Royals starter Edinson Volquez entered Friday night's appearance against the Astros with a 106 ERA+ -- meaning, in the simplest terms, he had been an above-average pitcher on the season when things like his ballpark and the league as a whole were taken under consideration. Volquez then had one of the worst starts in big-league history, thus ensuring that was no longer the case.
Not only was Volquez lifted after recording just three outs -- he failed to get anyone out in the second inning -- but he yielded 12 runs (11 earned). That performance (in what ended up a 13-4 Astros victory) earned him this dubious distinction:
Edinson Volquez with the 1st start in MLB history (!!!) with 12 runs allowed in 1 inning or less (via @baseball_ref Play Index of course)— Cespedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) June 25, 2016
It's worth noting that Volquez's minus-18 Game Score ranks as the 15th-worst of all-time. All but one of the starts worse than Volquez's came before World War II, however, with Mike Oquist being the lone contemporary pitcher to perform so horribly -- he threw five innings, allowed 14 runs and gave up four home runs. As such, it would be fair to argue that Volquez's effort is the worst of modern times.
Of the 13 pre-Oquist Game Scores worse than Volquez's disaster are 10 that lasted at least six innings. Remember, this was an era where taking a starting pitcher out of a game early wasn't really an option -- many of those starters had to just take their licks and keep throwing meatballs. And the three others that came in at less than six innings involve two starts with 14 outs recorded and another with nine outs in the positive ledger. Again, Volquez managed only three outs.
Volquez's disaster start also earned the Royals a dubious distinction of their own.
Since 1913, there have now been 10 starts where the starting pitcher notched three outs or fewer and allowed 10 earned runs or more. Of those 10 starts, five have been by Royals. Jeremy Guthrie became the fourth last May against the Yankees, and before him there was Brian Bannister (also against the Yankees) in 2008, Luke Hudson in 2006 and Tom Gordon in 1995. How do you explain that?
You might reason that the Royals had been bad for a long time before recently, but plenty of franchises have been poor without registering a single one of these starts. In fact, the Pirates, Reds, Astros, Diamondbacks, and Twins are the only other teams to do it. The other 24 franchises each have none.
The real answer, of course, is a combination of that poor play and some bad luck. But sheesh, this is one crown the Royals would probably rather not wear.