Roy Halladay No-Hitter and the Most Legendary MLB Playoff Pitching Performances

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistMay 29, 2020

Roy Halladay No-Hitter and the Most Legendary MLB Playoff Pitching Performances

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    Rob Carr/Associated Press

    Friday, May 29, marks the 10-year anniversary of Philadelphia Phillies right-hander Roy Halladay's perfect game against the Florida Marlins. Later that year, Halladay tossed a no-hitter in Game 1 of the division series against the Cincinnati Reds.

    To honor the occasion, ESPN will air the documentary Imperfect, which recounts Halladay's impressive on-field accomplishments, his struggles with painkiller addiction and his death in a plane crash in 2017.

    As we remember Halladay, let's look back at 10 of the greatest, most legendary pitching performances in MLB playoff history in chronological order.

    Obviously, this involved a degree of subjectivity and necessitated snubbing some truly great postseason outings. But our essential criteria were: memorability, historical significance, an impressive stat line and context, with clinching games and World Series games weighted more heavily.

Honorable Mentions

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    Babe Ruth, Boston Red Sox: Game 2, 1916 World Series

    It's a fun fact that Babe Ruth was a pitcher before he became a legendary slugger, but not everyone realizes just how good of a pitcher he was. He proved it in Game 2 of the 1916 World Series against the Brooklyn Robins, throwing 14 innings of one-run ball. His four strikeouts, three walks and six hits allowed don't leap off the stat sheet, but 14 innings is 14 innings.


    Dave McNally, Baltimore Orioles: Game 2, 1969 ALCS

    Dave McNally threw an impressive 11 shutout innings in his Game 2 American League Championship Series start against the Minnesota Twins, notching 11 strikeouts while allowing three hits and five walks. Minnesota starter Dave Boswell took a shutout of his own into the 11th inning before surrendering a run, and Baltimore won one of the all-time great playoff pitchers' duels 1-0.


    John Smoltz, Atlanta Braves: Game 7, 1991 NLCS

    After finishing in last place the previous season, the Atlanta Braves battled to Game 7 of the 1991 National League Championship Series against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Facing a Bucs lineup anchored by Barry Bonds, John Smoltz threw a complete-game shutout, striking out eight while scattering six hits and one walk as Atlanta won the first of five 1990s NL pennants. 


    Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants: Game 1, 2010 NLDS

    Tim Lincecum was masterful in his first career playoff start in 2010 against the Atlanta Braves, throwing nine shutout innings, striking out 14 and allowing just two hits and one walk. It was the beginning of a run that led the Giants to their first title in San Francisco, with Lincecum getting the win in the Fall Classic-clinching Game 5 against the Texas Rangers.

Christy Mathewson, New York Giants: Game 5, 1905 World Series

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    Uncredited/Associated Press

    Baseball is a team sport. It's impossible for any one player to single-handedly win a game or series. But Christy Mathewson came pretty close in 1905.

    Pitching for the New York Giants against the Philadelphia Athletics, Mathewson threw a complete-game shutout in the decisive Game 5, striking out four with no walks and five hits allowed.

    More impressively, it was Mathewson's third shutout of the '05 series, a feat he accomplished over the span of six days.

    In today's pitch-count-conscious game, it's safe to say that will never happen again.

Don Larsen, New York Yankees: Game 5, 1956 World Series

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    Associated Press

    The New York Yankees won the 1956 Fall Classic in seven games over the Brooklyn Dodgers, but the series will always be remembered for Game 5.

    That's when Yankees right-hander Don Larsen authored the first and only perfect game in postseason history, retiring 27 Dodgers in succession.

    He did it efficiently, throwing 97 pitches, only 26 of them balls.

    "I never had control like that before or since," he later recalled to Sports Illustrated's Phil Taylor. "It just seemed that everything I threw was on the black."

Sandy Koufax, Los Angeles Dodgers: Game 7, 1965 World Series

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    Robert Houston/Associated Press

    Sandy Koufax posted a 0.95 ERA over eight World Series appearances (seven of them starts) in his brilliant Hall of Fame career.

    If we're picking one postseason masterpiece, it has to be Game 7 of the 1965 Series against the Minnesota Twins, when Koufax guided the Los Angeles Dodgers to a title with nine innings of no-run, three-hit, 10 strikeout, three-walk dominance.

    The left-hander was dealing with a host of aches and pains at the time that would force him to retire after the 1966 season (when he won his third career Cy Young Award).

    As author Jane Leavy recounted to Fox Sports in 2015, "By Game 7, his third start in eight days, Koufax was literally pitching on fumes."

    Man, were those some effective fumes.

Bob Gibson, St. Louis Cardinals: Game 1, 1968 World Series

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    Uncredited/Associated Press

    In Game 1 of the 1968 World Series, the Detroit Tigers ran into a buzzsaw named Bob Gibson.

    For nine shutout frames, the St. Louis Cardinals right-hander carved through the Tigers lineup, tallying 17 strikeouts next to just one walk while allowing five hits.

    "Their scouting report said that I threw mostly fastballs," Gibson recalled, per Harry Levins of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "The Tigers were swinging at my breaking pitches as if they thought I didn't have one."

    Those 17 K's still stand as a World Series record.

    As a bittersweet footnote for St. Louis fans, the Cards would go on to drop the '68 Series to Detroit, with Gibson taking the loss in the deciding Game 7.

Jack Morris, Minnesota Twins: Game 7, 1991 World Series

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    By 1991, going more than nine innings was a rare feat for a starting pitcher. Doing it in Game 7 of the World Series made Minnesota Twins right-hander Jack Morris a legend.

    Taking the mound in the deciding contest against the Braves, the 36-year-old Morris shut out Atlanta for 10 frames with eight strikeouts, two walks and seven hits allowed.

    Atlanta pitchers, including starter John Smoltz, held the Twins scoreless through nine before Minnesota utilityman Gene Larkin rapped a walk-off single.

    Morris would finish his career with a 254-186 record and 3.90 ERA, but he earned induction into the Hall of Fame in 2018 at least partially on the strength of that one iconic effort.

Roger Clemens, New York Yankees: Game 4, 2000 ALCS

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    In Game 4 of the 2000 American League Championship Series between the New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners, Mariners left fielder Al Martin hit a line drive in the bottom of the seventh that sailed just above the glove of Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez for a double.

    It was the only hit Yanks starter Roger Clemens would allow.

    Clemens finished with nine innings of one-hit, no-run ball and struck out 15 while walking two. The Yankees won the game, 5-0, took the series in six games and went on to win the 26th of their 27 titles.

    If Martinez had jumped just a bit higher, this would have gone from a very memorable postseason start to one of the most lauded of all time.

Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson, Arizona D-backs: Game 7, 2001 World Series

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    ELAINE THOMPSON/Associated Press

    In 2001, the Arizona Diamondbacks rode their pair of aces—left-hander Randy Johnson and right-hander Curt Schilling—to the only championship in franchise history.

    The pair went 9-1 with a combined 1.30 ERA in the '01 postseason and capped their masterful run in Game 7 of the World Series against the Yankees.

    Schilling got the start after starting Games 1 and 4 and lasted 7.1 innings, allowing two runs on six hits with nine strikeouts.

    After Miguel Batista recorded one out for Arizona in relief, the D-backs turned to Johnson, who had pitched seven innings and earned the win in Game 6 the previous night. The Big Unit got four big outs, including one by strikeout, before Luis Gonzalez won it in the bottom of the ninth with a walk-off single.

    Schilling and Johnson were named World Series co-MVPs and cemented their legacy as one of the greatest two-headed pitching monsters in postseason history.

Josh Beckett, Florida Marlins: Game 6, 2003 World Series

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    In 2003, the Florida Marlins made the playoffs as a wild card and streaked to the World Series, where they defeated the Yankees in six games.

    In the deciding contest at Yankee Stadium, the Fish handed youngster Josh Beckett the ball. The 23-year-old rose to the occasion with nine shutout innings against a potent New York lineup. He struck out nine while surrendering two walks and five hits and sealed the Marlins' second championship.

    The game ended, fittingly, when Beckett fielded a chopper off the bat of Jorge Posada and tagged the Yankees catcher for the final out.

    Beckett was named World Series MVP after giving up just two runs in 16.1 innings while striking out 19. He'd go on to win another title, and pitch well, with the Boston Red Sox in 2007, but his '03 brilliance was the signature moment of his career.

Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies: Game 1, 2010 NLDS

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    Rob Carr/Associated Press

    Doc Halladay led baseball with 250.2 innings pitched, posted a 2.44 ERA with nine complete games, four shutouts and a perfect game and won the NL Cy Young Award in 2010.

    Then, making his first career postseason start in Game 1 of the Phillies' division series matchup against the Cincinnati Reds, he threw the second no-hitter in playoff history.

    Against a dangerous Reds lineup featuring 2010 NL MVP Joey Votto, Halladay struck out eight and allowed just one baserunner via walk. He was in command from the first pitch to the last.

    It was only one moment in a Hall of Fame career, but it was an indelible high point for the right-hander.

Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants: Game 7, 2014 World Series

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    Entering Game 7 of the 2014 World Series, San Francisco Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner had already thrown 47.2 innings that postseason.

    He'd pitched a complete-game shutout in Game 5 but was available on two days' rest.

    And so he trotted out of the Giants bullpen in the fifth inning with San Francisco hanging on to a 3-2 lead over the Kansas City Royals.

    Bumgarner was methodically dominant, at one point retiring 14 Royals in a row. With two outs in the ninth inning, Giants center fielder Gregor Blanco misplayed a bloop hit off the bat of Kansas City's Alex Gordon. The ball rolled to the wall, and Gordon ended up at third base representing the tying run.

    That was as far as he would get, as MadBum retired Royals catcher Salvador Perez on a foul pop-up. The Giants won their third title in five years, and Bumgarner nailed down his place among the all-time postseason pitching greats.


    All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference.