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The worst run of relief pitching in Yankees’ history

Most relievers have bad runs. Few go on as long as this one.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Every reliever is going to have bad outings. Some even have a couple bad ones right in a row. “What’s wrong with Mariano?” Week became a joke/annual tradition every time Mariano Rivera had more than one bad appearance in a short sample. Every time the answer to what was wrong was nothing, as Rivera still ended up having a good season year after year.

No one will confuse Pat Clements’ career with Rivera, but he was on pace to have a decent season with the Yankees in 1987. He then just happened to go through arguably the worst stretch from a Yankees reliever ever.

Clements was part of the November 1986 trade that saw the Bombers send away future Cy Young winner Doug Drabek. He got hit around in his Yankees debut, allowing four runs in 1.1 innings out of the bullpen. In his next 43.2 innings, however, Clements surrendered just 11 runs. That run ended on July 17th, at which point, he had a 3.00 ERA, and had allowed just nine extra-base hits.

Two days later, Clements struggled against the Rangers, but then again, so did everyone else. With the Yankees already down 15-2, Clements came in and got a ground out to end the seventh. He came back out for the eighth, but allowed three more runs and left the bases loaded without recording an out. Two of those runners would score. Clements was credited with allowing five earned runs in 0.1 innings on four hits and two walks. The Yankees lost 20-3.

That outing would be the beginning of a 12-game streak where, according to Winning Percentage Added, Clements had a negative impact (or zero impact in the case of the 20-3 Rangers’ game) on the Yankees’ chances. That is a record for Yankees’ reliever.

Two days after the Rangers’ disaster, Clements came into a 1-1 game in the ninth and allowed a walk-off single against the Twins to the only batter he faced. Four days later, he was credited with a loss after Dave Righetti allowed an inherited runner to score in a 3-2 loss against the White Sox.

In three games after that, Clements allowed seven runs in a combined 4.2 innings. On August 18th, there was a blown save. He was charged with the blown save even though he just coughed up a two-run lead in the sixth inning.

The 12-game stretch ended after he allowed five runs in 6.1 runs in the final three games. The July 19th-September 1st stretch raised his ERA from 3.00 to 4.85. He allowed 17 runs in 14.1 innings. He gave up as many extra-base hits in that stretch as he had in his entire season before that.

Clements ended his run of negative WPA tallies after he recorded a multi-inning save against the Angels on September 4th. He threw four scoreless inning to break the streak.

That game did not turn Clements’ season around, as he still struggled in his final 10 appearances of the season. He spent a lot of the following year in the minors, throwing just 8.1 innings for the Yankees. The Yankees traded him to the Padres after the 1988 season.

Clements struggled some the following two seasons, but had a decent year with the Padres and Orioles in 1992. His major league career would be over after that. He struggled in Triple-A in ‘93 and seemingly retired after that.

For his career, Pat Clements put up some decent numbers. For whatever reason, though, he had an unmatched streak of struggling in 1988.


Data courtesy of the Baseball Reference Play Index