Thursday, April 07, 2005


April 7th, 1987

Rick Mahler Throws Shutout

Rick Mahler, who died earlier this year at age fifty-one, was a largely mediocre starter who had some good years for the Braves mixed in with some pedestrian ones. However, given the nature of Braves' pitching in the pre Maddux, Glavine, et al days, Mahler was often pressed into duty as the Braves' Opening Day starter. While Mahler is not the typical example of an ace to open the season for a team, something about Opening Day seemed to bring out the best in him. His shutout in 1987, against the Phillies, was his second straight Opening Day shutout, as he also pitched one against the Expos the year before. Furthermore, in 1985, Mahler had started the season for the Braves and pitched seven shut out innings before giving way to Bruce Sutter. For the three year stretch 1985-1987, Mahler started three Opening Days for the Braves and pitched a combined twenty-five shutout innings.

That's not the whole story however. Mahler was also the Braves' Opening Day starter in 1982 (a year they would win the division under manager Joe Torre) and pitched a shutout on that day against the Padres, which would combine with his later two to give him three Opening Day shutouts. Mahler also started the Braves' 1988 Opening Day, although he lost his touch, going just five innings while allowing four runs.

Despite the 1988 performance, Mahler's career Opening Day line remains impressive: 4-0 with a 0.92 ERA in thirty-nine innings, 3 shutouts, 15 Ks. Mahler pitched only three and a third innings in two playoff appearances (he was on Cincinnati’s World Series winning team in 1990 in addition to the Braves' 1982 appearance) so it is hard to say if he could have been playoff clutch. If you had just one game to win however, and it was Opening Day, Rick Mahler was your man.

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