Gibson vs. McLain
It was 1968, the Year of the Pitcher, when only six batters hit .300 in the entire majors and when pitchers ruled by fear and ferocity. When hitters — sans gloves and helmet ear flaps and elbow guards — would get their chins buzzed for taking just a baby step out of the batter's box.
Game 1 of the '68 World Series paired the Cardinals' Bob Gibson (22 wins, 1.12 ERA) against the Tigers' Denny McLain (31 victories, 280 strikeouts). When Gibson unleashed his fastball, it didn't just pop into the catcher's mitt, it cracked in transistor radios across the nation. McLain brought the high heat too.
Gibson delivered with 17 strikeouts in a 4-0 victory. McLain, who had pitched 336 innings during the season, lasted only five. But this remains the greatest matchup in postseason history. Not only were Gibson and McLain Cy Young winners that year, they also were league MVPs.
Morris vs. Smoltz
Los Angeles Times
I've covered or seen some remarkable playoff pitching matchups, with Roger Clemens (Yankees) vs. Curt Schilling (Diamondbacks) in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series and Pedro Martinez ( Red Sox) vs. Clemens (Yankees) in Game 3 of the 1999 ALCS coming to mind.
But for me, the most memorable pitching matchup was Jack Morris (Twins) vs. John Smoltz (Braves) in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. Both started on three days' rest in a game with the highest possible stakes, and both were brilliant, Morris pitching a complete-game seven-hitter with eight strikeouts and two walks to lead the Twins to a 1-0, 10-inning victory. What made Morris' gem all the more impressive was that he had no margin for error because of Smoltz, who allowed six hits over 71/3 shutout innings to keep the Braves in the game.
Schilling vs. Clemens
As great of a matchup as Tim Lincecum vs. Roy Halladay is, it's not the best meeting of two aces in the last 10 years.
That distinction goes, with very little discussion, to Game 7 of the 2001 World Series — the Yankees' Roger Clemens vs. the Diamondbacks' Curt Schilling. Both were coming off huge seasons, with the two going a combined 42-9 and only Schilling's teammate, Randy Johnson, stopping this from being a battle of Cy Young winner vs. Cy Young winner in the highest-stakes game possible. The only qualifier is that Schilling was pitching on three days' rest.
They lived up to the billing in this matchup, which was headed toward a 2-1 victory for the Yankees before the Diamondbacks scored twice off Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the ninth, stealing a 3-2 win and the World Series rings. Seldom has there been a better postseason matchup than this one.
Game 7 in '01 stands out
Juan C. Rodriguez
Plenty of postseason pitching matchups look great on paper and don't live up to the billing. Among the exceptions: Curt Schilling vs. Roger Clemens in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series.
Clemens, in his third season with the Yankees, won the sixth of his seven Cy Young Awards. Schilling was second in the National League Cy Young balloting to Diamondbacks teammate Randy Johnson.
The game was scoreless through five as the pitchers combined to walk one and strike out 19. Clemens gave up a run over 61/3 innings, and the Yankees got two off Schilling over his 71/3 innings, putting Clemens in line for the win until Mariano Rivera blew the save in the ninth. Johnson earned the win in relief.