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Miami Marlins on cusp of baseball history for ineptitude

     WASHINGTON -- The Marlins wake up this morning on the brink of baseball history. They haven't just lost their first two games. They've been blanked in both. And, according to Baseballreference.com, no team since 1916 has started a season by coming up completely empty in its first three games. EVER.

      As it now stands, the Marlins are one of only 11 teams to suffer shutout losses in their first two games. They've played 18 innings and the closest they've come to crossing home plate was when Giancarlo Stanton was tagged out about 10 feet shy of the dish in Monday's 2-0 setback.

      Believe it or not, there actually exists a silver lining -- a tiny thread of hope -- in their early struggles. The St. Louis Cardinals of 1943 also hung up all zeroes in their first two games but managed to finish with 105 victories and a trip to the World Series.

      More often than not, though, putting up a pair of doughnuts to start the season is a sign of things to come. The 1963 Mets would go on to lose 111 games. The 1974 Padres lost 102. And so on and so forth. It's not a pretty picture.

      In reverse chronological order, here are thumbnail sketches of the 10 teams that stumbled out of the starting gate as anemically as the Marlins have:

      2002 San Diego Padres -- The Padres were done in by the Arizona pitching one-two punch of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling before breaking through in the first inning of their third game when Ron Gant's sacrifice fly plated his team's first run. Scoreless innings to start season: 18. Final record: 66-96.

       1994 Pittsburgh Pirates -- Barry Bonds bolted the Steel City following the '92 season, which also happens to be the last time the Bucs posted a winning record. In '94, the Pirates failed to score their first two games against the Giants' John Burkett and Bill Swift. Not until Andy Van Slyde homered off Mark Portugal in the fifth inning of the third game did they end the drought. Scoreless innings to start season: 23. Final record: 53-61.

       1980 Atlanta Braves -- The Braves fired blanks in their first two games, losing to Cincinnati's Frank Pastore and Mike LaCoss, though the second of those two shutouts was called after six due to rain. Not until Biff Pocoroba drove in Chris Chambliss with a RBI single in the 7th inning of the third game could the Braves breathe a bit easier. Scoreless innings to start season: 21. Final record: 81-80.

       1977 Seattle Mariners -- The Mariners came up all goose eggs to the Angels' Frank Tanana and Nolan Ryan to start the season before Dan Meyers drove in Dave Collins with a RBI double in the third inning of the season's third game. Scoreless innings to start season: 21. Final record: 64-98.

       1974 San Diego Padres -- Hey, it's the Padres again. The Dodgers' Don Sutton and Tommy John shackled the Padres' lineup to start the season, and Andy Messersmith kept the scoreless run going before Willie McCovey ended the drought with his RBI single to score Bobby Tolan in the 6th inning of the third game. Scoreless innings to start season: 23. Final record: 60-102.

       1968 Los Angeles Dodgers -- The Dodgers came up short against the Phillies' Chris Short in the season opener before falling to the Mets' Jerry Koosman in the second game. Thanks to Don Drysdale, the Dodgers eked out a 1-0 victory in the third game, scoring their only run in the second inning on Ron Fairly's solo home run off Don Cardwell. Scoreless innings to start season: 19. Final record: 76-86.

        Time out for a trivia question: Ron Fairly hit his first major league home run at the age of 19 and his last when he was 39. Only two players (CORRECTION: three players) in major league history have hit homers as teenagers and in their 40s. Who are they? (Spoiler alert: "Answer Man" has produced the correct answer, and even corrected the original question, down below.)

      1963 New York Mets -- This team was awful, so taking shutout losses in their first two games came as no great surprise. The Cardinals' Ernie Broglio did them in in the season opener while Ray Washburn took care of them in the second game. Duke Snider homered in the second inning of the third game -- off Warren Spahn, no less -- to get the Mets on the board for the first time. Scoreless innings to start season: 19. Final record: 51-111.

        1947 Cleveland Indians -- The Indians opened with shutout losses to the White Sox and Eddie Lopat and the Tigers and Virgil Trucks (who just died a couple of weeks ago) before scoring their first run in the first inning of the third game. Lou Boudreau was the first to touch the plate for the Tribe. Scoreless innings to start season: 18. Final record: 80-74.

        1943 St. Louis Cardinals -- The '43 Cards opened the season with a couple of tough 1-0 losses, losing in 11 innings to the Reds and Johnny Vander Meer in the opener and in 10 innings the following day. Ray Starr started for the Reds. Stan Musial scored the Cardinals' first run in the sixth inning of the third game. Scoreless innings to start season: 26. Final record: 105-49-3.

        1940 Washington Senators -- The Senators were blanked by Boston's Lefty Grove and Jim Bagby in the first two games before scoring off the Yankees' Lefty Gomez in the second inning of the third game. Scoreless innings to start season: 19. Final record: 64-90.

        So pull up a chair later today and see if the Marlins can do what no team has ever done before. Jordan Zimmermann is on the mound for the Nationals.

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