Coors Field is the most hitter-friendly ballpark in baseball, but every so often a pitcher shows that the thin mountain air in Denver can be conquered. On this date, September 17, 1995, journeyman Pat Rapp did just that, dominating the Rockies in a complete-game, one-hit shutout. The offense more than held up its end of the bargain as well, resulting in a blowout 17-0 win.
The right-handed Rapp bounced around for much of his 10-year big league career, playing for six teams from 1992-2001. He made his biggest impact, though, with Florida, which selected him from the Giants in the expansion draft before the 1993 franchise-debuting season. Rapp hung on with the Marlins until he was traded during the 1997 season and was in the midst of what ended up the best overall season of his career when he took the mound against Colorado in mid-September. To that point, Rapp had accrued a 4.01 ERA in 25 starts, and was coming off a complete-game, one-run performance against the Braves two starts prior on September 7. Still, Coors has proved the undoing of many solid pitching streaks, and in Rapp's previous start in Denver that season on June 21, the righty was hit around in his 4 1/3 innings, giving up five runs and nine hits.
But on this day, Rapp was nearly flawless. He went the distance against the Rockies and only allowed one hit, a bloop single past the shortstop by left fielder Dante Bichette in the bottom of the fourth. Control was Rapp's biggest flaw in 1995 (and in his whole career), as he finished with a 4.1 walks per nine innings that season; in this start, he avoided any such issues, throwing 75 of his 114 pitches for strikes and walking just one batter.
While Rapp was able to beat the odds and come through with a dominant performance, the 70-59 Rockies had no such luck. The Marlins teed off against Colorado starter Bryan Rekar (3.86 ERA in 11 starts) from the very beginning and kept the onslaught going all afternoon. Left fielder Gary Sheffield (who finished 1995 with an OPS+ of 177, the best of his career to date) started the scoring with a two-run double in the first, and third baseman Terry Pendleton and right fielder Andre Dawson followed with run-producing at-bats as well, putting Florida up 4-0 after one. Sheffield added a solo shot, his 13th of the season, in the third, but the Marlins' real breakthrough came in an eight-run fifth inning. A two-run triple by first baseman Jeff Conine chased Rekar, and reliever Mark Thompson (6.45 ERA in 17 appearances) only fared worse. He immediately gave up a two-run homer to Pendleton to make it 9-0 and allowed four more runs before mercifully getting the hook.
Solo home runs by catcher Charles Johnson and centerfield replacement Chuck Carr highlighted the rest of the scoring for the Marlins, who came through with their most lopsided win of the strike-shortened season. Rekar finished with eight earned runs and nine hits allowed in 4+ innings, and Thompson was charged with five earned runs and four hits in just 2/3 of an inning. Those lines are certainly ugly enough as is, but they become even more unimpressive when compared to the sparkling line of Rapp, the unheralded righty who remarkably had his best start of the year in the hardest park to pitch in.
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