty good. On August 2, 1982, he just happened to have about as bad a game as a reliever can have.