Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Top 10 World Series Pitching Performances

These are over a single World Series game -- not over an entire Series or an entire career. So if you're a Yankee Fan looking for Mariano Rivera, sorry, but he won't be on this list.

10. Floyd "Bill" Bevens, New York Yankees vs. Brooklyn Dodgers, 1947 Game 4. He took a no-hitter to 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th, when no no-hitter had ever been pitched in Series play. But 10 walks led to a run, and he lost it on the last batter, pinch-hitter Harold "Cookie" Lavagetto, who doubled home 2 of those walks, and lost the game, 3-2. Since the game was lost, I can only put this at Number 10.

9. Ed Reulbach, Chicago Cubs vs. Chicago White Sox, 1906 Game 2. He pitched a one-hitter, allowing 1 run. I can't rank this one any higher because the White Sox won the Series anyway. Also because, win though they did, these White Sox were known as the Hitless Wonders. And because this was the Dead Ball Era.

8. Claude Passeau, Chicago Cubs vs. Detroit Tigers, 1945 Game 3. He gave up a hit in the 2nd, but otherwise cruised to a one-hit shutout. The Tigers won the Series anyway.

7. Mickey Lolich, Detroit Tigers vs. St. Louis Cardinals, 1968 Game 7. After already winning Games 2 and 5, Lolich came back on 2 days rest against the seemingly invincible Bob Gibson, and held the defending World Champions, with Orlando Cepeda, Lou Brock and, in his last game, Roger Maris to 1 run on 5 hits.

With Gibson and the Tigers' Denny McLain the headline guys in this Series, it was Lolich -- at 230 pounds he no longer seems so portly a portsider compared to such as David Wells and CC Sabathia -- who was the big hero of the Series.

6. Jim Lonborg, Boston Red Sox vs. St. Louis Cardinals, 1967 Game 2. After a season in which he won 22 games including the Pennant-clincher just 4 days earlier, he took a no-hitter into the 8th with 2 out, despite having to face Cepeda, Brock and an aging but still powerful Maris. The Cardinals won the Series anyway.

5. Andy Pettitte, New York Yankees vs. Atlanta Braves, 1996 Game 5. Protecting a 1-0 lead from the 4th inning on, Pettitte allowed the first 2 runners, opposing pitcher John Smoltz and Marquis Grissom, to reach base in the bottom of the 6th. Then he took matters into his own hands -- literally. Mark Lemke tried to bunt the runners over, but Pettitte pounced on it and threw Smoltz out at 3rd. Then he induced Chipper Jones to bounce back to him for a 1-6-3 double play.

Pettitte kept the shutout through 8, and then John Wetteland finished it in the 9th, thanks in part to a great catch by Paul O'Neill off Luis Polonia for the final out. It was the last game ever played at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, and the Yankees took the Series in Game 6 in New York.

4. Tom Glavine, Atlanta Braves vs. Cleveland Indians, 1995 Game 6. He lost his no-hitter in the 6th, but finished 8 innings of one-hit ball, with Mark Wohlers preserving the one-hit shutout in the 9th. Since the Braves only got 1 run themselves, on David Justice's home run, this was a very big pitching performance.

It clinched what remains Atlanta's only World Championship in any sport, and the only title the Braves franchise has won in 54 years, since they were in Milwaukee.

3. Sandy Koufax, Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Minnesota Twins, 1965 Game 7. The Twins had Harmon Killebrew, Bob Allison and Tony Oliva, and were at home, and Koufax was pitching on just 2 days rest. He threw only fastballs, which might seem risky, but he knew curveballs would hurt his elbow.

In spite of all of this, and the pressure of a Game 7, he tossed a three-hit shutout. A year earlier, Bob Gibson also won Game 7 on 2 days rest, but it was a much shakier performance. Two years after this one, in a Game 7, Gibson on 3 days rest not only outpitched, but homered, off Lonborg who was pitching on 2 days rest.

2. Jack Morris, Minnesota Twins vs. Atlanta Braves, 1991 Game 7. The Twins don't quite get even -- it wasn't the Dodgers they beat, and it was 26 years later -- but Morris, a native of nearby St. Paul, faced a team with Justice, Terry Pendleton and Lonnie Smith, in the homer-happy Metrodome in Minneapolis, and shut them out. For 10 innings. At age 36.

He allowed 7 hits and 2 walks, but stranded a leadoff single by Justice in the 2nd, 2 runners in the 3rd, a double by Brian Hunter in the 4th, singles by Mark Lemke and Smith in the 5th, and a single by Smith and a double by Pendleton in the 8th -- Smith took the old adage "never make the 1st out at 3rd base" too far, it was the 8th inning of a 0-0 Game 7. This performance, while not as spectacular as the one Koufax put up in Bloomington, was every bit as gutsy.

1. Don Larsen, New York Yankees vs. Brooklyn Dodgers, 1956 Game 5. The only no-hitter ever pitched beyond Game 1 of a Division Series, and it was a World Series perfect game. You face a lineup that includes Duke Snider (407 career home runs), Gil Hodges (370 home runs), Roy Campanella (242 homers in just 10 major-league seasons), Jackie Robinson (.311 lifetime batting average), Carl Furillo (former National League batting champion), and Jim Gilliam (batted .300 that season), and you don't allow a single baserunner over 9 innings, you've really accomplished something.

That he did it with the Series tied, and the next 2 potential games away from home, means it wasn't just spectacular, it was clutch.

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