When Aaron Crow got blasted last Saturday, giving up three straight hits, including a home run, it ended a string of thirteen appearances without surrendering a run.
That run of success to kick off his major league career left Crow tied for the Royals record of consecutive scoreless appearances to start a career. He tied a team rookie record held by another current Royal.
No, it was not Joakim Soria. And you know it was not Luke Hochevar or Kyle Davies.
It was none other than pitching coach Bob McClure, who began his playing career with KC back in 1975.
As a coach, McClure has done a fine job coaxing positive results out of his young bullpen this season. He’s made a star out of Soria. And he probably deserves some credit for Zack Greinke’s Cy Young Award.
But he’s not exactly worked wonders with Hochever and Davies.
You win some, you lose some. Nobody’s perfect.
But as a rookie pitcher, McClure was flawless.
McClure came up at the end of 1975, making his first appearance out of the bullpen on Aug. 13. In that game he pitched an inning of scoreless relief. He would be unscored upon for the next 11 outings.
In his final performance that season, on Sept. 23, McClure relieved an ailing Doug Bird in the second inning. McClure pitched the next six frames, surrendering just one hit and striking out eight. He earned the first win of his career that night.
McClure ended the season having finished four games and notched one save. In 15.1 innings, he gave up just four hits. He walked 14, but somehow managed to prevent any runners from reaching the plate.
He would record one more scoreless outing in 1976. The record of 13 straight appearances without surrendering a run still stands, shared now by his pupil, Crow.
McClure would surrender four earned runs in the four innings he spread out over eight appearances on the big league level in 1976. McClure spent most of that season at Double-A, trying to re-establish himself as a starter.
Following the 1976 season, the Royals dealt Jamie Quirk, Jim Wohlford and a player to be named later to Milwaukee for Darrell Porter and Jim Colborn. During spring training of 1977, McClure was named as that player to be shipped to the Brewers.
McClure spent the next 17 seasons honing his skills and developing a wealth of knowledge that he now shares with his Kansas City protégés.
In the highlight of his career, McClure served as an integral cog on the Milwaukee team that went to the World Series in 1982. Converted to a starter that season, went 12-7 with a 4.22 ERA. His performance out of the bullpen in the series with St. Louis was significant, if not ultimately successful. He posted two saves, but also was saddled with two losses in relief.
McClure finished a solid, if not spectacular, career in 1993. In 19 seasons, he suited up for seven different teams and finished with a 68-57 record and a 3.81 ERA. He pitched in 698 games, nearly all in relief, and he recorded 52 saves.
McClure would seem to be able to relate to nearly every pitcher on his staff. He experienced being a rookie reliever thrown into a pennant chase, and he experienced starting, working in long relief, and closing games. He struggled with control. And he survived the demise of his natural talents to prolong his career as a crafty veteran. And he pitched on the biggest stage – the 1982 World Series.
I bet McClure enjoyed seeing his exploits as a young rookie be relived this year. He can tell the young kids on his staff “Yeah, that was me. I did that.”
Let’s hope McClure can work magic with the young talent he will see matriculate to his club over the next few seasons. Let’s hope he can help several youngsters like Crow to forge successful major league careers and lead the Royals back to a World Series of their own.