Lester Dole, well after his playing days

Intro Content NSFb (Not Safe For blazon)

In a comment last Sunday, I discussed what I call “Battery Bros,” pitchers and catchers with the same last name, whether or not they were actually related. The two dominant pairs of Battery Bros were actual brothers; Mort and Walker Cooper (108 games in which Walker caught Mort) and Wes and Rick Ferrell (HOFer Rick caught Wes 106 times.) Overall, there are 54 such pairs, and most of them are unrelated, like #3 all-time: Steve and Jeff Reed. Pudge Rodriguez is a part of three different pairs, having caught in his career Rich (29 times) Wandy (15 times) and Henry (9 times). Javy Lopez caught Albie 21 times in Atlanta and Rodrigo 57 times in Baltimore. My favorite names on the list are Peaches and Spud Davis. Spud caught Peaches 14 times in 1937 and 1938. Peaches and Spud sounds like a bad appetizer at Fridays.

What took me down this path was that Alex caught Luke for the 10th time on Sunday, tying them on the Braves list with the Perez “brothers” (Odalis and Eddie) trailing only Javy and Albie. But Alex is hurt now and if William Contreras (who has a real brother playing the same position) keeps hitting we may not see Luke-Alex for a while.

But all of that is the past — way back last Sunday. (For those who aren’t keeping track, last Sunday we were horrible and heading for a 70 win season. This contrasts with today when we are pretty good and heading for an 88 win season, so it was practically an eternity.) Why do I bring this up now? It got me to thinking about what I call “Before and After Batteries.” That’s where the battery has a last name matching a first name: so if Ryan Lavarnway had caught Nolan Ryan, that would be, before and after: Nolan Ryan Lavarnway. To make this work, obviously, either the pitcher or the catcher has to have a last name that is also a first name. That makes Before and After Batteries rarer than Battery Bros. There are only 10.

Leading the list is Tommy John Romano (63 games). Romano was the only guy named John ever to have caught Tommy. (My memory had John Roseboro on the Dodgers at the same time as Tommy John. I was wrong by a couple of years.) The others:

And one other that will be obvious when you think about it, although no one associates them ever being on the same team: two contemporaneous Hall of Famers who formed a battery for two games. (Hint: there are only 19 catchers in the Hall of Fame, and only one of them has a first or last name that immediately brings to mind a HOF pitcher.)

I went down this path because: (a) I had already programmed up Battery Bros and this was a minor variation, and (b) because the Nationals today started Jon Lester, and it was just possible that there had been a catcher named Lester at some point. Alas, no. There have only been two major leaguers named Lester: Lester Oliveros pitched in 27 games for Minnesota and Detroit in 2011-14, and then there was Lester Dole.

On May 27, 1875 the 19 year old Lester Dole played in one game for New Haven Elm Citys of the National Association – an 8-5 loss to the New York Mutuals. He was 2-4 for a lifetime batting average of 0.500 – no Moonlight Graham, he. The fact that my old college town had a Major League Team (disputed, but I believe the NA should count) for one season is something I didn’t know before today. They only existed for one season and sucked (7-40) but they were in The Show.

Jon Lester is pretty old, but he was not yet born (barely, in geologic time) when Lester Dole died in 1918… and Dole was an outfielder, so he would have been an emergency catcher at best.

Fast Grannys (Not Yet, blazon, Not Yet)

Before getting to the recap I should also discuss the fact that the Braves have hit Grand Slams in 3 consecutive games. (I ordered Grand Slam breakfasts once at Denny’s for five straight days, so I can relate to this record.) So… Back to the Database.

I took the Retrosheet event records (which some day I’m going to stop saying run from 1920 through last year) and found how short a time it took for each franchise to have 4 Grand Slams. The record is 4 days, set last year by the Padres from 8/17-8/20. The Braves record is currently 10 days, set in 1997. Chipper Jones hit a Granny on July 5th and another on July 10th, followed by a pair hit on July 14th: one by Ryan Klesko and one by Tim Spehr, who the Braves had for exactly 8 games in 1997, another thing I had completely forgotten. In any case, if the Braves can hit another Grand Slam in the next week, this team will have the Atlanta record.

OK, blazon, There Was A Game. You Can Read Now.

The first three innings were devoted to Mark DeRosa blathering on while neither team could do much. DeRosa is not really that bad, but he was the Penn QB against Yale at a time when Penn was good and Yale wasn’t, so I hate him. In the 4th the Braves scored first on an Acuña single, advancing to 3rd on a SB+throwing error, an Albies walk and a ringing Ozuna double down the left field line. After two strikeouts, folk hero B (the Panda is still at A) Ehire Adrianza had the two out single scoring both runners. That’s 3, and that’s all they’d get, as the rest of the game was a graduate school course in Applied Hibernation.

Great! Time for a shutdown inning, right? From Drew Smyly? Surely you jest: in the bottom of the inning, a single and a single combined with a fielding error by Acuña (so it wasn’t all Smyly’s fault) scored an answering run.

That said, this was easily Smyly’s best outing as a Brave, though to be fair he was assisted by some excellent defense from Pache and Riley at first, who gave Freddie the day off. The following graph shows the initial smelliness of Smyly; the trend is particularly worrisome.

But adding the fifth start is the beginning of the Silencing His Critics phase:

6+ innings, 4 singles, 4 strikeouts and 4 walks. No earned runs. Trend reversed. Not bad. We have at least four possible explanations: (a) Luck (i.e. Small Sample Size); (b) Veteran catcher savvy (Jeff Mathis behind the dish making the right calls); (c) Soto-less, reasonably punchless Natinals; and (d) Smyly has turned the corner. I am merely a humble scribe; I leave this for open discussion.

Then came Luke, whose right hand is pretty cool. (The great thing about that is that it can be great or horrible, depending on context — which pretty much describes Luke’s pitching.) A hit to Robles is followed by a screaming out to the pinch-hitting Soto. A fielder’s choice on Turner and a grounder to Albies ended the Luke Jackson Experience for the day. Good enough, Luke; just good enough.

The 8th was an inning given to Edgar Santana and Grant Dayton. Innings like that are never scoreless. Santana was really shaky, giving up one and leaving two on, but Dayton bailed him out with two strikeouts, the second one credited to the ump on everyone’s scorecard.

The Fresh Prince had to earn a real save. But there was a Hitch. Zimmerman led off with a double. The pinch runner Stevenson advanced to 3rd on a sacrifice to right. A strikeout then put the game down to Smith vs. Harrison. Harrison flies out to right, a Collateral Beauty. When you Focus, you perform like Ali.

CitiField Back home tomorrow for three against the Metropolitan Cohens that we trail by a half-game. first place Phillies. Go get ’em.