Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Top 5 MLB Postseason Pitching Performances

Once October rolls around, it is critical for a team to have good pitching. Whether it be your starters or the bullpen, shutdown pitching is a must-have if your team wants to take home the World Series crown when it is all said and done. In this Top 5 article, I give my take on what I think are the best postseason pitching performances in major league baseball history. Without further adieu, let us begin!

#5 Roy Halladay - 2010 NLDS Game 1
Image result for roy halladay no hitter nlds

The year was 2010 and the Philadelphia Phillies were just two years removed from a world championship. After falling to the Yankees in the 2009 World Series, the Phillies were looking to get back to the Fall Classic behind a dominant pitching staff led by ace and 21-game winner Roy Halladay.

In Game 1 of the 2010 National League Division Series, Halladay had his work cut out for him as he was going up against the National League Central Division Champion Cincinnati Reds. The Phillies jumped out to a 4-0 lead early, and Halladay was cruising with the support of the home fans in Philadelphia.

As Halladay worked deeper into the game, the Reds still had zero runs on the scoreboard. They also had zero hits. Soon the sixth came and went, and so did the seventh. Still, Halladay had allowed no hits. Something indeed special was brewing in Philly as Halladay was inching closer to a very exclusive club.

The eighth came and went, and then it was on to the ninth. In the top of the ninth. Halladay induced two pop flies for the first and second outs. He was now one out away from history! Standing in his way was Reds' second baseman Brandon Phillips.

Halladay quickly got ahead of Phillips 0-2, and now one pitch was all he needed to complete just the second no-hitter in postseason history! Halladay wound up and threw a pitch that Phillips bounced in front of the plate. Catcher Carols Ruiz sprung out from behind the dish, picked the ball up, and fired it to first baseman Ryan Howard to complete the no-hitter!

Halladay was mobbed by his teammates and became just the second pitcher to throw a postseason no-hitter since Don Larsen in 1956 (Larsen threw a perfect game for the Yankees in the 1956 World Series). Halladay's final stat line was nine innings pitched, no runs allowed, no hits allowed, eight strike outs, and one walk. Halladay's lone walk to Jay Bruce in the fifth inning is what kept his no-no from being a perfect game.

But that is okay for Halladay considering he threw a perfect game earlier in the regular season on May 29th against the (then Florida) Marlins. The Phillies would go on to sweep the Reds and lose to the Giants in six games in the National League Championship Series.

#4 Curt Schilling - 2004 ALCS Game 6
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It was Game 6 of the 2004 American League Championship Series, and the Boston Red Sox were in the midst of trying to overcome a 3-0 series deficit against the rival New York Yankees. After winning Games 4 and 5 in thrilling, walk-off fashion, the Red Sox were now in New York trying to force a Game 7.

On the mound for the Sox was the 37-year-old Curt Schilling. A 21-game winner during the regular season, Schilling was looking to redeem himself after getting shelled in a 10-7 Game 1 loss. Pitching with a bloody right ankle due to an operation he had on his achilles tendon, Schilling threw an absolute gem. He went seven innings, gave up just one run on four hits, struck out four, and walked none.

Schilling's effort would be enough as the Red Sox won the game 4-2. The Sox would then come out the very next night and smack the Yankees 10-3 in Game 7 to complete one of the greatest comebacks in MLB history! They would go on to sweep the Cardinals in the World Series and finally bring an end to an 86-year-old championship drought.

#3 Bob Gibson - 1968 World Series Game 1
Image result for bob gibson 1968 world series

In Game 1 of the 1968 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers, 22-game winner and Cardinal ace, Bob Gibson, toed the rubber. He proceeded to shred through the Detroit lineup as he was striking out Tiger after Tiger.

With a 4-0 lead, Gibson was approaching record territory after his 15th strikeout tied him with Sandy Koufax in the ninth inning. Gibson would take sole possession of the record after striking out the very next batter. For good measure, he even K'd the final batter to to end the game and give him a grand total of 17 strikeouts in a single World Series game. His final stat line was nine innings pitched, 17 K's, no runs allowed on just five hits, and just one walk! Gibson's strikeout record has not been touched ever since.

Gibson's performance was one of the most dominating the World Series has ever seen and would be higher if the Cardinals had went on to win the 1968 World Series. Gibson would win Game 4 but faltered in Game 7 as Detroit beat him 4-1. However, that does not take anything away from him as he went the distance in both Games 4 and 7. It is also worth mentioning that he struck out 10 in Game 4 and eight in Game 7!

#2 Madison Bumgarner - 2014 World Series Game 7
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Madison Bumgarner had the postseason of his life in 2014 as he won his fourth straight postseason game after capping off an incredible Game 5 performance in San Francisco to give the Giants a 3-2 lead in the World Series. After the win, Bumgarner assured the San Francisco faithful that he would be available if the series went seven games.

After the Royals drubbed the Giants 10-0 in Game 6, it was time to see if Bumgarner would walk the walk. In the fifth inning with the Giants up 3-2, Bumgarner came out of the bullpen for relief. The baseball world took it all in as the lefty came out on two days rest to pitch for the rest of the game.

Bumgarner cruised through the Royals' lineup as he single-handedly tried to deliver San Francisco its third championship in five years. In the ninth inning, he got two quick outs before Alex Gordon ended up on third base due to errors in the outfield. With the tying run at third and the powerful Salvador Perez up, Bumgarner remained unfazed. He got Perez to pop up down the third base foul line to end the game and secure another World Series championship for the Giants!

In his four innings of relief, Bumgarner gave up just two hits and struck out four with no walks. After the final out was recorded, Bumgarner hugged catcher Buster Posey as his teammates came to swarm the both of them. As the Giants celebrated, baseball fans everywhere knew they had just witnessed an amazing and historic pitching performance.

After his dominant Game 7 relief performance, Bumgarner etched his name in baseball history for the lowest ERA (0.43) ever recorded in a World Series. To add icing to the cake, Bumgarner was also named 2014 World Series MVP after recording two wins, one save, 17 strikeouts, and just one walk!

#1 Don Larsen - 1956 World Series Game 5
Image result for don larsen perfect game

Coming in at No.1 is the man I mentioned earlier in the article, Don Larsen. Prior to coming to the New York Yankees in 1955, Larsen was relatively a nobody and at one point had lost 21 games in 1954! He was by no means a dominant pitcher, but somewhat began to figure it out when he came over to the Pinstripes.

In the 1956 World Series against their perennial rival in the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Yankees gave the ball to Larsen for a crucial Game 5 with the series tied 2-2. He had pitched just 1.2 innings in Game 2 before being pulled on route to a no decision. Now in the biggest game of the series up to this point, manager Casey Stengel put faith in the 26-year-old righty.

Larsen went out against a Hall of Fame caliber Dodger lineup and got hitters out. He was on cruise control in the game as he kept putting up zero after zero on the scoreboard. As the Yankees led 2-0 and the game moved on into the later innings, fans and players were starting to realize something. Not a single Dodger had reached base yet.

As Larsen worked through the sixth inning, it was three up and three down. Into the seventh it was three up and three down. Into the eighth it was three up and three down. Now the former 21-game loser found himself just three outs away from history!

First up was All-Star right fielder Carl Furillo. On six pitches Larsen got him to fly out to right field for the first out. Next up was All-Star and future Hall of Fame catcher Roy Campanella. On the second pitch of the at-bat, Campanella grounded out to second base for the second out of the inning. Larsen was now an out away from immortality.

Stepping in to pinch hit for the pitcher was All-Star outfielder Dale Mitchell. Larsen did not hesitate with Mitchell as he jumped to a 1-2 count. The crowd at Yankee Stadium was now on its feet and on the fifth pitch of the at-bat Larsen struck out Mitchell for the 27th out and the first and only perfect game in World Series history!

Catcher Yogi Berra ran out and jumped into Larsen's arms while the rest of the Yankee team mobbed him! Larsen's perfect game would be the momentum the Yankees needed as they won the World Series in seven games. Larsen's final stat line was nine innings pitched, no hits allowed, no runs allowed, no walks, and seven strikeouts. In addition to giving his ball club momentum, Larsen's perfect game earned him MVP honors for the 1956 World Series.

Larsen's career for the most part was a forgettable won. He did not go to the Hall of Fame and finished his career 10 wins under .500. But for one spectacular moment on October 8, 1956, Larsen was the best pitcher on the field. For one game, he was absolutely untouchable in every facet of the word. For the first and last time of his career, he was perfect.

Honorable Mention:
Josh Beckett - 2003 World Series Game 6

I hope you enjoyed this Top 5 article! My baseball beat does not stop as the Florida Gators will be playing the Miami Hurricanes in the College World Series this Saturday! Stay tuned for my article on that game as well as any other articles I may decide to write during the week!

*All stats accredited to Baseball-Reference.com & Wikipedia.com

*All photos accredited to dugoutlegends.com, boston.com, spokeo.com, abc7news.com, & libaseballmag.com

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