This flashback/recap is a direct follow-on to yesterday’s, in which the Braves lost a 15-inning game despite coming back after trailing 5-0. Mostly, the highlight on display here was the juxtaposition between a close, tense game (at least after the middle innings) the previous night, and the absolute destruction the Braves unleashed on the Twins to even the series.
The gist: The Braves won 11-0 for their first-ever win in Minnesota. Tom Glavine cruised as the Twins only sent more than three batters to the plate in two of their nine innings. The Braves absolutely demolished Kyle Lohse and Bob Wells, including six consecutive extra-base hits, the last three of which were back-to-back-to-back homers, to turn a 2-0 lead into a rout in the fifth.
The set-up: The Braves lost all four games at the Metrodome during the 1991 World Series, and lost a marathon contest in their first-ever regular season game against the Twins. Tom Glavine was on a hilarious roll to this point in the 2002 season, with a 40 ERA-, 76 FIP-, and 101 xFIP- on the season. He’d allowed just four runs in four starts, and seemed to bounce back and forth between great-peripherals outings (9 IP, 1 R, 0 BB, 8 K) and lousy ones (7 IP, 1 R, 2 BB, 1 K) without it really affecting his run prevention. Glavine, of course, was one of just two Braves still with the franchise since that 1991 World Series, the other being John Smoltz.
Pitching for the Twins, meanwhile, was second-year starter Kyle Lohse, who wasn’t any good as a rookie and was generically mediocre (in the same fashion he would be for most of his very long career) to start 2002: 100 ERA-, 99 FIP-, 108 xFIP-. Lohse wasn’t much of a strikeout guy, but his stats were prevented from being awful because he kept the ball in the park... mostly. When he didn’t, things got ugly.
How it happened: This one doesn’t make sense to go after inning by inning. Instead, let’s split it into two separate narratives — one for the batting Braves, one for the batting Twins. Remember, the Twins came into this game as MLB’s premier offensive team, while the Braves were middle of the pack.
For the Braves, this was just fun all-around. The Braves got a couple of baserunners in the first, including a man on third with one out, but Gary Sheffield and Andruw Jones popped out around a Chipper Jones walk to render it a scoreless frame for Lohse. Matt Franco got the team’s only hit in the second. In the third, though, the dam started to leak. Rafael Furcal singled to start the inning, moved to second when Lohse walked Darren Bragg, and then moved to third when Lohse plunked Sheffield. Chipper followed with a deep fly to right that allowed Furcal to trot home; Lohse then plunked Andruw to immediately re-load the bases. He was momentarily saved, however, by Vinny Castilla hitting into a 6-3 double play.
Lohse got the first two outs easily in the fourth, but then Keith Lockhart tagged him for a solo homer to double the lead.
In the fifth, though, “whomp” was the watchword. Bragg started the inning with a double. Sheffield followed with a double, scoring Bragg. Chipper followed with a double, scoring Sheffield. Andruw then unloaded on a Lohse pitch, creaming it into right-center for an oppo two-run homer. It was 6-0 Braves at this point, and then Castilla followed suit with a first-pitch crushed giner of his own. That sent Lohse to the showers, having allowed seven runs in four-plus innings. He gave up three homers, walked two, hit two batters, and struck out zero. The Braves weren’t even close to done, though. Bob Wells, a journeyman reliever towards the end of his career, came on for long relief duty, and on his second pitch, served up yet another longball, this time to Franco. After that, he finally got the first two outs of the inning, but then unraveled further. Furcal singled, and Bragg drew a walk to reach base for the second time in the inning. So did Sheffield, and then so did Chipper, pushing Furcal home. Finally, Andruw popped out. The Braves sent 13 men to the plate and scored seven runs.
But, that wasn’t quite it. Castilla’s leadoff single in the sixth against Wells added yet another run when Javy Lopez homered over the fence in center. At that point, it was 11-0, and the Braves were indeed done. LaTroy Hawkins and Matt Kinney finished the pitching ledger for the Twins with no further damage.
For the Twins, it was pretty miserable, courtesy of Tom Glavine. The crafty lefty threw a 1-2-3 first, and survived a leadoff double, followed by a walk, in the second thanks to a fortuitous lineout to Sheffield in right and a 5-4-3 double play. After that, though, it was just the usual Glavine ball-in-play cruise control. The Twins wouldn’t get another baserunner until the fifth, and that leadoff groundball single got erased on 4-3-6 double play, and came off the bat of Brian Buchanan, who had also hit into the second-inning twin killing. A 10-pitch sixth and a 12-pitch seventh ended Glavine’s efforts, as he just wasn’t needed to do more than throw those 85 pitches.
Darren Holmes threw a seven-pitch eighth, and Albie Lopez followed with a needlessly lengthy bottom of the ninth that featured a leadoff walk and a wild pitch, but still kept the Twins off the board, even though it took Lopez 23 pitches to face four batters.
Game MVP: Tom Glavine, who cruised in Maddux-esque fashion. Glavine allowed just three baserunners in seven frames, faced more than the minimum just once, and let his defense do most of the work, as he struck out just two (and walked one). 2002, Glavine’s last year as a Brave before he departed to the Mets, was a solid bounceback for him (2.7 fWAR) after a disappointing 2001 (1.7 fWAR, his lowest mark since his nine-start rookie effort in 1987). At this point, though, Glavine had already compiled his 2.7 fWAR, which put him second in the NL and fourth in MLB, just a bit ahead of fellow lefty Randy Johnson. The problem for Glavine was that he kind of imploded thereafter, especially during a four-start stretch in late June/early July in which he allowed nine homers. His final pitching triple-slash was 72/100/109, compared to 37 (!!)/75/100.
Game LVP: Who else but Kyle Lohse, who was utterly trashed and thrashed in this game. In many ways, this was his worst start of the year, though he actually had another four-inning, three-homer, zero-strikeout game in 2002 as well. By FIP, he actually never had a worse start again in his long career (his only worst start previously came in 2001); by xFIP, he only had three worse starts than this one. Lohse compiled 24.0 fWAR in his 16 major league seasons, with a 104/105/106 line. His line to finish 2002 was 93/112/98, giving him 1.2 fWAR over 181 innings.
Biggest play: Funnily enough, the biggest WPA swing in this game actually came from a loss of win expectancy rather than a gain, when Castilla hit into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded. That is definitely one of the weirdest WPA circumstances I’ve ever seen.
The game, in context of the season: You already know from yesterday’s recap where everyone ended up, but here’s some fun stuff. For the Braves, this was their biggest win of the year... until two weeks later, when they beat the White Sox 15-2. They wouldn’t score more runs in a shutout until 2005, when they beat the Astros 16-0. For the Twins, this was their worst offensive game of the season to date — they’d tie it with a similarly-poor showing in August, but not “top” it.
Always worth mentioning that Vinny Castilla put up -1.5 fWAR for the Braves in 2002, and the Braves still won 101 games, even with that “contribution.”
Anything else? The back-to-back-to-back homers were the first for the Braves since 1994. The Twins were two-hit for the first time since April 2001.
Baseball is dead to me, tell me something else cool about June 11: This was the kickoff date for the first-ever FIFA World Cup held in Africa in 2010, when South Africa hosted. (I was there!)
Also, I have no idea what is going on here, and at this point I’m too afraid to ask: