Question of the day: What’s been the best MLB postseason pitching matchup in recent memory? [Updated]
Bill Kline, The Morning Call
It was 1968, the Year of the Pitcher, when only six batters hit .300 in the entire Majors and when pitchers ruled by fear and ferocity. When hitters –- sans gloves and helmet-ear flaps and elbow guards – -would get their chins buzzed for taking just a baby step out of the batter’s box.
Game 1 of the ’68 World Series paired the Cardinals Bob Gibson (22 wins, 1.12 ERA) against the Tigers’ Denny McLain (31 victories, 280 strikeouts). When Gibson unleashed his fastball, it didn’t just pop into the catcher’s mitt, it cracked in transistor radios across the nation. McLain brought the high heat too and it was all he needed.
Gibson delivered with 17 strikeouts in a 4-0 Game 1 victory. McLain, who had pitched 336 innings during the season, lasted only five on this day. But this remains the greatest matchup in postseason history. For not only were Gibson and McLain Cy Young winners that year, they also were league MVPs.
[Updated at 10:06 a.m.
Phil Rogers, Chicago Tribune
As great of a playoff matchup as Tim Lincecum versus Roy Halladay is, it’s not the best meeting of two aces in this decade. That distinction goes, with very little discussion, to Game 7 of the 2001 World Series –- the Yankees’ Roger Clemens versus the Diamondbacks’ Curt Schilling. Both were coming off huge seasons, with the two of them going a combined 42-9 and only Schilling’s teammate, Randy Johnson, stopping this from being a battle of Cy Young winner versus Cy Young winner in the highest stakes game possible. The only qualifier is that Schilling was pitching on three days’ rest. They lived up to the billing in this matchup, which ultimately was headed toward a 2-1 victory for the Yankees before Arizona scored twice off Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the ninth, stealing a 3-2 win and the World Series rings. Seldom has there ever been a better postseason matchup than this one.]
[Updated at 10:56 a.m.
Mike DiGiovanna, Los Angeles Times
My earliest baseball memories are of the 1969 "Miracle" New York Mets, so I can't speak to the great Bob Gibson-Denny McLain matchups in the 1968 World Series. I've covered or seen some remarkable playoff pitching matchups, with Roger Clemens (New York Yankees) vs. Curt Schilling (Arizona) in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series and Pedro Martinez (Boston Red Sox) vs. Clemens (Yankees) in Game 3 of the 1999 American League Championship Series coming to mind.
But for me, the most memorable pitching matchup was Jack Morris (Minnesota) vs. John Smoltz (Atlanta) in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. Both started on three days' rest in a game with the highest possible stakes, and both were brilliant, Morris pitching a complete-game seven-hitter with eight strikeouts and two walks to lead the Twins to a 1-0, 10-inning victory. What made Morris' gem all the more impressive was that he had no margin of error because of Smoltz, who allowed six hits over 7 1/3 shutout innings to keep the Braves in the game.]
Photo: Detroit Tigers' Denny McLain. Credit: Associated Press