It’s the first day of your new job. You got a big promotion. Congratulations! You worked so hard for this, preparing and training and steeling yourself since you were a kid. You scuffled through your 20s, underpaid and unsure if it would work out, knowing the whole time that your elbow ligaments were getting older and that your window was narrowing with every passing day. There were times when it seemed like it would work out, stretches of whole months when it seemed like it was all coming together. We don’t talk about those times. But now you’re here on the big stage, the really big stage, proof positive that the arc of your 28 years on earth was shaped that way for a reason and that all those sacrifices along the way — the early mornings and long drives and weird tan lines — were worth it. Maybe your family came to see you in action, flew all the way out for the occasion. Your friends — they’ll watch you on TV, maybe send you a note on Facebook later, tell you, dude, don’t worry about it, it’ll all be fine, don’t listen to them.
Oh, yeah — it’s going to go disastrously, by the way.
Thursday was not Michael Blazek’s day, even though it was supposed to be. It has been 10 years — ten years — since he was drafted by the Cardinals and four since his first major league appearance as a reliever. It was just a couple of months ago that Blazek, demoted by the Brewers to their Triple-A affiliate, tried his hand at joining the starting rotation and found that he thrived there, and mere days since Milwaukee, with injuries piling up, decided to get creative. On Thursday, Blazek, filling in for the sidelined Matt Garza, was scheduled for his first major league start. Sure, he was up against Max Scherzer in the reigning Cy Young Award winner’s home park, but how badly could things go?
The answer, it turns out, is really, really, really, really, really, really badly.
There’s a lot of talk about The Ratio these days: the near-certain guarantee that when the replies to a given tweet outweigh the number of likes or retweets, something is grievously amiss. I mean it when I say that the Brewers tried here. They did.
Here are some things that happened on either side of that tweet. In the first inning, Blazek gave up a two-run home run to Bryce Harper, which is fine: He is Bryce Harper, and from time to time he hits home runs. Then, in the third, after walking Scherzer, Blazek gave up a second two-run home run, this time to Brian Goodwin. This was followed immediately by a third home run, by Wilmer Difo. Harper followed Difo to the plate, and he too homered, and then, somehow, Ryan Zimmerman walked up and also knocked it out of the park for consecutive home run no. 4. Daniel Murphy then had the courtesy to fly out, but then Anthony Rendon was up and, well, you can guess what he did. Blazek is the first starter in MLB history to allow six home runs in fewer than three innings pitched, per MLB.com, and only the ninth pitcher since 1900 to give up that many in an entire game. Blazek lasted just 2.1 innings before he was finally, mercifully yanked. As the Brewers found out, even the good news can be laced with bad. He had a clean second inning … and then catastrophe. He recorded four strikeouts … but allowed eight earned runs. In the end, the Nationals would win, 15–2.
Taken as a whole, Blazek’s outing is one of those things to comfort yourself with on a bad day, even if you do not throw baseballs for a living: Well, shit, at least I don’t have it as bad as that guy. Blazek is that guy.
To be fair, it’s not totally his fault. In April, the Brewers, disappointed by his shaky spring training, went so far as to designate him for assignment. Over 2015 and 2016, Blazek came in as a reliever in 86 games with a 2.43 and 5.66 ERA, respectively. Despite the designation, Milwaukee kept him around at Triple-A, and then he was starting and it was going fine — well, even — a 2.89 ERA over 10 outings! — and then Matt Garza strained his calf, and then suddenly our boy was here, 28 years old, making his first major league start. It was historic, just not in the way he or the Brewers wanted.
The Nationals, who will host the 2018 All-Star Game and have all the empathy of a child with a magnifying glass on the back deck, dubbed the meltdown a Home Run Derby preview. Or maybe it was just a birthday gift to Max Scherzer. I don’t know.
Blazek entered the game with 0.00 ERA; he departed with an 8.31 ERA. He may not ever get another start. But there is, at least, this: Whatever the future holds, it would be awfully difficult for it not to be better than the present.