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Playoff pitching matchups that brought the heat

Saturday's Roy Halladay-Tim Lincecum contest brings to mind other superstars who shared the mound when it was all on the line. Think Bob Gibson vs. Denny McClain, Roger Clemens vs. Curt Schilling or Greg Maddux vs. Randy Johnson.

October 15, 2010|By Mike DiGiovanna

ESPN, the MLB Network and the Internet weren't around in 1968; otherwise, could you imagine how cranked up the hype machine would have been for Bob Gibson versus Denny McLain that fall?

Gibson went 22-9 with a 1.12 earned run average for the St. Louis Cardinals; McLain went 31-6 with a 1.96 ERA for the Detroit Tigers. Both won Cy Young Awards that season.

The aces squared off twice in the 1968 World Series, in Games 1 and 4, with Gibson throwing complete-game five-hitters to win by the scores of 4-0 and 10-1.

Only two other times have Cy Young winners started World Series games against each other in the year they won the awards, when Tom Seaver of the New York Mets faced Baltimore's Mike Cuellar in Games 1 and 4 of the 1969 World Series.

It would be difficult to match Gibson-McLain and Seaver-Cuellar for playoff star power, but thanks to modern media and a five-day buildup, Roy Halladay versus Tim Lincecum in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series on Saturday seems every bit as compelling.

The right-handers, both coming of dominant division-series performances, will square off in Philadelphia in one of the most highly anticipated playoff pitching matchups of the last 20 years. Here are some others:

Roger Clemens ( New York Yankees) vs. Curt Schilling (Arizona); 2001 World Series Game 7

The windup: Clemens won the sixth of his seven Cy Young Awards in 2001, going 20-3 with a 3.51 ERA and 213 strikeouts. Schilling finished second to teammate Randy Johnson for the NL Cy Young, going 22-6 with a 2.98 ERA and 293 strikeouts.

The pitch: Clemens gave up one run and seven hits and struck out 10 in 6 1/3 innings. Schilling gave up two runs and six hits and struck out nine in 7 1/3 innings. The Diamondbacks stunned the Yankees by scoring two runs off closer Mariano Rivera in the ninth for a dramatic 3-2 walk-off victory, with Johnson throwing 1 1/3 hitless relief innings for the win.

Jack Morris (Minnesota) vs. John Smoltz (Atlanta); 1991 World Series Game 7

The windup: Smoltz was only 24 and in the fourth season of a distinguished 21-year career. But the stakes, a decisive Game 7 in the hanky filled pandemonium of the Metrodome, and the opponent, the highly decorated Morris, elevated the game on the marquee.

The pitch: Morris threw a complete-game seven-hitter with eight strikeouts to lead the Twins to a 1-0, 10-inning victory. Smoltz, who, like Morris, was pitching on three days' rest, left no room for error because he gave up six hits over 7 1/3 shutout innings. Gene Larkin's pinch-hit single scored Dan Gladden with the winning run in the 10th.

Greg Maddux (Atlanta) vs. Randy Johnson (Arizona); 2001 NL Championship Series Game 1

The windup: Maddux won four straight Cy Young Awards from 1992-95 and was coming off another superb season in which he went 17-11 with a 3.05 ERA, 173 strikeouts and 27 walks. Johnson won the fourth of his five Cy Young Awards in 2001, going 21-6 with a 2.49 ERA and 372 strikeouts.

The pitch: Johnson, the intimidating, 6-foot-10 left-hander, was brilliant, throwing a three-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts and one walk to lead the Diamondbacks to a 2-0 victory. Maddux wasn't too shabby -- the crafty right-hander gave up two runs and six hits in seven innings.

Roger Clemens (Yankees) vs. Pedro Martinez (Boston); 1999 AL Championship Series Game 3

The windup: Martinez was so dominant in 1999, going 23-4 with a 2.07 ERA, 313 strikeouts and 37 walks, that he garnered all 28 Cy Young first-place votes and finished second in MVP voting behind Ivan Rodriguez. Clemens, who played his first 13 seasons in Boston, was making his first Fenway Park playoff appearance as a hated Yankee.

The pitch: On a cloudless, 73-degree New England autumn day, Martinez painted a masterpiece, giving up two hits and striking out 12 in seven shutout innings to lead Boston to a 13-1 victory, the only Red Sox win of the series. "He's an artist out there," Yankees Manager Joe Torre said, "except he has a baseball instead of a paint brush." Clemens was bombed for five runs and six hits in two innings.

Andy Pettitte (Yankees) vs. John Smoltz (Atlanta); 1996 World Series Game 5

The windup: With the series tied 2-2, it was a Game 1 rematch featuring Smoltz, who went 24-8 with a 2.94 ERA and 276 strikeouts and won the NL Cy Young Award, and Pettitte, who went 21-8 with a 3.87 ERA and finished second in the AL Cy Young Award voting.

The pitch: Pettitte gave up five hits in 8 1/3 shutout innings and Smoltz gave up one unearned run, four hits and struck out 10 in eight innings. Charlie Hayes reached on a fourth-inning error and scored the game's only run on Cecil Fielder's double, and the Yankees went on to win the series after losing Games 1 and 2 at home.

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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