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August 21, 2017

Flu-Like Symptoms

Vin Mazzaro's Second-Worst Day

by Rob Mains


On May 5 of last year, the Giants had a bad day. Specifically, a couple of their pitchers had a bad day. In the top of the fifth inning, with his team already trailing 4-3, Matt Cain allowed a leadoff home run to Trevor Story. The next batter, Carlos Gonzalez, doubled. Nolan Arenado hit a grounder to shortstop Brandon Crawford, who bounced his throw to first base. Arenado was safe on the error, with Gonzalez advancing to third. The next batter, Gerardo Parra, singled, scoring Gonzalez, as Arenado advanced to second.

With nobody out, runners on first and second, and the Giants now trailing 6-3, manager Bruce Bochy brought in Vin Mazzaro from the bullpen.

  • The first batter Mazzaro faced, Mark Reynolds, hit a grounder to second baseman Kelby Tomlinson, who couldn’t come up with the ball. The Rockies had their second baserunner reach on error in the inning, and the bases were loaded.
  • With the bases now full, Tony Walters doubled down the right field line, scoring Arenado and Parra, with Reynolds going to third. Rockies 8, Giants 3.
  • Pitcher Chris Rusin hit a soft grounder to second, and the Giants had their first out of the inning, with the runners holding.

At this point, the Giants should have been out of the inning. Crawford’s error should have been the first out, Tomlinson’s the second out, and Rusin’s grounder the third out. Therefore, any subsequent runs would be unearned.

And there were plenty of subsequent runs!

  • DJ LeMahieu singled, scoring Reynolds. Rockies 9, Giants 3.
  • Charlie Blackmon doubled, scoring Wolters. Rockies 10, Giants 3.
  • Story singled, scoring LeMahieu. Rockies 11, Giants 3.
  • Gonzalez walked, loading the bases.
  • Arenado was hit by a pitch, scoring Blackmon. Rockies 12, Giants 3.
  • Parra singled, scoring Story and Gonzalez. Rockies 14, Giants 3.
  • Reynolds doubled, scoring Arenado. Rockies 15, Giants 3.
  • Derek Law relieved Mazzaro. Wolters struck out.
  • Rusin—the pitcher who’d made the first out of the inning—singled, scoring Parra and Reynolds. Rockies 17, Giants 3.
  • LeMahieu ended the inning with a grounder.

Up to the point of Rusin’s groundout, the first out of the inning that really should’ve been the third out, the Rockies had scored four runs. Only two were earned: Story’s homer, and Parra’s single that scored Gonzalez. The third runner who scored, Arenado, had reached base via Crawford’s error, so his run was unearned. Parra, who’d singled, scored on that play too, but his run was unearned as well because he’d advanced to second on Tomlinson’s error. So there were four runs scored, two earned, two unearned.

The next nine runs were all unearned, because there would’ve been three outs if not for the two errors. But here’s the wrinkle: They were unearned to the Giants, not to Mazzaro. When Rusin grounded out, it should’ve been the third out of the inning. Any scoring after that was unearned for the team. But under baseball rules—9.16(i), to be exact—relief pitchers are on the hook for runs they allow. The rule states:

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