The 10 best postseason pitching performances in baseball history

1. Don Larsen, 1956 World Series: Larsen is and may always be number one here, at least until another man throws a perfect game in the postseason.

2. Roy Halladay, 2010 National League Division Playoffs: This season, Halladay became the latest pitcher with 20 wins his first year in a new league, and on Wednesday, he threw the second no-hitter in the postseason history. Right now, Halladay looks like the National League Cy Young, and his Phillies look unstoppable.

3. Christy Matthewson, 1905 World Series: Aside from the individual efforts of Larsen and Halladay, this is perhaps the greatest overall postseason performance. Matthewson was the New York Giants in the 1905 Fall Classic, winning three of their four games, all by shutouts. More impressively, he did it in the span of six days.

4. Howard Ehmke, 1929 World Series: Ehmke was an aging junk baller who sat the A’s bench most of 1929. Years later in Ehmke’s obituary, Red Smith wrote how late that season, A’s manager Connie Mack summoned Ehmke to release him. Ehmke responded, “Mr. Mack, I have always wanted to to pitch in a World Series. Mr. Mack, there is one great game left in this old arm.” Mack ordered Ehmke to stay behind when Philadelphia went on a road trip and scout the Cubs. “Learn all you can about their hitters,” Mack told Ehmke. “Say nothing to anybody. You are my opening pitcher for the World Series.” Ehmke set a World Series record with 13 strikeouts, winning 3-1 in a complete game.

5. Johnny Podres, 1955 World Series: It wasn’t so much Podres’ performance in that World Series that gets him here– not that he wasn’t  excellent, with two complete game wins. The key is that Podres helped the long-suffering Brooklyn Dodgers finally win a championship, ensuring their victory with his Game Seven shutout.

6. Orel Hershisher, 1988 postseason: Hershiser rode his record-setting scoreless inning streak into the playoffs and then went 3-0 with a 1.05 ERA between the NLCS and the World Series, recording the winning games in both stages of the postseason. He even had a save in the NLCS and went 3-3 at the plate in the World Series with two doubles and an RBI.

7. Jack Morris, 1991 World Series: If Morris is elected to the Hall of Fame, a television should be set up next to his plaque, keeping a constant loop of his masterful, 10-inning victory in Game Seven in 1991. His opponent that day, John Smoltz, was impressive too and could rate as an honorable mention here.

8. Curt Schilling, 2004 American League Championship Series: Like Podres, Schilling helped his team break a long spell of postseason futility. And he did so with panache, winning Game Six of the ALCS for Boston while pitching with a sock bloodied from an ankle injury. The image is the baseball equivalent of Willis Reed limping through the tunnel to the NBA Finals.

9. Mickey Lolich, 1968 World Series: How did the Detroit Tigers beat Bob Gibson, his 1.12 regular season ERA, and his St. Louis Cardinals in 1968? By getting three wins from Lolich, including a Game Seven victory over Gibson.

10. Sandy Koufax, 1965 World Series: Koufax and his Dodgers had a forgettable Fall Classic in his final season, 1966, getting swept by the Orioles. The year before, however, Koufax shut out the Twins twice in leading Los Angeles to a seven-game victory.

Related: A collection of lists

3 Replies to “The 10 best postseason pitching performances in baseball history”

  1. Fine performances all, but as someone whose interest in baseball took root in the mid-60s, I find it strange that Bob Gibson’s name appears on this list only as a footnote to Mickey Lolich’s 1968 accomplishments. In three World Series, Gibson started 9 games (completed 8, won 7) allowing only 19 earned runs. Perhaps only Matthewson and Hershisher can boast a better string of three consecutive post-season starts than Gibson’s ’67 Game 4, ’67 Game 7 and ’68 Game 1 (3 complete game wins, 2 shutouts, 2 ER, 33 K).

    1. @Rory: I knew someone would mention Lincecum…. and yes, I wrote this before I knew how he did last night.

      @Brendan: Good call, I may have missed on Gibson. I noted his ’67 performance but may have erred by forgetting to look at ’64 as well. On a new list, he’s #11 at the very least.

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