Roy Halladay-Tim Lincecum and the Best MLB Playoff Pitching Matchups Ever

Adam LazarusSenior Analyst IOctober 13, 2010

Roy Halladay-Tim Lincecum and the Best MLB Playoff Pitching Matchups Ever

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    SAN FRANCISCO - OCTOBER 07:  Tim Lincecum #55 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the Atlanta Braves in game 1 of the NLDS at AT&T Park on October 7, 2010 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Although they are two very different pitchers, the Giants' Tim Lincecum and the Phillies' Roy Halladay are two of baseball's top three or four.

    Saturday night in Philadelphia, Lincecum—the NL Cy Young winner each of the previous two seasons—will face Halladay, the front runner for this year's NL Cy Young, who tossed a no-hitter in his last start.

    Although postseason baseball was limited to the World Series only until 1969, and the World Series and LCS until 1995, there have been dozens of classic pitching matchups in baseball history.

    Here are the top 10 of all time.

No. 10: Cliff Lee Vs. CC Sabathia

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    MINNEAPOLIS - OCTOBER 06:  CC Sabathia #52 of the New York Yankees wipes his face in the sixth inning against the Minnesota Twins during game one of the ALDS on October 6, 2010 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Who: Phillies vs. Yankees

    When: Game 1, 2009 World Series

    Where: Yankee Stadium (New) 

    This one was pretty hard to watch for Cleveland Indians fans. Lee, the 2008 Cy Young winner, whom the Indians traded away, faced Sabathia, the 2007 Cy Young winner, whom the Indians traded away.

    Stats

    Cliff Lee: 9 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 10 K (Win) 

    C.C. Sabathia: 7 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 K (Loss) 


    Outcome

    The Phillies got to Sabathia for one run in the third and one more in the sixth. A faulty Yankee bullpen allowed four more in the later innings, and that was more than enough for Lee. Philly won 6-1 but ultimately lost the Series in six.

No. 9: Jack Morris Vs. John Smoltz

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    MINNEAPOLIS - OCTOBER 27:  Pitcher Jack Morris #47 of the Minnesota Twins delivers a pitch against the Atlanta Braves at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minneapolis, on October 27, 1991. The Twins defeated the Braves 1-0 in game 6, the final game of the 199
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Who: Twins vs. Braves

    When: Game 7, 1991 World Series

    Where: Metrodome

    Jack Morris isn't a Hall of Famer, but he was an excellent pitcher throughout most of the 1980s and into the early 1990s.

    In 1991, when the surprising Twins reached the World Series, Morris won 18 games and then two more in the ALCS. In his first two World Series starts (Game 1 and Game 4), he allowed just three runs.

    In Game 4 he didn't get the win, however. The Braves won behind the solid pitching of John Smoltz. The 24-year-old right-hander won 14 games in 1991, beginning a decade and a half of National League excellence.

    Stats

    Smoltz: 7.1 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K

    Morris: 10 IP, 7 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 8 K (Win)

    Outcome

    The greatest pitching duel in World Series history naturally needed extra innings. Gene Larkin's hit in the bottom of the 10th gave the Twins a 1-0 win and earned Morris an indelible spot in baseball lore.

No. 8: Randy Johnson Vs. Greg Maddux

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    4 Nov 2001: Randy Johnson #51 of the Arizona Diamondbacks delivers during game seven of the Major League Baseball World Series against the New York Yankees at Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix, Arizona. The Diamondbacks won 3-2 to capture the World Series titl
    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Who: Diamondbacks vs. Braves

    When: Game 1, 2001 NLCS

    Where: Bank One Ballpark (Arizona)

    It doesn't get much better than Maddux, the four-time Cy Young winner who was by far the best NL pitcher of the 1990s, against Johnson, who won his fourth Cy Young in 2001 and was the without question the best left-hander of his era.

    The contrast in styles—magician vs. fireballer—made it extra special.

    Stats

    Maddux: 7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K (Loss)

    Johnson: 9 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 11 K (Win)

    Outcome

    Maddux yielded a run in the first but cruised into the eighth before he had to be lifted for a pinch hitter. Johnson was too good, however, and the Braves were no match for him.

    The D-Backs took the series in five and would reach the World Series, where Johnson was just as good against the Yankees.

No. 7: Catfish Hunter Vs. Tom Seaver

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    Who: Oakland A's vs. New York Mets

    When: Game 6, 1973 World Series

    Where: Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum

    Jim Hunter won 20 games for the third straight season in 1973, the middle of a five-year stretch in which he went 111-49. The next season, he won his only Cy Young award, but it was the postseason where he forged his legacy.

    He dominated the 1972 World Series and the next year's ALCS before taking the mound in Game 6 with his team down three games to two.

    Seaver won his second Cy Young in 1973. In Game 6, he had a chance to give the Mets (who were just 3 games over .500 during the regular season) their second World Series title in five years.

    Stats

    Hunter: 7.1 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K (Win)

    Seaver: 7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 K (Loss)

    Outcome

    The Hall of Famer Hunter bested the Hall of Famer Seaver in a classic World Series duel. The A's won Game 6 at home and then took Game 7 the next day to repeat as world champions.

No. 6: Doc Gooden Vs. Roger Clemens

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    1989:  Roger Clemens of the Boston Red Sox looks on  during the 1989 season. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Who: Mets vs. Red Sox

    When: Game 2, 1986 World Series

    Where: Shea Stadium

    The two strikeout phenoms of the 1980s squared off in the series better remembered for Bill Buckner's error. 23-year-old Roger Clemens won his first of seven Cy Youngs that year and was the AL MVP, while Gooden had won the NL Cy Young a year earlier.

    Stats

    Clemens: 4.1 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 3 K

    Gooden: 5 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 6 K (Loss)

    Outcome

    Neither one of the flamethrowers looked very sharp in this one, and the game did not live up to its billing. Still, the Red Sox won 9-3, taking a 2-0 lead back home to Fenway Park. Of course, the Mets won it in seven.

No. 5: Christy Mathewson Vs. Chief Bender

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    Who: New York Giants vs Philadelphia A's

    When: Game 5, 1905 World Series

    Where: Polo Grounds (Giants) 

    Mathewson was one of the greatest pitchers in history and absolutely dominated the early part of the century. He won 31 games and posted a 1.28 ERA in 1905 and would go on to win 373 games, tied for the most in NL history.

    But his lesser-known counterpart in this matchup, Albert "Chief" Bender, was a Hall of Famer himself, winning 212 games during a very truncated career. In 1905, Bender was 18-11 and had a  2.83 ERA.

    Stats

    Mathewson: 9 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K (Win)

    Bender: 8 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 4 K (Loss)

    Outcome

    Mathewson completed arguably the finest cumulative postseason pitching performance in major league history by besting Bender.

    In that 1905 World Series, Matty pitched three times: Each a complete game, he didn't allow a single run, struck out 18, walked one and allowed just 13 hits. The Giants won the second World Series in a 4-1 landslide.

No. 4: Roger Clemens Vs. Curt Schilling

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    4 Nov 2001: Curt Schilling #38 of the Arizona Diamondbacks delivers in the top of the first inning against the New York Yankees during game seven of the Major League Baseball World Series at Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix, Arizona. The Diamondbacks won 3-2
    Harry How/Getty Images

    Who: Diamondbacks vs Yankees

    When: Game 7, 2001 World Series

    Where: Bank One Ballpark (Arizona)

    Although his famous postseason performance with the bloody sock wouldn't come for another three years, Curt was becoming a household name in 2001. He led the NL with 22 wins and posted a 2.98 ERA.

    He finished as the runner-up in the Cy Young voting, however, because his teammate Randy Johnson was even better that season. But in the playoffs, Schilling was lights out.

    Prior to the Game 7 of the World Series, Schilling had made five starts and allowed four earned runs in 41 innings.

    The Yankees' Roger Clemens won his sixth Cy Young award that season, going 20-3. In his only World Series start prior to Game 7, he gave up just one earned run and three hits while striking out nine in the Yankees' 2-1 win in Game 3.

    Stats

    Schilling: 7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 9 K

    Clemens: 6.1 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 10 K

    Outcome

    Although Randy Johnson had to close it out for the D-Backs and Mariano Rivera blew his first postseason save, the two starting pitchers were phenomenal. Luis Gonzalez's hit in the 11th was the perfect ending to one of the greatest Game 7s of all time.

No. 3: Pedro Martinez Vs. Roger Clemens

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    BRONX, NY - OCTOBER 16:  Starting pitcher Pedro Martinez #45 of the Boston Red Sox pitches during game 7 of the American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees on October 16, 2003 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York. The Yankees won
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Who: Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees

    When: Game 7, 2003 ALCS

    Where: Yankee Stadium

    The fact that it was Red Sox-Yankees, Game 7, with the winner moving on to the World Series was also pretty important.

    Neither pitcher turned out his best season in 2003. Martinez won just 14 games but posted a league-best 2.22 ERA, while Clemens' ERA uncharacteristically hovered around 4.00 all season. Still, it was the dream matchup for Red Sox fans: their former ace against their current ace.

    Stats

    Martinez: 7 IP, 10 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 8 K

    Clemens: 3 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 1 K

    Outcome

    Aaron Boone turned out to be the hero of this game, hitting the series-winner in the bottom of the 11th inning. Although neither Pedro or Clemens was particularly sharp, a better matchup has never existed in the storied Red Sox-Yankee rivalry.

No. 2: Sandy Koufax Vs. Whitey Ford

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    Who: Los Angeles Dodgers vs. New York Yankees

    When: Game 4, 1963 World Series

    Where: Dodger Stadium

    Koufax's unprecedented peak of greatness hit full stride in 1963. He went 25-5 with a 1.88 ERA and 306 strikeouts. He won both the MVP and Cy Young that season.

    Still, his opponent in Game 4 (and Game 1 as well) was far more accomplished than him at the time.

    Yankee Whitey Ford was 34 years old and nearing the end of his career. But he led the AL with 24 wins and posted a 2.74 ERA, and prior to 1963 his World Series record included 10 wins, a record still held today.

    Stats

    Koufax: 9 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K (Win)

    Ford: 7 IP, 2 H, 1  ER, 1 BB, 4 K (Loss) 


    Outcome

    For the second time in five days, Koufax outpitched (but not by much) "The Chairman of the Board," and the Dodgers swept the mighty Yankees in the first cross-country rendition of the famous "Subway Series."

No. 1: Bob Gibson Vs. Denny McLain

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    Who: Cardinals vs. Tigers

    When: Game 1, 1968 World Series

    Where: Busch Stadium (St. Louis)

    In terms of comparing one starting pitcher's single season to another's, there might not be a better matchup in the history of baseball. (Forget the changes to the mound size for a moment.)

    The Cardinals' Bob Gibson was near unhitable in 1968. He posted a 22-9 record, a league-record 1.12 ERA and led the NL with 268 Ks.

    Denny McLain wasn't bad either that year. He went 31-8 (the last man to win 30) with a 1.96 ERA and struck out 280.

    Stats

    McLain: 5 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 K (Loss)

    Gibson: 9 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 17 K (Win)

    Outcome

    Gibson's record-setting 17-strikeout performance completely overshadowed McLain as the Cardinals won 4-0. Gibson continued to dominate throughout the series, but the Tigers—and Mickey Lolich—fought back to win Game 7 in one of the greatest World Series ever.