Six Spectacular World Series Pitching Performances
The World Series has long been considered one of the largest and most intense stages in all of sports and entertainment alike. Memorable performances elevate players from mere mortals into legends of the sport. It takes a very strong mental makeup to play in these games, and that’s true even more so for pitchers, who have the ability to win or lose a game based on a tiny mistake or perfect pitch.
In honor of the World Series getting underway in less than a week, we’ve decided to take a look at some of the most dominant pitching performances in Series history.
Don Larsen – 1956 Yankees
Nineteen-fifty-six was a dream year for Yankees pitcher Don Larsen. After going 11-5 with a 3.26 ERA in the regular season, Larsen was trusted to start Game 5 of the World Series, which was a pivotal game as the Yankees and Dodgers were tied at two games apiece. Despite a shaky Game 2 performance, Larsen came out firing against the Dodgers in Game 5, striking out seven batters and pitching the only perfect game in World Series history. The Yankees went on to win the series in seven games, and Larsen was named Series MVP for his Game 5 heroics.
Sandy Koufax – 1965 Dodgers
Sandy Koufax has long been known as one of the true legends of the sport and his 1965 World Series performance should be one of the first things that comes to mind when you think of his career. After sitting out of Game 1 due to his observance of the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur, Koufax took the ball for Game 2, where he was charged with a loss despite allowing just one earned run in six innings while striking out nine. Koufax went on to start two more games in the Series, winning both, which included a Game 7 complete game shutout. The Hall of Famer allowed just one earned run in his 24 innings pitched in the series, striking out a whopping 29 batters.
Bob Gibson – 1967 Cardinals
Our third entry on this list is Bob Gibson, who dominated in his three starts against the Boston Red Sox in the 1967 World Series. Over his three performances, Gibson managed to throw three complete games with one shutout. His strikeout numbers were fantastic as well as he punched out 26 batters in 27 innings pitched. After posting a 3-0 record with just three earned runs allowed against Boston, Gibson won his second and final World Series MVP award en route to a Cardinals championship.
Orel Hershiser – 1988 Dodgers
In the midst of a career that spanned almost 20 seasons, Orel Hershiser’s 1988 season was the crown jewel in a very accomplished résumé. In addition to winning the NL Cy Young Award and making the All-Star team that year, Hershiser strung together a masterful series against the Athletics in the World Series. The Buffalo, NY, native posted a 2-0 record with two complete games and one shutout, allowing just two earned runs and striking out 17 batters. Hershiser went on to pitch for 12 more seasons after being named the 1988 series MVP.
Randy Johnson – 2001 Diamondbacks
Just four years removed from coming into the league as an expansion team, the Arizona Diamondbacks were able to achieve the impossible by defeating the Yankees in Game 7 to win the 2001 World Series. In one of the best pitching performances in series history, Randy Johnson won two games as a starting pitcher, and came in as a reliever in Game 7 to help clinch the title. In his three appearances the Big Unit allowed just two earned runs over 17 and 1/3rd innings pitched while striking out 19 batters. He finished the series with three wins and was named Co-MVP alongside fellow Arizona pitcher Curt Schilling.
Madison Bumgarner – 2014 Giants
Our final entry in this list happened just three years ago. Madison Bumgarner put himself on the national radar as one of the game’s true elite pitchers thanks to his legendary performances against the Royals in the 2014 fall classic. Bumgarner was trusted to start Game 1 and Game 5 for the Giants and he seemingly loved the limelight as he posted two victories and allowed just one earned run in 16 innings pitched. With the series on the line in Game 7, the Giants turned to their ace out of the bullpen and Bumgarner pitched five scoreless innings of relief, surrendering just two hits and clinching the title for San Francisco.