There’s a long line of incredible pitching performances that have come from the Braves, and even in the early days (especially in those early days), the franchise was a powerhouse when it came to starting pitchers. Joe Osechger, Art Nehf, and Dana Fillingim — all pitchers from the 1920s — lead the way with the Braves top-3 all-time pitching performances (per Game Score). But baseball was a much different sport then. In those three outings alone, Osechger, Nehf, and Fillingim combined to average 22 innings in their respective outings, while also averaging an unreal 127 Game Score. Not very comparable to today’s game, right?
And although the game has evolved even more in the last 4-5 years, with alterations to the baseball and even more dependence on bullpens, the last 20 years still offers an excellent selection of Braves’ pitching performances. From the pitchers of the Steroid Era in the early 2000s to the guys trying to survive in our current Juiced Ball Era, the last couple of decades both feature a class of starting pitchers competing against some form of inherited disadvantage. So let’s look at the Braves’ top-5 pitching performances of the 2000s.
But first… a look at the Braves’ no. 1 overall performance all-time…
Joe Oeschger — RHP
- May 1, 1920 vs. Brooklyn Robins
- Pitching line — 26 IP, 9 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 7 K (153 Game Score)
This is the performance found in ESPN’s write-up from Saturday morning (written by David Schoenfield). Not only is this the top pitching performance by a Braves’ pitcher, but it also features the two best Game Scores ever recorded all-time — Oeschger’s 153 and his opponent’s (Leaon Cadore) 140. Schoenfield had more details about the historic start:
“With a conservative estimate of three pitches per batter, we’re talking nearly 300 pitches for each guy, and probably more. Oeschger (pronounced “Eshker”) himself estimated he threw 250 fastballs that day and Cadore “at least 300 curves.” The New York Times report didn’t mention the two hurlers until the ninth paragraph, more impressed that the game simply went a record 26 innings.”
Schoenfield also went on to list another big-time Braves’ performance, one by Hall of Fame lefty Warren Spahn during the 1960 season. Spahn’s was more of a typical start, even though he still managed a 15-strikeout, no-hitter against the Phillies that day — good for a rare 100 Game Score. Considering Spahn was the total opposite of a strikeout-pitcher (his career K rate was a minuscule 4.4 K/9), I find his outing just as impressive (maybe even more) than Oeschger’s. Although, it’s hard even to fathom a 26-inning start.
Now, to our list…
(Ordered by Game Score)
#1. Greg Maddux — RHP
- May 2, 2001 vs. Milwaukee Brewers
- 9 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 14 K (96 Game Score)
This is a perfect illustration of the ridiculous precision Maddux wielded during his pitching career. In this early May outing against the Brew Crew, the lefty only needed 109 pitches to complete his two-hitter, throwing 76 strikes overall. Don’t get me wrong, this was a pretty punchless Brewers lineup, led by once-upon-a-time power hitter Richie Sexson who wound up with 45 home runs during that 2001 season, but Maddux’s command at this point in his career was unmatched (he led the NL in ’01 with 1.0 BB/9).
#2. Mike Foltynewicz — RHP
- June 1, 2018 vs. Washington Nationals
- 9 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 11 K (93 Game Score)
It may seem like years ago, but Foltynewicz was on his way to becoming one of the best starting pitchers in the National League a couple of seasons ago, finishing with a 2.85 ERA and a 13-10 record in 2018. At a time when Folty seemed to harness his powerful stuff consistently, the righty needed just 106 pitches to go all nine innings against a Nationals’ lineup that featured Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon. With over 33,000 fans inside SunTrust on a beautiful Friday night in June, surprisingly (or not so much then), Folty outdueled the 3-time All-Star, Stephen Strasburg… and you could even make the case that he outdueled Strasburg for the entire season. Boy, are things different now.
#3. Julio Teheran — RHP
- June 19, 2016 vs. New York Mets
- 9 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K (92 Game Score)
This was prime Julio Teheran in 2016, which wound up being the second-best season of his career (3.0 WAR). He labored in this outing a little more than some of the others on this list, but Teheran still completed a 9-inning, one-hitter, totaling 120 pitches (82 strikes) altogether. At this point in the ’16 season, the Mets were playing some solid baseball (36-32), with a dangerous lineup of Curtis Granderson, Asdrubal Cabrera, Yoenis Cespedes, and Neil Walker — all guys that had plenty of pop at that time in their careers. The game was a 1:00 p.m. matchup at Citi Field, and the place was packed with over 40,000 fans in attendance. The Braves had the near-impossible task of facing Jacob deGrom, but deGrom didn’t have his best stuff and allowed three runs from five hits. Teheran out-pitched the Mets’ All-Star and put together the best start of his career, despite tallying two other 12-strikeout outings during that same season.
#4. Jair Jurrjens — RHP
- 9 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K (92 Game Score)
- July 1, 2011 vs. Baltimore Orioles
From 2008-11, Jurrjens was one of the Braves’ top arms as he was seemingly always able to somehow generate outs without ever possessing high strikeout or ground ball rates. In a July start against Jeremy Guthrie and the Orioles, Jurrjens was the sharpest he’d ever been, and his 92 Game Score that day was the highest of his career by… a lot (an 81 was his next-highest score). With a semi-packed Turner Field on a Friday night, he faced just two batters over the minimum, as a 6th-inning walk and 7th-inning single by Adam Jones was all Baltimore could squander.
#5. Tim Hudson — RHP
- May 2, 2008 vs. Cincinnati Reds
- 9 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 10 K (91 Game Score)
Hudson was one of my favorite Braves players when I was in high school back in 2006-09. He certainly wasn’t a power pitcher (career 5.99 K/9), especially during his time in Atlanta, but his slider was filthy and allowed him almost always to post extremely high ground ball rates (59.4 GB% in 2008). Although, in this May start against the Reds, Hudson racked up plenty of punchouts and wound up with the second-highest Game Score of his career (his best was a 92 while he was with the Athletics). Of course, Ken Griffey Jr — who was 38-years-old at the time — was one of the three Reds to record a hit versus Hudson. Edwin Encarnacion and pitcher Edison Volquez were the others.