Top 10 World Series Pitching Performances in MLB History
Pitching Wins Championships
So far, the 2013 postseason has been defined by dominant pitching. The St. Louis Cardinals have advanced to the World Series due in great part to the right arms of Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha, in addition to an arsenal of flame-throwers out of the bullpen.
The Boston Red Sox too have gotten great starting pitching from guys like Jon Lester and John Lackey. Furthermore, Koji Uehara was arguably the best reliever in baseball this year.
The pitchers that these teams beat are also noteworthy. The Cardinals managed to win both games where they faced Cy Young favorite Clayton Kershaw, including a 9-0 drubbing in the series-clinching Game 6. The Detroit Tigers had phenomenal starting pitching against a Red Sox offense which was the best in baseball. However, the Detroit bullpen couldn’t get the job done and as a result, the Tigers will be watching the Fall Classic from their couches. Boston got big hits late in games, including two grand slams, and its bullpen silenced the Tigers’ bats.
Though the popular saying states that, “offense wins games, defense wins championships,” baseball is unique in that it’s the only sport in which the defense controls the ball. In baseball, pitching is and always will be the most crucial factor to winning the World Series. In this spirit, these are the 10 best pitching performances in World Series history. This list is not limited to single-game performances. In fact, most selections were based on how a player pitched over the course of the entire Series.
If you believe someone’s missing, feel free to say so in the comments section below.
10. Whitey Ford, New York Yankees, 1961
Whitey Ford won the American League Cy Young Award in 1961 and continued to dominate in the World Series. The Chairman of the Board went 2-0 against the Cincinnati Reds. He allowed just six hits and one walk, and didn’t give up a run. He also threw a complete game shutout in Game 1.
It was during this series that Ford broke the record for consecutive scoreless innings in the postseason, previously held by Babe Ruth.
9. Sandy Koufax, Los Angeles Dodgers, 1963
Sandy Koufax went 2-0 in a four-game sweep of the New York Yankees in the 1963 Fall Classic. He threw two complete games, allowing three runs on 12 hits and struck out a third of the batters he faced.
It was the second of three World Series titles for the Left Arm of God.
8. Jack Morris, Minnesota Twins, 1991
In Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, John Smoltz threw 7.1 shutout innings for the Atlanta Braves – and nobody remembers. That’s because Jack Morris threw 10 shutout innings in the same game. He put the team on his back in maybe the gutsiest World Series performance in baseball history.
Morris was 2-0 in the 1991 World Series and could have been 3-0 (his Game 4 stats: ND, 6 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 4 SO). He posted a 1.17 ERA in the Series, but his Game 7 performance in particular was truly legendary.
7. Bob Turley, New York Yankees, 1958
The New York Yankees were down three games to one to the Milwaukee Braves in the 1958 World Series. Bob Turley then beat Lew Burdette in Game 5, saved Game 6 (a 2-1 victory over Warren Spahn) and beat Burdette again in Game 7.
Though he took the loss in a terrible Game 2 start (0.1 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 1 BB, 1 SO), he redeemed himself with two wins and a save during the last three games of the Series. He stepped up when his team needed him, which is really what pitching in October is all about.
6. Randy Johnson, Arizona Diamondbacks, 2001
Like Bob Turley, Randy Johnson saw action as a starter and a reliever in the 2001 World Series.
He threw a complete game shutout in Game 2 and allowed two runs over seven innings pitched in a Game 6 victory. The following night, he came out of the bullpen and didn’t allow a batter to reach base in 1.1 innings pitched. He finished the Series 3-0 with a 1.04 ERA. In 17.1 innings pitched, he allowed two runs on nine hits and struck out 19.
The 2001 World Series is arguably the greatest ever played and thanks to Johnson, the Arizona Diamondbacks came out on top.
5. Bob Gibson, St. Louis Cardinals, 1967/1968
Bob Gibson went 3-0 in the 1967 Fall Classic with three complete games and a 1.00 ERA. In 27 innings pitched, he allowed three runs on 14 hits with five walks and 26 strikeouts.
The following year, Gibson went 2-1 in the World Series, also with three complete games. Despite his dominant performance (27 IP, 18 H, 5 R, 4 BB, 35 SO) they lost the Series to Mickey Lolich and the Detroit Tigers.
4. Mickey Lolich, Detroit Tigers, 1968
Mickey Lolich went 3-0 in the 1968 World Series with three complete games and a 1.67 ERA. In 27 innings pitched, he only allowed five runs and struck out 21. If that’s not impressive enough, he out-dueled Bob Gibson in Game 7 to win the Series.
3. Lew Burdette, Milwaukee Braves, 1957
Lew Burdette went 3-0 in the 1957 World Series with three complete games and a 0.67 ERA. Out of 104 batters faced, only 25 reached base. He allowed just two runs over 27 innings pitched against a New York Yankees lineup that included future Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Enos Slaughter.
2. Don Larsen, New York Yankees, 1956
Don Larsen got a no-decision in his first start of the 1956 Fall Classic after allowing four unearned runs over 1.2 innings pitched. He did, however, get the win in his next start, which happened to be the only postseason perfect game in the history of baseball.
He finished the Series with a 1-0 record, but he posted a 0.00 ERA and his 0.469 WHIP is the lowest by any pitcher in a single postseason. In 1956, Larsen achieved baseball immortality.
1. Christy Mathewson, New York Giants, 1905
The 1905 World Series went five games. Christy Mathewson won three of them and didn’t allow a run. You read that correctly – he threw three complete game shutouts.
Mathewson faced 94 batters in the 1905 Series. Only 14 of them reached base. Some pitchers have dominated like that for a single game, but there has never been another Series-long performance like what Mathewson did in 1905, and I doubt there ever will be.