While looking at the weirdness that has been Bryan Mitchell’s season with the Padres, another San Diego pitching line stood out. Colten Brewer has pitched in one game this season, his only career appearance to date. He’s allowed four runs — zero earned — in 0.2 innings, having faced nine batters. One of the two outs he got was a strikeout of the pitcher on a foul bunt.
While Brewer’s effort is bad, it’s not historically bad or anything. It does, however, lead to thinking about the worst relief efforts ever. From a Yankees’ perspective, the one this post will highlight is possibly the worst relief performance in team history.
There have been games where a reliever has given up more. There have been games where a reliever has given up more in fewer innings pitched. There have also definitely been outings that have come in more important games and had much more of an adverse effect on that season. This performance didn’t have any repercussions really, but it did turn what could have been a win into a loss in an instant.
On September 28, 1952, the Yankees were leading the Philadelphia Athletics in the regular season finale. The Yankees had already clinched the pennant and a World Series berth. A Yogi Berra home run extended their lead to 4-1, heading into the bottom of the sixth. Starter Ewell Blackwell threw five solid innings, but was replaced by reliever Bill Miller to start the next inning. Then this happened:
Miller starts by allowing a single and a walk to the Athletics’ fifth and sixth hitters. That’s not ideal, but whatever. It happens. Then, he gives up an RBI single. Two of the outs Miller gets in the inning come next, but they both need a closer examination.
Joe Astroth lays down a bunt, moving the runners to second and third. Sure. It’s 1952, teams are going to bunt to move people over. Astroth, however, was hitting in the eight slot. The batter due up next was Carl Scheib, the pitcher. They bunted two people into scoring position to bring up the pitcher. Scheib had .439 OPS that season. Naturally, he also made an out.
Despite basically gifting Miller and the Yankees two outs, the Athletics still made the Yankees pay, with some help. A Loren Babe throwing error kept the inning alive. That also insured that all the remaining runs in the inning would be unearned for Miller. That’s lucky for him, because there were a lot of them.
Philadelphia would add seven more runs in the inning, for a total of eight. The Yankees went into the inning up three and left it down five. Miller gave up five hits and two walks, yet escaped with only a minor hit to his ERA.
No more runs were scored by either team, and the Yankees lost 9-4. They went on to win the World Series, but Miller did not appear in it. Miller played two more years for the Yankees. He had a 4.99 ERA in 39.2 innings across those two years. After that, he was included as a player to be named later in a trade with the Orioles that got the Yankees Don Larsen among others.
There have been more catastrophic relief outings in Yankees’ history. However, if we’re talking purely performance-based in the context of a game, it’s hard to top this one.