After graduating from John F. Kennedy High School in Taylor, Michigan, Avery was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in June 1988. He made his first career start on June 13, 1990 against the Cincinnati Reds at Riverfront Stadium and was clobbered, giving up eight runs in 2.1 innings. He ended his rookie year with a record of 3-11 in 21 starts with a 5.64 ERA. Along with Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and Pete Smith, Avery was christened one of Atlanta's "Young Guns," the name for the pitching staff with great potential but little offensive help.
The 1991 season was a magical year for both Avery and the Braves. The team went from worst to first while Avery compiled a record of 18-8 with a 3.38 ERA. He gave the Braves their first win of the season, a 7-5 victory over the defending world champion Reds. In the heat of the September pennant race with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the 21 year-old Avery beat them twice, 9-1 at home, and 3-0 on the road, pitching a complete game both times. Avery's last win of the regular season was a stellar performance against the Houston Astros. Avery threw a no-hitter for 6.2 innings until Luis Gonzalez broke it up with a single.
Avery's amazing season continued with one of the greatest postseason performances of all-time. He shut out the Pittsburgh Pirates for 16.2 innings over two games and accumulated two 1-0 wins. His performance earned him MVP honors for the 1991 NLCS. In the 1991 World Series, Avery earned no decisions in two starts but pitched effectively in both Game 3 and Game 6.
In 1992, Avery lowered his ERA to 3.20, but his record fell off to 11-11, mostly due to the Braves' inability to score runs when he pitched. However, his playoff success continued when he took the mound against the Pirates in the 1992 NLCS. He extended his mastery over the Pittsburgh offense to 22.1 shutout innings before giving up five runs in the seventh inning of a Braves rout in Game 2. After lasting only 1/3 of an inning and giving up four runs in his second start in Game 5, Avery kept the Pirates at bay in the crucial middle innings of Game 7 in relief of John Smoltz. Avery's clutch performance kept the game close enough for Francisco Cabrera to perform his heroics in the ninth inning.
Avery started Game 3 of the 1992 World Series and was the losing pitcher in the first World Series game ever played outside the United States. He pitched effectively but lost, 3-2 to the Toronto Blue Jays. In Game 6, he was pulled after giving up a home run to Candy Maldonado in the fourth inning. Avery appeared on his way to another loss, but a Braves rally extended the game into the eleventh inning before the Blue Jays prevailed, winning their first World Series and saddling the hard-luck Braves with their second consecutive World Series defeat.
In 1993, Avery had the best season of his career. He was selected to the All-Star team and had a record of 16-4 entering the September 12, 1993 game against the San Diego Padres. Avery lost and suffered an injury to a muscle under his pitching armpit. Many blame Avery's injury on his heavy workload as a young pitcher; he had started 135 major league games before reaching the age of 24. Avery was never again the same pitcher, although he ended the year 18-6 with a 2.94 ERA, a phenomenal record for a team's fourth starter.
Avery was outpitched early in Game 1 of the 1993 NLCS by Curt Schilling of the Philadelphia Phillies. A late rally tied the game and got Avery off the hook, but the Braves still lost. In his second matchup with Schilling, the Braves again got Avery off the hook for the loss, but again ultimately lost the game in extra innings, 4-3.
Avery's career went rapidly downhill after his injury. His record after September 12, 1993, was 44-50 after compiling a 47-22 record from the beginning of 1991 until the injury. However, Avery showed occasional flashes of his previous brilliance. After struggling throughout 1995, Avery started Game 4 of the 1995 NLCS with the Braves up three games to none over the Reds. He pitched an outstanding game and won, 6-0, sending Atlanta into the World Series. In Game 4 of the 1995 World Series, he was the surprise starter over ace Greg Maddux, and he was also the winner, 5-2, pitching six innings and giving up one run.
Avery missed two months with injury in 1996 and finished with a 7-10 record. His only appearance in the 1996 World Series was in the top of the 10th inning of Game 4, a game that saw the Braves blow a 6-0 lead to the New York Yankees en route to an 8-6 loss in the game that turned not only the series, but the decade of the 1990s in baseball dominance. Pitching 0.2 innings, Avery earned the loss, giving up a hit, a run, and three walks, the last of which (to Wade Boggs) forced in the go-ahead run. Atlanta manager Bobby Cox earned some criticism at the time owing to his decision to have Avery intentionally walk Bernie Williams to load the bases for Boggs.
Boston and DetroitEdit
With his career in a sudden and premature decline, Avery was granted free agency and signed with the Boston Red Sox on January 22, 1997. He pitched two years for the Red Sox, going 16-14 over two seasons as the number two starter behind Pedro Martínez, however his ERA was 5.64 and he was clearly finished as the brilliant pitcher who dazzled fans and batters in 1991.
He signed a one year contract with the Reds for the 1999 season. He was 6-7 when he was lost for the rest of the year in July. He signed with the Braves during spring training in 2000 and again during spring training in 2001, but failed to make the club each time.
In 2003, Avery made a brief comeback with the Detroit Tigers team that threatened to break the 120-loss record of the 1962 Mets. He made 19 relief appearances, including the final appearance of his career on July 20, 2003, at U.S. Cellular Field against the Chicago White Sox. His final pitch was a double play caused when Paul Konerko lined to Avery and he threw Magglio Ordóñez out before he was able to get back to first base.
- Was the youngest player in baseball (20) during his rookie season in 1990.
- At age 21, Avery became the youngest pitcher to win a playoff game with an eight-inning six-hitter in Game 2 of the 1991 NLCS.
- Set a record with 22 1/3 scoreless innings in the NLCS (1991-92).
- The baseball field at John F. Kennedy High School, the school Steve attended, is named Steve Avery Field.
Avery married Heather McMillian on November 12, 1991. They currently live in Dearborn with their three children.
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube
- Baseball Library (profile)
- MLB historical statistics
|Awards and achievements|
Rob Dibble and Randy Myers
|National League Championship Series MVP|
|Youngest Player in the|