If you watch the Braves’ Mike Foltynewicz face Brewers right-hander Junior Guerra tonight, you’ll be watching an interesting and highly unusual story unfold involving the 31-year-old Milwaukee rookie.
Guerra will be pitching in his eighth major league game over two seasons and his fifth start, all this season.
He’s 3-0 with a 3.96 ERA and .205 opponents’ average in four starts, including 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA and .156 OA in the past two.
But that’s not the interesting part.
This is: The Venezuela native came up as a catcher in the Braves’ minor league system more than a decade ago. He was a catcher on Braves rookie-ball teams during 2003-2005, but hit just .213 with a .600 OPS before it was determined he’d be better off throwing pitches than receiving and hitting them.
He had a 6.91 ERA in 18 relief appearances in 2006, 16 at the rookie-league level and two at low-A Rome.
That was his last season in the Braves organization. Guerra got released the following spring, sat out the 2007 season, then bounced between foreign and independent leagues and Mets and White Sox minor league affiliates for most of the next decade before making his major league debut with the White Sox in 2015.
Guerra was out of affiliated ball – i.e., not part of any major league organization — from 2009, when the Mets dropped him after a performance-enhancing drug suspension, until 2015, when the White Sox signed him to a minor league deal.
This guy is becoming quite a story in Milwaukee, after striking out 11 Cubs in seven innings on Thursday and allowing only five hits, three runs and three walks in a Brewers win. The Braves just hope they can slow his roll a bit and put the Brewers’ feel-good story on hold until next week.
• How bad is 2-18? That’s the Braves’ home record, for anyone unaware, following Tuesday’s homestanding-opening loss to the Brewers. It’s bad, m’kay. At 2-18, the Braves would have to go 41-20 the rest of the way at home just to match their 42-39 home record from last year’s 67-95 season.
They are the first team in more than a century, since the 1913 Yankees, to lose as many as 18 of their first 20 home games, and the first team since the 2002 Orioles to lose 18 of 20 home games during any point in a season.
On the other hand, the Braves have a 10-14 road record and will better last year’s 25-56 road record by merely going at least 16-41 the rest of the season away from Turner Field.
The Braves are 12-32 overall. The last time they lost at least 100 games in a season, they were 15-29 at the 44-game point, en route to a 54-106 season in 1988.
By the way, for all the talk from older folks who say, “If you think the Braves are bad now, you should’ve been around in the ‘80s,” it’s worth noting that 1988 was the team’s only 100-loss season in that decade. The last 100-loss Braves season before 1988 came in 1977 when they finished 61-101.
(We interrupt this note to remind everyone the Braves are rebuilding, and have never undertaken a rebuild project like this before. Things get ugly, and we aren’t used to it around here, so they seem especially ugly. But the Braves remain confident in the big picture and believe they’ll be a contender before long, and that once they are, they’ll be able to sustain it because of a farm system they’ve rebuilt over these past couple of seasons, often at the expense of the major league team in the short term.
OK, we now return to our blog already in progress….)
And that’s it. Those were the only two 100-loss seasons in four decades for the Braves since the team began playing in Atlanta in 1966.
The current Braves are on pace to go 44-118. Yes, 44.
That would be the most losses in the 140-year history of the franchise, a dubious distinction currently belonging to the 1935 Boston Braves (38-115). The winning percentage (.271) would, however, be better than that 1935 team’s .248.
By the way, the Braves are 1-13 in their past 14 home games despite a respectable 3.92 ERA. They’ve totaled just 34 runs and three homers in that span and scored three runs or fewer in 11 of the 14 games, including two or fewer in eight. They are 0-5 in one-run games in that 14-game home stretch, and 0-3 in two-run games.
I’ll close with this all-time classic tune from the great Waylon Jennings.
“ARE YOU SURE HANK DONE IT THIS WAY” by Waylon Jennings
Lord it’s the same old tune, fiddle and guitar
Where do we take it from here?
Rhinestone suits and new shiny cars
It’s been the same way for years
We need to change
Somebody told me when I came to Nashville
Son you finally got it made
Old Hank made it here, we’re all sure that you will
But I don’t think Hank done it this way, no
I don’t think Hank done it this way, okay
Ten years on the road, making one night stand
Speeding my young life away
Tell me one more time just so I’ll understand
Are you sure Hank done it this way?
Did old Hank really do it this way?
Lord I’ve seen the world with a five piece band
Looking at the back side of me
Singing my songs, one of his now and then
But I don’t think Hank done ’em this way, no
I don’t think Hank done ’em this way, take it home