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Today in Cubs history: An 18-run defeat

And the Cubs starter in this game is notable.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This article originally ran April 13, 2020 as part of “The worst losses in Cubs history” series, the story of the 10 games in franchise history the Cubs have lost by 17 or more runs. There haven’t been any more since then (the most recent such loss was in 2010), thank heavens.

While we wait for the MLB London Series to begin tomorrow, I thought it would be interesting to revisit this game, which happened 37 years ago today, Monday, June 23, 1986.

Jamie Moyer made his major-league debut at Wrigley Field June 16, 1986 against the Phillies. He threw 6⅓ innings and allowed five hits and five runs (four earned), though two of those runs scored after he was removed for reliever Jay Baller. He was awarded with the win because the Cubs held on for a 7-5 victory.

One week later, Moyer made his second MLB start, also against the Phillies, this time in Philadelphia.

Whoops. Maybe that wasn’t such a good idea. Moyer grew up in the Philadelphia area and played college ball there at St. Joseph’s. He likely had many friends and family in attendance. Perhaps he was nervous, because start number two was pretty bad. Moyer allowed seven hits and six runs in 2⅔ innings before manager Gene Michael — who had taken over just six days before Moyer’s debut — had mercy and lifted him.

Unfortunately, neither of the Cubs relievers that night was any better. George Frazier — who passed away just a few days ago, aged 68 — got pounded for eight runs in 2⅓ innings and Baller finished up the final three innings by allowing seven hits and five runs. If you’ve lost count, that’s nineteen — the Phillies beat the Cubs 19-1. The Cubs’ only run scored on an RBI single by Leon Durham in the seventh inning.

Baller had posted five saves between April 17 and May 4 while Lee Smith was on the disabled list. But when Smith came back and Baller was returned to setup/middle relief duty, he was awful. From May 6 through this game on June 23, Baller posted a 6.75 ERA and 1.770 WHIP with five home runs allowed in 23 appearances.

General manager Dallas Green had had enough after the pounding Baller took on June 23. Five days later Baller was sent to Triple-A Iowa and Dave Gumpert was recalled. Gumpert wasn’t much better, posting a 4.37 ERA and 1.475 WHIP in 38 outings. Baller was not recalled the rest of the 1986 season. In BCB lingo, the Phillies RHOOTL’d* Baller.

As for Jamie Moyer? You might have heard about the rest of his career, though it’s worth re-telling this story. Moyer was sent to the Rangers as part of the 1989 deal that brought Mitch Williams to the Cubs. After Moyer posted two mediocre seasons in Texas and one with the Cardinals, the Cubs signed him to a minor-league deal before the 1992 season. He made a few spring training appearances, not very good ones, and at the end of camp then-GM Larry Himes called Moyer in and offered him a job managing in the Cubs farm system.

Moyer was 29. He told Himes, “I think I can still pitch.” The Cubs released him. He signed with the Tigers that year, though didn’t make it back to MLB until 1993 with the Orioles. Eventually Moyer pitched in 19 more MLB seasons, including four postseasons, and was a key contributor to his hometown Phillies’ 2008 World Series championship team.

* RHOOTL = Ran Him Out Of The League, if you are not familiar with the BCB terminology.