Another Big World Series Pitching Match-Up Disappoints
In Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, Jack Morris and John Smoltz had a pitching match-up for the ages. For 7.1 innings, Smoltz would shut out the Twins. Somehow, Morris was even better than that pitching 10 shutout innings in an epic 1-0 Twins Game 7 victory. It was a fitting end to one of the best World Series ever played.
Whenever you see big time pitching match-ups in the World Series, this is what we expect to see. In this century, as evidenced by last night’s game, these match-ups typically fall well short of expectations.
Yes, Clayton Kershaw is no longer the young dominating ace we remember. Sure, Chris Sale has been dealing with injury issues for the second half of the season. Still, you were hoping they’d each pitch at least five innings. But it’s not just them or their injuries, it’s seemingly every World Series.
In Game 1, Corey Kluber held up his end of the bargain shutting out the Cubs over six innings. Jon Lester wasn’t bad allowing three earned over 5.2 innings, but it certainly wasn’t two aces trading haymakers.
It may be a bit of a stretch to call him such, but in 2014, Johnny Cueto finished second in the Cy Young voting. Moreoever, he had been great with the Reds before being traded to the Royals. He was great in Game 2 limiting the Mets to just one run in his complete game victory. Despite being dominant all postseason long, Jacob deGrom hit a bump in this game allowing four earned in five innings.
Adam Wainwright has been one of the better postseason pitchers of his era, but in Game 1, he allowed three earned over five while Jon Lester shut out the Cardinals over 7.2 innings. The Game 5 match-up was much better with both pitchers going seven plus innings. This had all the makings of a classic, especially with Wainwright striking out 10, but with two runs scored against him in the seventh, it was a 3-1 game.
Game 1 was the match-up of all match-ups. In 2008 and 2009, Tim Lincecum had won the Cy Young Award. Cliff Lee had won the 2008 Cy Young in the American League, and he had established himself as a big-time postseason pitcher. Lee would get shelled for six earned in 4.2 innings. Lincecum was not much better allowing four earned in 5.2 innings, but he was at least good enough to get the win.
Much like the 2013 World Series, the sequel was better. For the first six innings of Game 5, Lincecum and Lee would trade zeros. That was until Edgar Renteria hit a two run over which effectively clinched the Giants first World Series since moving to San Francisco. Ultimately, Lee would allow three earned over seven while Lincecum would allow one over eight.
Former Indians teammates and former Cy Young winners, Lee and CC Sabathia would face-off in Game 1. This was the rare pitching match-up which didn’t disappoint. Lee pitched a complete game allowing just one earned while striking out 10. Sabathia was also terrific allowing just two earned over seven. Of course, the final score did not have the same feel as the Yankees bullpen blew up in what would be a 6-1 Phillies victory.
There was another big match-up in Game 4. Andy Pettitte made a reputation as a big game pitcher, but he wasn’t quite that allowing four over six innings. Opposite him as 2008 NLCS and World Series MVP Cole Hamels, who allowed five runs over 4.1 innings.
Pettitte was about the same in Game 6 allowing three runs over 5.2 innings, but Pedro Martinez, in what would be his final game, allowed four earned over four innings before departing.
Now, this had a Game 7 befitting the 1991 Game 7. The first five-and-a-half innings were scoreless until the Diamondbacks finally broke through with a Danny Bautista RBI double off Roger Clemens. The Yankees responded with a a run off Curt Schilling in the seventh, and they took the lead with an Alfonso Soriano homer off Schilling in the eighth. To heighten the great pitching all the more, Randy Johnson would pitch 1.1 scoreless to allow the Diamondbacks miracle comeback against Mariano Rivera to win the series.
As great as that was, the rest of the series did not have the same great starting pitching matchups. Schilling was great in Game 1 while Mike Mussina allowed five runs over three innings. In Game 2, Johnson had a complete game shutout while Pettitte allowed four over seven innings. In Game 6, Johnson allowed just two earned over seven while Pettitte was hit hard from the get-go allowing six runs over two innings.
Now, there have been great pitching match-ups here and there. There are typically memorable games. Also, unlike movies, we have seen the sequel in starting pitcher match-ups prove to be much better than the first match-up. If that trend continues, we should be in for a treat when Sale and Kershaw face-off in Game 5 in Dodger Stadium.