Andy Rincon’s major league career consisted of just 20 appearances. John Smoltz is currently at 718 and counting.
Yet Rincon set a St. Louis Cardinals record at the tender age of 21 that Smoltz, with twice as many years on his body at 42, could tie his next time out.
Called up in September, 1980, Rincon spun a complete-game win on just one run at Wrigley Field in his MLB debut. The right-hander quickly picked up two more victories, going eight innings and allowing only one run each time before yielding six runs in six starts in his fourth and final start as the 1980 season concluded.
In doing so, Rincon became the only Cardinals hurler since at least 1954 to allow one run or less in his first three appearances of five or more innings in duration.
With a six-inning, one-run performance Friday on top of his five-inning shutout debut last Sunday, Smoltz has joined six other then-new Cardinals with a pair of such games.
Making this list did not guarantee baseball immortality, however. In fact, some like Rincon are downright obscure. Bigger names like Jerry Reuss (1969) and Kyle Lohse (2008) also appear.
As the day Smoltz is approaching, several were at what would be their career’s end, including Sal “The Barber” Maglie (1958), Alex Kellner (1959) and Glen Hobbie (1964), all of whom made their reputations elsewhere before finishing out their MLB years with the Cardinals.
With Smoltz wanting to pitch again in 2010, time will tell whether or not he will follow the other three in ending his career with St. Louis. But with one more stellar start, he can join long-since forgotten Andy Rincon with the best first three appearances of any new Cardinals hurler in at least the last 55 years.
Games pitching five or more innings, allowing one run or less to start Cardinals career (1954-2009)
|* current streak||2||1||0||2||0||11||7||1||1||1||15||0||0.82|
Smoltz has also tied four other then-new Cardinals with the record of six or more strikeouts in a pitcher’s first two games with the team.
Since at least 1954, no Cardinals hurler has fanned six or more in each of his first three outings. Smoltz will get his chance this coming Thursday afternoon, facing Milwaukee to close out the current homestand.
Games striking out six or more to start Cardinals career (1954-2009)
|* current streak|
Thanks to regular contributor Tom Orf for providing the data tables.