Best Cincinnati Reds Ever: Mario Soto vs. Tom Browning

Jul 14, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; General view of Great American Ball Park prior to the 2015 MLB All Star Game. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 14, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; General view of Great American Ball Park prior to the 2015 MLB All Star Game. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

First Round Matchup No. 4 Mario Soto v. No. 13 Tom Browning

Mario Soto:

Known for a wicked changeup and a fiery temper, Soto was one of the best pitchers to ever take the mound in a Cincinnati Reds uniform. Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 1973, the right-hander made his big-league debut in 1977 and was a member of the Reds’ starting rotation by 1980. Once he broke in as a starter, he quickly became one of the best pitchers in baseball. From that year through 1985, Soto struck out more batters than any other pitcher (1,245), while posting a 3.15 ERA and 1.12 WHIP.

He was at the peak of his dominance from 1982 to 1984, when he made the National League All-Star team and finished in the top 10 in Cy Young voting each year, including a second-place showing in 1983 when he lost out to the Phillies’ John Denny. He also came close to throwing the 14th no-hitter in club history against the Cardinals in 1984, but fell one out short.

From 1986 to the end of his career in 1988, Soto battled shoulder problems and only pitched in 39 games in that time. This forced him to retire at age 31, adding his name to the long list of great Reds pitchers to have their careers end early due to injury.

Soto spent his entire 12-year career in Cincinnati, but unfortunately for him, the Reds were not great in the mid-1980s, so his only taste of the postseason came in 1979 when he was still a reliever. He threw in one game during the NLCS against the Pirates and retired all six hitters he faced.

It’s hard to imagine the numbers Soto would’ve put up had he stayed healthy, but the production he did have was mighty impressive. To date, he still holds the Reds’ single-season record for strikeouts in a season with 274 (set in 1982) and ranks second only to Jim Maloney in career punch-outs (1,449). Despite the many losing seasons endured in his playing days, Soto still managed to rack up 100 career wins, one of only 19 pitchers in the team’s history to reach that mark. He was elected to the Reds Hall of Fame in 2001 and currently serves in the organization’s front office as a special assistant to the general manager.

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Tom Browning:

Only 23 perfect games have ever been thrown in Major League Baseball. Only one of those was from a Cincinnati Red. That man was none other than Browning, who threw the game’s 12th-ever perfect game on September 16, 1988. The southpaw retired all 27 Los Angeles Dodgers hitters he faced that day, striking out seven and not once getting into a three-ball count.

He was known for much more than his perfect game, however. Browning burst onto the scene in 1985, winning 20 games in his rookie year, the last time any pitcher has done so (while wins and losses aren’t the most meaningful stats, that’s still pretty impressive). He finished second in NL Rookie of the Year voting and sixth for the Cy Young award.

Browning would go on to be a stalwart in the Reds’ rotation, throwing seven straight seasons of 30 or more starts. He was a key cog in the 1990 World Series winning squad, going 15-9 with a 3.80 ERA and 1.26 WHIP and earning the win in Game 3 of the Fall Classic over the Athletics. His only career All-Star appearance came the next year after a hot first half.

He would go on to pitch three more seasons with the Reds, though health proved to be a problem has he climbed into his mid-30s. After 11 seasons in Cincinnati, he gave it one more go with the Royals in 1995, but only pitched in two games and announced his retirement in spring training of 1996. The lefty was eventually elected to the Reds Hall of Fame in 2006.

Having started 298 games with the Reds — more than all but three pitchers in team history — Browning is highly regarded by fans for his playing career. But he was also well-known for other shenanigans, such as leaving in the middle of Game 2 in the 1990 World Series to be with his wife who was in labor, and making his way to the Wrigley Field rooftops in the middle of a game during the 1993 season.

Since retiring, Browning spent nine seasons as a pitching coach in the Reds’ minor-league system, most recently with the Low-A Dayton Dragons in 2015.

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