Monday May 25th, 2015

It's bad enough having to work on a national holiday, but Jeremy Guthrie's Memorial Day start against the Yankees was one for the books, as the righthander served up four home runs—three of them three-run shots—and retired just three batters in a horrid afternoon on the mound. By the time he departed with nobody out in the second inning, the Royals trailed 11–0; they went on to lose, 14–1.

The barrage began before Guthrie could record a single out. On his second pitch of the first inning, Brett Gardner doubled to rightfield; one pitch later, Chase Headley homered to right for a 2–0 lead. The next batter, Alex Rodriguez, singled and took second on a wild pitch, followed by a walk to Mark Teixeira. That brought up Brian McCann, who took three pitches before clubbing a three-run homer to right to run the score to 5–0.

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Still in search of his first out, Guthrie managed to get Garrett Jones to fly out and Stephen Drew to ground out, but he prolonged the agony by hitting Didi Gregorius with a pitch, then yielded a single to Slade Heathcott to turn over the lineup. Gardner tacked on yet another three-run homer, and the line kept moving as Headley singled and Rodriguez walked. Finally, the inning ended when Teixeira went down swinging on Guthrie's 47th pitch.

With the Royals going down in order against Nathan Eovaldi on just eight pitches, Guthrie didn't get much of a breather. Nor did he get any relief from manager Ned Yost, who sent his battered starter back out in hopes that he could at least soak up a few innings to protect the Royals' bullpen. No dice. Guthrie walked McCann on five pitches, then yielded a single to Jones, with both runners moving up an extra 90 feet on an error by rightfielder Paulo Orlando. Only after he served up yet another three-run homer, this one to Drew, did his day end, that after just 60 pitches. Drew's drive appeared to be the longest of the four homers:

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In addition to being far beyond his previous career high of eight, Guthrie's 11 runs allowed is the majors' highest total since last July 10, when the Rangers' Colby Lewis yielded 13 to the Angels. Four pitchers had allowed 10 this year, including the Dodgers' Carlos Frias against the Padres on Sunday; the Red Sox' Clay Buchholz against the Yankees on April 12; the Astros' Samuel Deduno against the Rangers on May 6; and the Brewers' Matt Garza against the Mets on May 16.

All four of those 10-run pitchers managed to last at least 3 1/3 innings, however, and Lewis lasted 2 1/3. Via the Baseball-Reference.com Play Index, only two other starters have allowed 11 runs while working one inning or fewer, while eight have allowed 10 runs:

player date team Opp. ip r
Jeremy Guthrie 5/25/15 Royals Yankees 1 11
Jason Jennings 7/29/07 Astros Padres 2/3 11
Luke Hudson 8/13/06 Royals Indians 1/3 11
Charlie Morton 8/14/09 Pirates Cubs 1 10
Brian Bannister 8/17/08 Royals Yankees 1 10
Bronson Arroyo 6/24/08 Reds Blue Jays 1 10
Edgar Gonzalez 9/3/04 Diamondbacks Giants 1 10
Tom Gordon 10/1/95 Royals Indians 1 10
Joe Decker 5/12/76 Twins Royals 1 10
Milt Gaston 6/13/34 (2) White Sox Senators 1 10
Joe Shaute 6/16/25 Indians Athletics 1 10

To be fair, seven of the 10 runs allowed by Gaston were unearned, as were one apiece by Hudson and Shaute. Speaking of Hudson: As you can see, the Royals are all too well represented on that list, accounting for four of the 11 spots, one of which—Bannister's Aug. 17, 2008 start—came against the Yankees in the Bronx. Rodriguez began that particular barrage with a three-run homer off Bannister, and from among that game's other participants, both Gardner and the Royals' Alex Gordon were also on hand on Monday.

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Guthrie's 11 runs tied Hudson and Zack Greinke for the most allowed by a Royals starter, with Greinke having done so over the course of 4 1/3 innings on June 10, 2005 against the Diamondbacks. However, the franchise record for most runs allowed in a game is even higher: 14, by reliever Vin Mazzaro against the Indians on May 16, 2011. That’s tied with three other players for the most allowed in a game since World War II, more on which below.

In terms of Game Score—the Bill James formula that credits and debits various outcomes in a pitcher's line score for comparative purposes, with 50 being average—Guthrie scored a -11. That's dreadful and ties the aforementioned Greinke start for worst in franchise history, but it's only tied for 10th-worst in the post-1960 expansion era:

Player date team opp. ip r gm. Sc.
Mike Oquist 8/3/98 A's Yankees 5 14 -21
Colby Lewis 7/10/14 Rangers Angels 2 1/3 13 -16
Scott Sanders 4/14/98 Tigers Rangers 4 11 -15
Galen Cisco 7/27/62 (2) Red Sox Senators 5 1/3 13 -14
David Wells 8/20/92 Blue Jays Brewers 4 1/3 13 -14
Bill Travers 8/14/77 (2) Brewers Indians 7 2/3 14 -13
A.J. Burnett 5/2/12 Pirates Cardinals 2 2/3 12 -13
Jerry Augustine 5/11/82 Brewers Royals 5 12 -12
Yovani Gallardo 8/8/07 Brewers Rockies 2 2/3 11 -12
Bryan Rekar 4/28/96 Rockies Expos 2 1/3 11 -11
Zack Greinke 6/10/05 Royals D-Backs 4 1/3 11 -11
Jason Marquis 6/21/06 Cardinals White Sox 5 13 -11
Jon Garland 7/6/07 (1) White Sox Twins 3 1/3 12 -11
Jason Jennings 7/29/07 Astros Padres 2/3 11 -11
Jeremy Guthrie 5/25/15 Royals Yankees 1 11 -11

Oquist and Travers are two of the three postwar pitchers with whom Mazzaro is tied; the other is the Phillies’ Al Jurisch, who allowed 14 for the Phillies against the Giants on June 28, 1947.

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As for Guthrie, the drubbing raised his ERA from 4.75 to 6.70, and it also underscored the particularly shaky nature of the defending AL champions' rotation. Just before Monday’s game, the team placed Danny Duffy on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation, retroactive to May 17. The 26-year-old lefty had been rocked for 14 runs in 9 2/3 innings over his last three starts, inflating his ERA from 3.45 to 5.87 ERA. His replacement on the roster, 22-year-old lefty Brandon Finnegan, was pressed into mop-up duty in relief of Guthrie; he threw three innings of shutout ball. Duffy's replacement in the rotation will be Jason Vargas, who's scheduled to start on Tuesday in his return from a three-week absence due to a flexor strain; he's carrying a 5.26 ERA.

With Yordano Ventura at 4.64, the only Royals starters preventing runs at a better-than-average clip are scrap-heap pickup Chris Young (0.78) and free-agent addition Edinson Volquez (2.77). The unit as a whole came into Monday with a 4.10 ERA, which ranked seventh in the league, but the shellacking raised it to 4.49, which would have been the fourth-worst among the same AL set. Through Sunday, the Royals' rotation's 5.9 strikeouts per nine and 1.9 strikeout-to-walk ratio were both the league's second-worst, and its 40% quality start rate fourth-worst.

Fortunately for the Royals, their bullpen has once again been dominant, via a league-best 1.68 ERA, and so the team as a whole came into Monday allowing a league-low 3.40 runs per game. Meanwhile, their offense was cranking out 4.91 runs per game, the league's second-highest rate, and so their +65 run differential was the majors' best by 10 runs. After a 14–1 loss, that' s no longer the case, but their +52 remains tops in the AL, and confirms that their 28–16 record is no fluke.

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