Happy birthday, Jeremy Guthrie.
The day he turned 38, a perfect confluence of events led to an inning of work for Guthrie that you can’t really call a disaster start without being unfair to disasters. In two-thirds of an inning of work against the Phillies, the Nationals starter allowed six hits, four walks and 10 runs, all earned. With tonight’s start he became the first MLB pitcher in the modern era to give up more than ten runs in an inning or less twice. (The previous occasion came two seasons ago, when he was still with the Royals; he left that game in the second inning with nobody out and 11 Yankee runs in). His ERA is presently 135.00.
Guthrie was only pitching because the Nationals, knowing they’d need a fifth starter just once in the season’s first few weeks, had sent regular No. 5 Joe Ross to Triple A so they could carry an extra bench player; once sent down, he couldn’t be recalled for 10 days. And Guthrie, who has a career ERA of 4.37 and 272 career starts but hadn’t pitched in the majors since 2015, only stayed in through so much carnage because manager Dusty Baker felt the Nats’ bullpen had been worked hard the last few games—he noted when meeting with reporters before the game that Washington needed Guthrie to go deep.
Needless to say, the baseball gods had other ideas. It takes a lot of different events to go extremely badly—or, if you’re the opposing team, extremely well—for that many runs to score before a third out is recorded. The litany:
Cesar Hernandez doubled
Howie Kendrick singled and stole second
Odubel Herrera walked
Maikel Franco scored Hernandez on a sac fly
Michael Saunders singled, scoring Kendrick
Tommy Joseph singled, scoring Herrera
Cameron Rupp walked
Freddy Galvis scored Saunders on a sac fly
At this point, with the Phillies up 4–0 but two outs already in the books and a glimmer of light appearing at the end of the tunnel, Guthrie walked the pitcher. Then:
Cesar Hernandez walked, forcing in Tommy Joseph
Howie Kendrick tripled, clearing the bases
Odubel Herrera singled, scoring Kendrick
This is when Baker, with the haunted, hunched walk of a man who has seen some things in his day but nothing quite like this, finally came out to retrieve Guthrie. He replaced him with Enny Romero, who immediately allowed a double to Maikel Franco (scoring Herrera, whose run was charged to Guthrie) and another double to Michael Saunders (scoring Franco), followed by a Tommy Joseph single (scoring Saunders). The carousel finally ground to a halt when Cameron Rupp mercifully struck out. By that point, it was 12–0. The final score would be 17–3.
As rough as the inning was, it wasn’t the most troubling thing to come out of tonight’s game for the Nationals—that would be Trea Turner’s apparent injury. The young star shortstop singled in the top of the first inning, stole second, and moved to third on a Daniel Murphy single, but suddenly slowed his pace and, after consulting with the trainer, left the game. Saturday’s start will fade into memory soon enough—except for Guthrie, perhaps—but losing Turner for any length of time would be a real blow. The Nationals are hopeful that it will only be a few days.
Guthrie, who was part of the Royals’ World Series rotation in 2014, had worked long and hard to get back to the majors after his Kansas City contract expired at the end of ’15. In 2016 he had minor league deals with the Rangers, Padres and Marlins, but each team eventually released him without giving him a major league shot, and after the season he signed with Australia’s Melbourn Aces. The Nationals brought him to spring training as a non-roster invitee and he began this season working out in Florida before he got the fateful call to start Saturday’s game. Hopefully he’ll get the chance to replace this appearance with a more pleasant memory—but preferably on a day when the bullpen is fully rested.