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It's been 10 years since the Rangers beat the Orioles, 30-3, and it's still brutal

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It’s the 10th anniversary of one of baseball’s most ridiculous games.

MLB

Ten years ago, Baltimore Orioles fans stood up and applauded Ramon Vazquez, who was a utility infielder for the Texas Rangers. They screamed for him. Some of them bowed in mock fealty, Wayne’s World-style. He had hit his second home run of the day, and Orioles fans couldn’t get enough. They laughed and cheered and laughed.

This is a shot of Orioles fans who were in love with Ramon Vazquez demolishing their team.

The home run was Vazquez’s seventh of the year, a career high by far. It was the first and only time he would hit two home runs in one game, but he didn’t respond to the cheers of the Orioles fans. He looked straight ahead, without cracking a smile.

His teammates looked down, too, avoiding eye contact.

They didn’t know what to do. No one did. That home run put the Rangers up 30-3, an American League record, a score that was topped only by a Colts/Colonels game from 1897, when baseballs were made out of leather swatches wrapped around shrunken raccoon skulls. The Orioles fans who stayed around went from eager to disappointed to angry to indifferent to humbled, awed, and appreciative. They stuck around and were rewarded. They gave the love back.

Everyone who was in a uniform, though, just wanted to go home. That was enough baseball for the day, and if a vote were held to end the baseball, it would have been unanimous. Everyone wanted to stop the baseball.

But they couldn’t. It was the first game of a doubleheader, after all.


This is a story about the Rangers beating the Orioles, 30-3. If we’re going to talk about a 30-3 game, we’ll need to know how it happened. Lots of hits, you might guess. Lots of home runs. Lots of bad pitching. Lots of bad defense. Lots of bad luck.

Well, fine, that’s exactly what happened. Way to ruin the surprise. But you’re already here, so let’s explore it in greater detail.

Start with the hits. The Rangers had 29 of them, which was the fourth-most by any team since 1913*.

The hits came in rapid succession, some of them scalded, some of them barely touched. They went to left, center, and right, and they dribbled in front of the catcher. Some of them were hit two feet, and some of them were hit 430 feet. But there were a lot of them. Consider that it’s somewhat rare for the Rangers to get 14 hits or more in a game — it’s a feat they accomplish in about five percent of their games. They had more than twice as many in this game, shoehorning roughly 27 innings of offensive dominance into nine innings.

Or about two, to be technical. The distribution of hits:

  • 1st - 1 hit
  • 2nd - 0
  • 3rd - 2
  • 4th - 4
  • 5th - 1
  • 6th - 10
  • 7th - 0
  • 8th - 7
  • 9th - 4

It’s hard to overstate just how average this game was before the top of the sixth inning. There were five innings of completely unremarkable baseball, a dumb inning, a normal inning, a dumb inning, and another dumb inning. The unremarkable innings outnumbered the dumb innings by a 2-to-1 margin.

Move to the home runs, of which there were six. Vazquez hit his two, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia also hit two. Both Marlon Byrd and Travis Metcalf hit grand slams, two innings apart. Both the Kansas City Royals and New York Mets finished the 2007 season without a grand slam.

The wind was not blowing out. The balls didn’t just scrape off the top of the fence. Each one of them was crushed. Each one of them deserved to be crushed.

This leads us to the bad pitching, of which there was plenty. Daniel Cabrera started the game, and he was an anthropomorphic walk, perhaps the most Orioles pitcher of the last 20 years. After walking nearly six batters for every nine innings he pitched in Low-A, the Orioles called him up after five starts in Double-A the following season. They had spent the previous decade not developing pitchers, so you can understand their confidence.

He was followed by Brian Burres, Rob Bell, and Paul Shuey. Burres was a low-strikeout lefty they claimed off waivers the year before. Bell was a perennial breakout candidate, and there’s still that one guy in your fantasy league that wants to call his name today. Shuey was the one Orioles pitcher who had a long, productive career. Except he had retired four years earlier because of hip problems, and he was pitching in the penultimate game of his career.

None of them had command. None of them had control. All of them allowed at least one home run and a walk. Cabrera was the best of the bunch, allowing just six earned runs. Shuey allowed nine runs over two innings, and his Win Probability Added was a cool 0.000. There are benefits to coming into a 21-3 game, after all.

It’s not like they were helped by their defense, though. The first hit of the game fell right in front of Corey Patterson. Miguel Tejada couldn’t snare a ball in the fourth that might have been a double play, but instead kept the rally going. Melvin Mora had a rough game, with an error and several iffy plays that most third basemen would have made. This was a ball that was hit to Mora at third base:

This was another ball hit to Mora at third base, I promise:

Because HD television was apparently invented the day after this game, it’s hard to see the ball, but the gag is that it was hit to third base, and it’s about 10 feet above the shortstop in that picture. It was that kind of defensive night for the Orioles. As you might have guessed.

But there was also rotten luck. That’s the fifth leg of this carrion table. The fifth hit of the game would have been an out with instant replay.

That blown call was followed by a two-run single and three-run homer. In the hellish sixth inning, this could have ended it all:

While this could also be filed in the defense-was-bad cabinet up there, it’s also a perfect example of the kinds of hits the Rangers were getting. Five of the 29 hits were infield hits. Another six were grounders with eyes. This particular one-out infield hit was followed by a single, homer, strikeout, single, single, single, single, single, single.

When the score was 6-3, play-by-play announcer Jim Hunter said, “Texas having one of those days where they're getting bloop hits, they're getting blasts, they're getting infield hits.”

The Orioles deserved to lose. They deserved to lose by a lot. But they didn’t deserve to lose 30-3. That’s because no team has ever deserved to lose 30-3.

* The team at the top of the hits leaderboard is the 1932 Philadelphia Athletics, but they shouldn’t count because their game lasted 18 innings. The winning pitcher was a reliever who allowed 29 hits and 14 runs.


In an earlier draft of this, I saved the revelation that this was the first game of a doubleheader for the end, a Shyamalanian twist to make you realize how everything was exponentially worse than it already was.

It was a twi-night doubleheader, too. This 30-3 game started at 5:05 p.m. local time and ended at 8:26. After a 35 minute break to prep the field, it was time for more baseball. It’s so beautiful, it absolutely breaks my heart.

Except there’s no saving that for the reveal because that’s why this game was the way it was. The plan was almost certainly to pitch Brian Burres for several innings. He was a starter in the minors, and he hadn’t pitched in nine days. The game was 6-3 when he entered it, and after Marlon Byrd hit a grand slam to make it 10-3, there was no reason to let anybody else pitch for a while. Save the arms for the second game. I’d wager there was a non-zero chance that the plan was to let Burres pitch the final four innings, regardless of how bad things got.

Until things got much worse than anyone could have anticipated. Then Orioles manager Dave Trembley needed Bell to take up that role, and lucky for them, he was also a starter in the minors. There was a non-zero chance that the plan was to let Bell pitch the final four innings, regardless of how bad things got.

Until things got much worse than anyone could have anticipated. Then Trembley shoved Shuey into an impossible situation and refused to take him out, regardless of how bad things got. Regardless of how bad things got.

This seems like a good time to mention that earlier in the day, Trembley was named the manager of the Baltimore Orioles. He was the interim manager after Sam Perlozzo was fired, and now he had the full-time gig. At the press conference, he said “I don't play golf, I don't network, I don't go to cocktail parties. I think about baseball.” And I believe him.

In his first game, he lost 30-3 in the opening game of a doubleheader.

Trembley was going to use the fewest number of pitchers possible, dammit, even if it meant he was going to lose, 30-3. I respect that. Everything that happened took place because of the specter of a doubleheader.

Also, none of the players on the roster went on to pitch an inning in a blowout in their careers. I checked. So it’s possible that there weren’t any candidates. Possible. I still would have pitched Corey Patterson, just because.

It was painfully obvious that neither Bell nor Shuey had a lot of gas left toward the end of their outings. The last pitch Shuey threw in the top of the ninth inning was a meatball that was hit about 360 feet for an out. It was hit high enough for the cameras to use this shot:

The crowd gasp-cheered. They wanted more, I think. Instead, it was the end of the scoring, and Paul Shuey could rest, bless him. It was all over.

It was all over.


The Orioles lost the second game. At 11:46 p.m., almost seven hours after the first game started, Jim Hoey blew a one-run lead in the eighth inning.

Imagine being the Orioles fan who watched every pitch. Imagine feeling whatever he or she felt. I’m not sure if you yell at Hoey or thank him for making sure the universe was aligned properly.

These are feelings that will bubble forth when the Orioles win their next World Series. You’ll forgive those fans for tipping at least one car over.


INTERMISSION

OK, so this was just 10 years ago, right? That doesn’t sound that long ago. I was an adult back then. I had bills. I’m an adult with bills now. It’s basically the same thing.

But 10 years is apparently an eternity in style-time. Because, goodness, did the baseball players look different back then. Check out what’s poking out of Brian Roberts’ hat here:

What is that? It’s a mullet, yet not a mullet. It’s business in the front and exactly one cocktail at happy hour in the back. He wasn’t alone.

Kevin Millar had the same thing going, but sweatier. Everything was just that much different.

The facial hair is where the decade of difference really stood out, though. For three minutes, I thought Jason Botts had a really strange and pronounced cleft chin.

But when the crime lab enhanced the image, it turns out it was facial hair.

It wasn’t just Botts! I would like to present a selection of goatees and soul patches:

Apparently in 2007, there was a Great Facial Hair Drought, which led to harsh rationing. Each able-bodied man was allotted six or seven hairs to distribute however they saw fit. And now we’re living in an overcorrection, in which Charlie Blackmon’s upper lip is 700 times hairier than every member of the 2007 Orioles and Rangers combined.

Remember this in 2027 when we’re laughing at all these idiots with gigantic beards.


This was the headline at Orioles.com for this game:

It’s not wrong.


The telecast I watched was the Orioles telecast, and it was my first choice. I knew what the Rangers telecast would be like. Wonder stacked upon wonder. Announcers figuring out new ways to express their disbelief at what they were watching. And that all sounds like a lot of fun for Rangers fans.

For the rest of us, though, give me the pathos of watching the deconstruction of a team in the first game of a doubleheader, with the announcers trying to put whatever spin on it they could. This was a game in the Orioles’ house, and it’s not like excitement was rippling through the crowd from the first pitch.

When the score was 21-3, Jim Palmer was asked if he had ever seen a game like this. He answered no, and it mostly checks out. The Orioles didn’t score 20 runs in a game while he was active. They allowed more than 20 just once. So the announcers had to process this all with the rest of us. And for the first innings after the blowout was in effect, they wanted to crawl under a rock with the rest of the fans at home.

Five seconds before Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s second homer of the night, Palmer said, "This would be a good night for an iPod." There were still so many runs to come. And I really wish I knew what Palmer’s iPod was loaded up with in the event of a blowout loss.

It was when Vazquez hit his second homer that you could hear the life of the announcers again. It’s when the crowd got wild and appreciative again. It was the number 30 that made it clear that this was a game to be enjoyed on both sides. Wear it. Love it. Embrace it. Two batters before this home run, Rangers third-base coach Don Wakamatsu held a runner at third on a single, even though he probably would have scored. It was a great moment in polite baseball history. It ended with a 30-3 final, but still.

Vazquez hit the home run, the scoreboard rolled over to 30, and everyone giggled for a few hours. For me, though, the best part of the night was the subtle camera work after the home run.

Indeed. If there’s a lesson to be learned, the camera operator wanted to share it with you. Watch out for batted balls. They’ll absolutely kill you and everyone you’ve ever loved. And they’ll occasionally keep falling and falling and falling until the score is 30-3. It won’t happen again for 100 years. So let’s appreciate this game now, a decade after it graced us with our presence.


In the ninth inning, this kid got a foul ball.

Always, always, always stay until the final out, people.


After battling Ramon Hernandez for 10 pitches to start the bottom of the ninth inning, Wes Littleton got the strikeout on a nasty slider. He then dispatched Jay Payton and Brian Roberts on five pitches. The game was over, the Rangers had won 30-3, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia came out to the mound with the rest of the team to congratulate his pitcher.

It was Littleton’s first save of the year, after all.


Thanks to Major League Baseball for their help securing video of this very important baseball game.