10 Most Unreliable, Game-Blowing Relief Pitchers in MLB Playoff History

Doug Mead@@Sports_A_HolicCorrespondent IOctober 7, 2012

10 Most Unreliable, Game-Blowing Relief Pitchers in MLB Playoff History

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    With only three days of play thus far in the 2012 MLB playoffs, fans have witnessed some horrific and embarrassing relief performances already.

    Saturday night's matchup between the San Francisco Giants and Cincinnati Reds saw two less-than-memorable relief performances. Giants reliever Santiago Casilla unleashed a wild pitch that put Xavier Paul on third base. The very next pitch saw Casilla throw a high-inside pitch that Buster Posey couldn't handle, scoring Paul with an all-important insurance run.

    Casilla gave up two runs on three hits in an inning where the Giants desperately needed a shut-down performance.

    Reds closer Aroldis Chapman certainly made things interesting in the bottom of the ninth as well. In a non-save situation, Chapman unleashed two wild pitches and two walks, allowing a run to score and finally retiring the potential tying run with a game-ending strikeout of catcher Buster Posey.

    The Oakland Athletics let Game 2 slip from their fingers with bad efforts from the bullpen as well. The trio of Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook and Grant Balfour gave up four runs in 2.2 innings, with Balfour surrendering the winning run on a sacrifice fly by Don Kelly.

    Ryan Cook was given a 4-3 lead in the eighth inning, but his wild pitch to Alex Avila allowed Don Kelly to score the tying run.

    It's still early in these playoffs, and some of the above pitchers may have a chance to redeem themselves. Unfortunately for pitchers in past playoffs, they can't be afforded the same opportunity, and their embarrassing playoff performances are forever etched in history.

    Here are 10 of the worst game-blowing relief pitchers in MLB playoff history.

1. Ron Perranoski: 1969 Minnesota Twins, ALCS

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    In 1969, Minnesota Twins reliever Ron Perranoski was already established as one of the more reliable relief pitchers in all of baseball. He posted a 2.11 regular-season ERA with 31 saves that year.

    He should have ended his season right then and there.

    In the inaugural ALCS against the Baltimore Orioles, Perranoski was working his fourth inning in relief in Game 1 when he gave up a suicide squeeze to center fielder Paul Blair that scored the winning run in the 12th inning.

    Game 2 was strikingly familiar. Perranoski was again called upon in extra innings, this time in the 11th in relief of starter Dave Boswell. Perranoski gave up a single to pinch-hitter Curt Motton to again plate the winning run.

    One more time, Perranoski was called upon in Game 3. This time, he gave up three runs on three hits, putting the game out of reach for the Twins in a three-game sweep by the Orioles.

2. Jeff Reardon: Atlanta Braves, 1992 World Series

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    The Atlanta Braves acquired reliever Jeff Reardon from the Boston Red Sox the day before the end of the waiver-trade deadline in 1992.

    They would learn to regret that decision.

    While Reardon did chip in during the final month of the regular season, he was not quite up to the task in the playoffs.

    The Braves made it to the World Series that year, facing the Toronto Blue Jays. In Game 2, Reardon came on in relief of Mike Stanton in the eighth inning to record a strikeout of Kelly Gruber. However, in the ninth, Reardon gave up a two-run homer to Ed Sprague, giving the Blue Jays a come-from-behind 5-4 victory.

    In Game 3, Reardon was again called upon, again replacing Stanton. With the bases loaded, Reardon gave up a single to Candy Maldonado, scoring Roberto Alomar with the winning run to give the Blue Jays a 2-1 series lead.

    Reardon would not be used again for the rest of the World Series.

3. Jack Bentley: New York Giants, 1924 World Series

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    In 1924, New York Giants pitcher Jack Bentley registered a "first" in baseball history.

    It's a first he'd rather not be associated with.

    Here is what I wrote about Bentley in an article published last year:

    In 1924, the New York Giants were back in the World Series for the fourth consecutive season, and were facing the Washington Senators, which were there for the very first time.

    Jack Bentley, a pitcher for the Giants, went the distance in Game 2 for the Giants, and after the Giants scratched out two runs in the top of the ninth, the game was knotted at 3-3. Bentley stayed in the game to pitch in the bottom of the ninth, and gave up a walk, a sacrifice bunt, and a double to Roger Peckinpaugh that scored the winning run, giving the Senators a 4-3 victory, knotting the Series at one game apiece.

    Fast forward to Game 7. The game was tied at 3-3 after nine innings, and Bentley came on in relief in the bottom of the 11th. After an uneventful 11th, Bentley came back out for the 12th. After getting the first two outs, Bentley gave up a double to Senators’ catcher Muddy Ruel. After Walter Johnson reached on an error by the shortstop, runners were on first and second with two out.

    Bentley then faced Earl McNeely, who had been 0-for-5 up to that point. McNeely laced a double to left field, scoring Ruel with the World Series-winning run and giving the Senators their first-ever World Series championship.

    Bentley became the first pitcher ever to give up two walk-off hits in a postseason series.

4. Stan Belinda: Pittsburgh Pirates, 1992 NLCS

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    Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Stan Belinda had only appeared in one game for the Pirates leading up to the seventh and deciding game of the 1992 NLCS with the Atlanta Braves. In Game 2, Belinda pitched a scoreless eighth inning in a 13-5 Braves' blowout win.

    Game 7 saw the Braves down 2-0 heading into the bottom of the ninth inning. Pirates starter Doug Drabek was working a gem, but gave up a leadoff double to Terry Pendleton. David Justice followed with a ground ball that Pirates second baseman Jose Lind misplayed for an error, putting runners on first and third with no one out.

    Drabek, clearly tiring, walked Sid Bream to load the bases. Manager Jim Leyland turned to Belinda to shut the door and send the Pirates to the World Series.

    Belinda gave up a sacrifice fly to Ron Gant, scoring Pendleton with Atlanta's first run and cutting the lead to 2-1. Belinda then walked catcher Damon Berryhill to load the bases once again. Pinch-hitter Brian Hunter popped up to shortstop, however, leaving Belinda to face pinch-hitter Francisco Cabrera. Cabrera had only 10 at-bats all season long, including just one prior plate appearance in the NLCS.   
    With the count at 2-1, Cabrera hit a line drive over the head of shortstop Jay Bell. Justice scored the tying run, and Braves’ third base coach Jimy Williams waved the slow-footed Bream home. Left fielder Barry Bonds’ throw home was just a shade late, giving the Braves an improbable 3-2 win and a return trip to the World Series.

    While Belinda’s stat line may show a 0.00 ERA, it was one of the biggest blown saves in the history of the Pirates’ organization.

5. Calvin Schiraldi: Boston Red Sox, 1986 World Series

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    In the 1986 ALCS, Boston Red Sox reliever Calvin Schiraldi pitched in four games, posting a 1.50 ERA with one save.

    In the World Series against the New York Mets, however, Schiraldi imploded.

    Schiraldi notched the save in Game 1 in relief of Bruce Hurst. In Game 6, Schiraldi came on in relief of Roger Clemens in the eighth inning to protect a 3-2 lead. Schiraldi allowed a sacrifice fly to Gary Carter to tie the game at 3-3 and send the game into extra innings.

    The Red Sox scored two runs in the top of the tenth inning to take a 5-3 lead. Schiraldi came out in the bottom half of the inning, his third in relief. After getting quick to fly-ball outs, Schiraldi gave up three consecutive singles before handing the ball off to Bob Stanley.

    We all know how the rest of that inning turned out.

    Schiraldi was again called upon in Game 7 with the Red Sox and Mets tied at 3-3. Schiraldi gave up three runs on three hits as the Mets went on to defeat the Red Sox 8-5 and complete one of the biggest collapses in World Series history.

6. Armando Benitez: Baltimore Orioles, 1997 ALCS

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    In 1997, the Baltimore Orioles were bidding to get to their first World Series since 1983, facing the Cleveland Indians in the ALCS.

    However, the potent offense of the Indians had its way, and the Orioles were looking at elimination heading into Game 6.

    Fortunately, Orioles ace pitched a gem, allowing just one hit over eight innings. But Mussina was matched by Indians starter Charles Nagy, who kept the O's off the scoreboard as well.

    Orioles reliever Randy Myers followed up Mussina's brilliant efforts, pitching two scoreless innings of his own before handing the ball off to Armando Benitez to start the 11th inning.

    Benitez had already known gloom and doom during this ALCS, giving up a three-run home run to Marquis Grissom in the eighth inning of Game 2, giving the Indians a come-from-behind 5-4 win.

    Benitez worked quickly to get the first two outs in the 11th. However, Indians second baseman Tony Fernandez took Benitez's first pitch and dropped it over the right-field fence for a home run. The Indians would go on to win 1-0, and Benitez's name instantly become mud in Baltimore.

7. Mitch Williams: Philadelphia Phillies, 1993 World Series

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    Philadelphia Phillies reliever Mitch Williams fashioned together a solid 11-year career, notching 192 career saves. However, the 1993 World Series was not Williams' finest period.

    Williams started off well, notching a five-out save in Game 2 against the Toronto Blue Jays.

    Game 4 saw Williams come on in relief of Larry Andersen to protect a 14-11 lead in the top of the eighth inning. Williams was unable to stop the Blue Jays' relentless assault, giving up three runs and giving the Blue Jays a come-from-behind 15-14 win.

    In Game 6 with the Phillies needing a win to stay alive, Williams came on in the ninth to protect a 6-5 lead. Williams again found trouble, walking Rickey Henderson and Paul Molitor, putting runners at first and second with one out.

    On a 2-2 pitch to Joe Carter, Williams grooved one on the inner half of the plate.

    Carter knew what to do with the pitch.

    Game over. Series over. Williams a goat. End of story.

8. Donnie Moore: California Angels, 1986 ALCS

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    Game 5 of the American League Championship Series between the Boston Red Sox and California Angels is considered one of the best playoff games in history. For Angels reliever Donnie Moore, it spelled the beginning of a downward spiral.

    In the top of the ninth inning with his Angels leading 5-4, Moore came on in relief of Gary Lucas. Working the count to 2-2 against Sox center fielder Dave Henderson, Moore threw a pitch that Henderson deposited into the seats, temporarily giving the Red Sox a 6-5 lead.

    The Angels would come back and tie the game in the bottom of the ninth. However, Moore, working his third inning in relief, gave up a sacrifice fly to Henderson, scoring Don Baylor with the eventual winning run.

    The Angels never recovered, losing the ALCS in seven games. Moore never recovered either, taking his own life just three years later.

9. Byung-Hyun Kim: Arizona Diamondbacks, 2001 World Series

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    It's not often that you'll see the word "goat" attached to a player from a winning team, but in the case of Arizona Diamondbacks relief pitcher Byung-Hyun Kim, an exception could be made

    In Game 4 of the 2001 World Series with the New York Yankees, Diamondbacks starter Curt Schilling worked seven brilliant innings, allowing only one run on three hits. Kim took over in the eighth, handed a 3-1 lead after the Diamondbacks scored two in the top of the frame.

    Kim worked a perfect eighth, striking out the side. In the ninth, Kim gave up a two-run home run to first baseman Tino Martinez, tying the game at 3-3.

    Still working in the 10th inning, Kim got the first two outs before giving up the game-winning home run to Derek Jeter.

    The very next day in Game 5, the two teams were back at it again. Miguel Batista had pitched brilliantly for the D-Backs, working into the eighth inning. After Greg Swindell retired Tino Martinez. Kim came on in relief in the ninth inning. Kim gave up a leadoff double to Jorge Posada to start the inning, but quickly recorded the next two outs.

    Third baseman Scott Brosius then stepped to the plate and crushed a two-run home run to tie the game and send it into extra innings. The Yankees would eventually get the win in the 12th inning, and Kim would not be seen from again.

10. Ralph Branca: Brooklyn Dodgers, 1951 NL 3-Game Playoff

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    Brooklyn Dodgers reliever Ralph Branca had already experienced some playoff angst by the time Game 3 of the three-game playoff rolled around in 1951.

    The Dodgers and New York Giants had won one game apiece in the end-of-season battle to determine the National League pennant winner. Branca was the starter and loser in Game 1.

    Dodgers starting pitcher Don Newcombe took a 4-1 Dodgers lead into the ninth inning. However, Newcombe gave up two straight singles before retiring Monte Irvin on a foul pop-out to first. Newcombe then gave up a double to Whitey Lockman, scoring Alvin Dark and cutting the Dodgers' lead to 4-2.

    On came Branca. Up came Bobby Thomson. Down went the Dodgers.

    And Branca's name lives on in infamy.


    Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.