The silver anniversary of rock bottom: Even the wins were ugly
Part of a recurring series “celebrating” the 25th anniversary of the worst season in Atlanta Braves history
Through 25 games the Braves were 16-9 with a comfortable 3.5 game lead in the NL East. Through 25 games in 1988 the 6-19 Braves were already 10 games out of first.
Game 26 came at home vs. the woeful Phils, managed by Lee Elia and featuring past-their-prime stars like Mike Schmidt, Lance Parrish and Von Hayes. Kevin Gross, the Steve Trachsel of his day, faced off against Zane Smith, who would somehow win 15 games that year.
Dion James, at .243, had the highest BA in the line-up for the Bravos. Murph stood at .234; Oberkfell, .219; Virgil, .197; Gant, .160. Against all odds, they jumped out to a 5-0 lead after 7.
And then blew it.
Smith loaded the bases with walks to Juan Samuel and Schmidt and a single by Parrish. He got Hayes to ground out to first, scoring one, then left the game after Mike Young hit an infield single.
Enter Bruce Sutter, with two on, one out and a 5-2 lead. After Milt Thompson walked, Chris James singled to close the lead to 5-3. Greg Gross popped to short, bringing (then-)light hitting catcher Darren Daulton to the plate with two outs and the tying runs aboard. Daulton, who would hit .208 that year with one homer, singled to left.
5-5, after 8.
Forty-one-year-old Kent Tekulve retired the Braves in order in the bottom of the 8th, and Paul Assenmacher did the same in the 9th, striking out Schmidt, Parrish and Hayes.
With two one and one out in the bottom half of the inning, Albert Hall stepped up to face Tekulve. Hall, who had entered the game as a pinch-runner for Ken Griffey Sr., singled to right, scoring Andres Thomas with the winning run.
Predictably, the Braves lost the following game. It would be two weeks before they’d put together consecutive wins, beating the Pirates and Cubs. Chuck Tanner would manage only one of those games. The local nine were 12-27 when they fired Tanner, who had a .424 winning percentage as Braves manager.