Ranking the Greatest Pitching Performances in Red Sox History

Bryan ShafferFeatured ColumnistMay 9, 2013

Ranking the Greatest Pitching Performances in Red Sox History

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    Major League Baseball history is littered with pitching performances that has captivated fans.

    The Boston Red Sox are fortunate to be rife in such efforts over their celebrated century-plus of baseball.

    Some pitching performances are great because they are timely and clutch. Others, because they showcase a pitcher at the top of his craft, doing something seen once in a blue moon—if that often.

    From Cy Young to Pedro Martinez, the Red Sox have sent a number of all-time legends to the mound, so some spectacular games were not included, but only because the bar has been set so high.

    So let's delve into the top five pitching performances in Red Sox history. 

5. Roger Clemens and His 20 Strikeouts

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    1986 is one of the most painful years in recent memory for Red Sox fans. A season ending in a Game 7 loss in the World Series is always heartbreaking. 

    But at the end of April, Roger Clemens took the mound at Fenway Park against the Seattle Mariners in a game that would forever live in baseball lore.

    Clemens dazzled on that day, accomplishing the first 20-strikeout performance in league history.

    He struck out the side on three occasions.

    Other than the strikeouts, Clemens finished with a complete game, gave up only three hits and walked none.

    The only blemish on the game was a solo home run, surrendered to Mariners designated hitter, Gorman Thomas.

    Clemens' domination that day had lived as his signature performance in his 1986 MVP season. Whatever the current sentiments toward Clemens that Boston fans have, remembering this historic performance has to bring joy to their faces.

4. Josh Beckett: 2007 ALCS Game 5

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    Josh Beckett has since lost the favor with Red Sox fans, but in 2007, he was a demigod in New England.

    With the Red Sox pinned in a 3-1 hole against the Cleveland Indians, Beckett faced the impossible task of swinging the momentum in the Red Sox favor, by securing a Game 5 victory on the road.

    The challenge was made no easier by the fact that Boston had to face Cleveland's ace, C.C. Sabathia.

    Beckett allowed Grady Sizemore to score on a double-play ball in the first inning, but after that, he was dynamite.

    The right-hander lasted eight innings in the game, sending 11 strikeout victims to the dugout, while only gifting five hits and one walk to Cleveland hitters.

    The Red Sox offense fed off Beckett's dominance, and chased Sabathia, who was tagged with four runs, after six innings. They would pile on three more runs, to secure a 7-1 victory.

    The Red Sox carried the momentum for the rest of the playoffs. They went on to secure the American League pennant after obliterating the Indians in the final two games of the series.

    Not to mention the sweep of the Colorado Rockies in the 2007 World Series.

3. Pedro Martinez: Ace Reliever

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    In 1999, the Red Sox were coming off a disappointing American League Divisional Series against the Cleveland Indians.

    As fate would have it, Boston was presented with an instant opportunity for vengeance, scoring a divisional round matchup against Cleveland.

    Boston dropped the first two games in the best-of-five series, before bouncing back and winning the next two, to knot things up at 2-2.

    An enormous casualty of the early part of the series was the injury to soon-to-be-AL Cy Young Pedro Martinez, who left his Game 1 start due to back issues.

    In the decisive Game 5, the Red Sox got a total of three innings and eight earned runs from starter Bret Saberhagen and reliever Derek Lowe. Despite the dismal efforts on the mound, the Red Sox were able to take the lead in the top of the fourth, 9-8.

    Amazingly, Martinez entered the game in the bottom of that fourth inning, and that one-run lead quickly started to look like a hundred.

    Martinez retired every batter, besides three walks, over the final six frames, fanning eight Indians in the process.

    Martinez' gritty domination during that game was career-defining. It reinforced the pitcher's status as one of the best to ever play the game.

2. Cy Young's Perfect Game

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    On the afternoon of May 5, 1904, before the Boston baseball team bore the name "Red Sox," Cy Young retired every Philadelphia Athletics hitter he faced.

    The game was a highly anticipated rematch between the Boston Americans' Young and Philadelphia's Rube Waddell, as the two paired against one another just ten days early.

    During the first matchup, Waddell tossed a no-hitter to beat Young and the Americans.

    This time, Young threw the third perfect game in league history, and first by the Boston franchise. It was also the first perfect game thrown under modern rules, which were implemented in 1893.

    The perfect game came in the midst of a then-record 45 scoreless innings streak, and a still-record 25.1 hitless innings streak. Not only was this game spectacular because it was the first modern perfect game, but also because it was a pinnacle of one of the most famous pitchers in league history.

1. Curt Schilling's "Bloody Sock" Game

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    There can't be a Red Sox fan who is not familiar with the "Bloody Sock" game. After all, it was the most memorable playoff performance in team history.

    After dropping the first two games of the ALCS to the rival New York Yankees, the Red Sox seemed completely hopeless. But, a pair of wins in Boston in Games 4 and 5 gave the team a little faith.

    Entering Game 6 in Yankee Stadium, many doubted the status of starting pitcher Curt Schilling. The Red Sox ace had a torn tendon sheath in his right ankle. The team medical staff performed a risky procedure to allow Schilling to make his start.

    Schilling willed through the injury, and pitched as if nothing had happened.

    By the time the game was over, he was completely taxed, and blood had seeped through his sock.

    He finished the game after seven innings, during which he allowed just one run on four hits and zero walks. That was plenty good enough for the Red Sox, who mounted together four runs to win that game 4-2 and even the series.

    The Red Sox went on to win Game 7, and subsequently, the World Series.

    Schilling's gritty performance was emblematic of that epic team, which gutted out a riveting season. Without it, Red Sox fans likely would have seen their 86-year championship drought continue.

    But, Schilling showed what a true competitor does, and carried his team on his back to the World Series.