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Braves Recap/Flashback: April 11

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Greg Maddux and the Braves pulled off a combined Maddux

BBN-METS-BRAVES-02 Photo credit should read STEVE SCHAEFER/AFP via Getty Images

Do you know about the Maddux? No, not Greg Maddux the player, but rather, the stat? A Maddux is when a pitcher throws a complete-game shutout in under 100 pitches. Since pitch counts have been tracked, Maddux (duh) leads everyone with 13 of them.

On April 11, 2001, Greg Maddux started against the Mets. He didn’t throw a Maddux. But the Braves threw a Maddux anyway, as he breezed through seven frames, and two relievers finished off the shutout without raising the team’s aggregate pitch count over 100.

This contest took place just five games after the Braves’ first walkoff win of 2001 (also against the Mets), which was recapped here. The Braves had gone 1-4 since that victory, including losing the rematch of the Kevins (Millwood and Appier); Maddux’s turn in the rotation was the lone win. He would face Rick Reed, a long-tenured middle-of-the-rotation stalwart, who’d thrown a complete game win over the Braves in the game after their walkoff win in which he’d allowed just three hits and a lone run that came via groundout.

How it happened: It happened very quickly, for one thing. This game flew by, taking only two hours and three minutes from the first pitch to the last out. The only faster game the Braves would play in 2001 came in a Greg Maddux complete game shutout of the (then Devil) Rays, which missed being a Maddux by literally one pitch, as it took him 100 pitches to end the game. It also happened in the rain, with pretty much the entire two hours happening in something between a mist and a drizzle.

Lastly, it happened with Maddux hobbled by his toe. The Professor was set to make an Opening Day start for the Braves, but managed to hurt the pesky digit during his last Spring Training tune-up. The pain was enough for him to miss his first turn in the rotation, and to last just five innings (scoreless, walkless, of course) in his first outing of the season.

The first ten batters of the game went down in order. Todd Zeile broke that streak up with a line drive single into right field, but Maddux got consecutive second-pitch groundouts to end the inning. That was all Maddux would allow on the night.

The Braves then ended up scoring the game’s first run on a strange sequence. With one out, personal Maddux catcher Paul Bako struck out swinging on a Reed curveball that bounced so far in front of the plate that it hopped over Mike Piazza. Maddux then bunted Bako over to second, and Rafael Furcal’s 2-0 oops-y swing resulted in a bloop opposite-field double that allowed Bako, catcher’s speed and all, to score from second. Andruw Jones then hit a first-pitch comebacker to Reed to strand Furcal. Not that the Braves would need insurance in this one, though.

After that, there was little but good pitching to speak of. Maddux’s bottom of the third took all of eight pitches, despite including two strikeouts. Reed’s top of the fourth required only six. Literally no plate appearance between Zeile’s second-inning single and Andruw Jones’ two-out PA in the top of the sixth lasted more than five pitches. On the sixth pitch, Jones hit a routine fly to right.

After a six-pitch Maddux bottom of the sixth, the Braves extended their lead, as Chipper Jones muscled a 2-1 Reed offering into left-center for his second homer of the season. Reed would also allow the third Braves hit later in the inning, a two-out Rico Brogna single, but got Quilvio Veras to foul out to third to end the inning. Maddux finally had another PA last more than five pitches in the bottom of the seventh, when Mike Piazza battled him into a seven-pitch groundout. After that frame, Maddux took himself out of the game. According to postgame interviews, by that point, his sore toe was hurting so much that he couldn’t focus on anything else. That explains how Piazza was able to see as many pitches as he did, but also leads me to wonder what the Mets would have been in store for on that night had Maddux been able to focus. No-hitter? Perfect game? On 40 total pitches? Stupid banged-up toe.

Rick Reed literally had a three-pitch inning in the top of the eight. On his first pitch, Bako grounded right to Zeile at first base. On Reed’s second pitch, pinch-hitter Keith Lockhart, batting in Maddux’s place, rolled a ball through the right side for a seeing-eye single. On his third pitch, Furcal hit a ball right to shortstop, and not even his speed could stop the double play. Yep, a three-pitch inning that included a hit. How about that?

With Maddux out of the game, the Braves gave the eighth inning to Mike Remlinger, who proved adequately Maddux-like. It took him just ten pitches to sit the side down in order: four-pitch groundout, first-pitch flyout, five-pitch foulout to first base.

Reed finished his night with an uncharacteristic 13-pitch inning. It was still a 1-2-3 frame that included a three-pitch strikeout of Chipper Jones, it was just that Brian Jordan gave Reed the parting gift of a seven-pitch plate appearance that ended in a fly ball to right field. Reed ended the game with a 96-pitch, nine-inning outing in which he allowed four hits, two runs, and struck out four while walking none. It was the only time in his career he’d throw back-to-back complete games (and both came against the Braves). Moreover, Reed only had 13 complete games in his career, and the shortest span he had ever had between them aside from this feat was nine starts. At least he won the first one, I guess.

The Mets had one more chance to get at least two runs (and get their first baserunner since the second inning). To stymie them, the Braves deployed probably the least Maddux-like individual on their squad: John Rocker. Rocker, was of course, an arch-antagonist as far as the Mets were concerned, but they had bothered him so far in 2001: in his first game of the year, he gave up a go-ahead two run homer; in his second game, he blew a one-run lead though the Braves would come back and walk it off. But, none of that carried over into this particular outing. The Mets used three straight pinch-hitters, to no avail. Joe McEwing hit for Rey Ordonez and fouled out to right field on the seventh pitch. Desi Relaford hit for Reed and went down on strikes after whiffing on the fifth pitch of his PA. Jorge Toca hit for Darryl Hamilton and popped out to Brogna on the first pitch he saw. Game over. Maddux, Remlinger, and Rocker combined for a Maddux, allowing just one Met to reach base across nine innings and 96 pitches.

Game MVP: Who else but Maddux, in a combined Maddux? Amusingly, this wasn’t even a particularly remarkable Maddux-in-2001 start. A few games later, he’d complete a 109-pitch shutout of the Brewers in a 1-0 game while tallying 14 strikeouts against two hits and a walk. His 6/0 K/BB ratio in this game was wonderful, of course, but it wasn’t even a top-five mark for him in 2001. He was just wondrous.

Game LVP: Honestly, probably Maddux’s sore toe. Or I guess you could give it to Edgardo Alfonzo, who just so happened to lead off two innings with outs.

Biggest play: Furcal’s bloop double, as that was the only run the Maddux-ing Braves would need.

The game, in context of the season: You already know that Maddux was a monster in 2001. That was actually his last completely ridiculous season: while he remained average-to-well above for the rest of his career, he finished the 2001 season with a 71 FIP- and 6.3 fWAR; in the next seven seasons before he called it a career, his best marks were 82 and 4.3, respectively.

Coming into this game, the Braves were 3-5, which was their worst start in a decade. This game didn’t immediately rectify the situation, but the Braves did at least finish the month 9-9. They didn’t really take off until June, nor take up a division lead for good until mid-August, but it was at least a step towards where they would eventually end up.

While the Mets and Braves ended up in very different places by the end of the season, their head-to-head matchups were pretty close, with the Braves winning 10 and the Mets taking nine. The Mets won the first two series (these flashbacks have covered the lone Braves win in both series), but the Braves swept a home series during their blazing June.

Rick Reed had an interesting career, and 2001 was sort of its last peak. Reed spent the first eight partial seasons of his major league career on effectively a series of taxi squads, and actually failed to appear in the majors at all in 1996. Still, he persevered and somehow ended up transforming into an effective pitcher starting in 1997, when he was 32 years old. He would go on to put up 13.5 fWAR in five and a half seasons with the Mets in his mid-thirties. The Mets traded him at the 2001 Trade Deadline to the Twins for Matt Lawton, which spawned a really ineffectual trade tree wherein basically no one got what they wanted across multiple years and moves.

Video? I don’t have anything, but this would be a really fun pitching clinic to watch for two hours.

Anything else? Rafael Furcal drove in the go-ahead run in this game. Furcal’s combination of hitting, defense, and baserunning made him a very valuable player for the first 11 years of his career until everything fell apart in 2011, but 2001 was his worst season up until that point, a disappointing follow-up to his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2000. Furcal actually ended up missing half of the 2001 season after dislocating his shoulder on a stolen base attempt in July, but had only hit for an 80 wRC+ up to that point.

Baseball is dead to me, tell me something else cool about April 11: About eight years ago, a British company named True Knowledge (now Evi) debuted a knowledge base product that basically provided semantic search (think what happens when you ask Siri/Google Assistant/Alexa stuff) services. Within this knowledge base, April 11, 1954 was termed the “most boring day” of the 20th century, as apparently nothing of any significance could be found as occurring in that 24-hour period, including events, notable births, or notable deaths.