Once the regular season ends and the postseason begins, the pressure put on teams and players is ratcheted up and the spotlight becomes larger. Every failure becomes even worse than had it occurred in the regular season. Conversely, every triumph becomes even more amazing. Here is a list of the five greatest, most dominant pitching performances in baseball postseason history.
5. Babe Ruth, 14-inning win, 1916 World Series
It may not look dominant if you look at the strikeouts (4), number of hits allowed (6), number of walks allowed (3), or number of runs allowed (1). Babe Ruth’s performance in Game 2 of the 1916 World Series is dominant, however, because Ruth was able to pitch an entire 14-inning complete game and pick up the win. Considering the development of pitch counts and inning limits in the 1980s and 1990s, this is a performance that will likely never be matched.
4. Jack Morris, 10-inning shutout, 1991 World Series
The Minnesota Twins came into Game 7 of the 1991 World Series fresh off a twelve-inning victory in Game 6. Morris, never a pitcher to back down, refused to leave the game after the first nine innings saw neither the Twins nor the Atlanta Braves score a run. After pitching another scoreless frame in the tenth inning, Morris picked up the victory (and the World Series MVP award) when the Twins scored in the bottom of the tenth inning to give them the World Series Victory.
3. Bob Gibson, 17 Strikeouts, 1968 World Series
In perhaps the most overpowering performance in baseball postseason history, Bob Gibson led the St. Louis Cardinals to a Game 1 victory in the 1968 World Series by striking out seventeen batters and shutting out the Detroit Tigers. His seventeen strikeouts remains a record for most strikeouts in a postseason game. Gibson ended up striking out 35 batters in three starts in the 1968 World Series, which is also a record for the most strikeouts recorded during a single World Series.
2. Roy Halladay, No-Hitter, 2010 NLDS
The only non-World Series game on this list, Roy Halladay accomplished a number of amazing feats by no-hitting the Cincinnati Reds in the 2010 NLDS. It was only the second no-hitter thrown in post-season history (the first is discussed next). It made Halladay only the fifth pitcher to ever throw two no-hitters in the same season, joining Allie Reynolds, Nolan Ryan, Virgil Trucks, and Johnny Vander Meer. Halladay also became the first pitcher to throw a perfect game and a no-hitter in the same season. It was also the first postseason appearance of Halladay’s career, making it easily the most dominant playoff debut in baseball history.
1. Don Larsen, Perfect Game, 1956 World Series
Don Larsen ended his major league career with 81 wins, 91 losses, and an ERA approaching 4. He will be remembered forever, though, for his performance in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series between the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers. For 54 years, it was the only no-hitter in postseason history, and still remains the only perfect game every thrown in any round of the postseason.
What makes it even more impressive is that it was done in the thick of the World Series. The Yankees and Dodgers were tied 2-2 entering the game, and Larsen was coming off a performance in Game 2 of the series where he only lasted 1 2/3 innings, giving up four unearned runs.
Narrowly Missed the List:
Whitey Ford’s 3rd consecutive World Series shutout, 1961 World Series
Roger Clemens’ 15-strikeout, one-hit shutout, 2000 ALCS
All box-scores and stats from baseball-reference.com
No-Hitter Records from Baseball Almanac
Personal experience/opinion used to rank the performances