Even the 2015 bullpen has a ways to go before plumbing the depths reached by the 1990 crew, the worst of them all (click here for the rest). That year nine Braves relievers recorded saves — Joe Boever, Kent Mercker, Joe Hesketh, Mark Grant, Charlie Kerfeld, Mike Stanton, Jeff Parrett, Rick Luecken, Tony Castillo — but none had more than eight. They blew 22 of 52 save opportunities.
It didn’t take long for the ‘pen to be exposed. In the season’s 5th game, Tom Glavine pitched the Bravos to a 4-2 lead over the undefeated Reds entering the 7th. Three consecutive singles with two outs brought the Reds within a run, ending Glavine’s day. On came Dwayne Henry, acquired from the Rangers right before the end of Spring Training.
Eric Davis deposited Henry’s second pitch deep into the blue seats. Reds 6 Braves 4. Then, in an move that personified the team’s hapless marketing efforts, newly ordained mascot Ernest. P. Worrell appeared on the Matrix board to lead the crowd in “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” drawing the well-deserved ire of the 10,000-plus fans in attendance.
Rick Luecken, who would go on to walk 30 and allow 73 hits in 53 IP, somehow pitched a scoreless 8th. The score remained 6-4 going into the 9th — still a winnable game.
That is, until Luecken and Stanton heaped gas on a dumpster fire that would burn all season long. Seven Reds crossed the plate while Cincy’s “Nasty Boys” countered with 3-1/3 scoreless frames. The good guys added two meaningless runs in the bottom of the inning to pull within 7.
Braves relievers finished the year with a ghastly 5.01 ERA and 1.641 WHIP. Opposing hitters batted .290 against them and got on base at a .370 clip.
Ironically, two members of the ’90 ‘pen were traded for pitchers who would become key members of the ’91 pennant winners. Boever was dealt to the Phils for Marvin Freeman and, a year later, the Braves acquired Alejandro Pena in exchange for Castillo and minor league hurler Joe Roa.