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Top LA Dodger postseason game scores – Don Drysdale stands above Sandy’s shadow

October 14, 2014

Several weeks ago we looked at the top postseason pitching game scores against the Cardinals. I had hoped that the Dodgers would make a long run this postseason, and that when I posted the update it would have some new names on the list. Alas, that did not happen. With the 2014 season over we will now look at the best postseason pitching game scores for all LA Dodgers games. Using 79 as the cutoff I have the 11 best games ever pitched using game score as the criteria.

Player                 Date Series Gm# Opp  Rslt  IP H ER BB SO GSc
Don Drysdale     1963-10-05     WS   3 NYY W 1-0 9.0 3  0  1  9  89
Sandy Koufax     1965-10-14     WS   7 MIN W 2-0 9.0 3  0  3 10  88
Sandy Koufax     1965-10-11     WS   5 MIN W 7-0 9.0 4  0  1 10  88
Orel Hershiser   1988-10-16     WS   2 OAK W 6-0 9.0 3  0  2  8  87
Don Sutton       1974-10-05   NLCS   1 PIT W 3-0 9.0 4  0  1  6  84
Tommy John       1978-10-05   NLCS   2 PHI W 4-0 9.0 4  0  2  4  81
Jose Lima        2004-10-09   NLDS   3 STL W 4-0 9.0 5  0  1  4  80
Orel Hershiser   1988-10-12   NLCS   7 NYM W 6-0 9.0 5  0  2  5  80
Burt Hooton      1977-10-12     WS   2 NYY W 6-1 9.0 5  1  1  8  80
Sandy Koufax     1963-10-06     WS   4 NYY W 2-1 9.0 6  1  0  8  79
Sandy Koufax     1963-10-02     WS   1 NYY W 5-2 9.0 6  2  3 15  79

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/14/2014.

Have to admit, this list surprised me just a tad.  I fully expected Sandy Koufax to top the list with either his legendary game seven victory over the Twins, or his very first World Series start against the Yankees in 1963 when he struck out 15.

Yet it is a different HOF who tops the list. Don Drysdale by the skin of his teeth takes the top honors with his 1 – 0 whitewashing of the Yankees in game three of the 1963 Yankees.

Game score tells you who statistically pitched the best game but it does not have any idea of context. When Don Drysdale whitewashed the Yankees in 1963 the Dodgers already had a  2 – 0 World Series lead, and the game was hardly a must win. What was significant, is that the game was the first World Series game ever played at Dodger Stadium, and what a way to break in a stadium that would eventually host a number of World Series games in the latter part of the 2oth century.  Sandy Koufax and Johnny Podres had already dominated the 1962 World Champions, but they had given up a combined three runs in the first two games. Don would take that a step further and win 1 – 0.  Sandy would finish up by beating Whitey Ford a second time 2 – 1 in game four.  The other point of interest in Don’s game was that his opponent was Ball Four author Jim Bouton. Bouton only gave up one run, and that came in the first inning on a single by Tommy Davis, who drove in Jim Gilliam who had reached second on a walk and wild pitch. That would be the last mistake Jim Bouton would make but it would be all Don Drysdale would need.

In 1963 the Dodgers made four starts, and only one relief pitcher saw any action.  Only four pitchers pitched in the 1963 World Series. Four.  Three of those games are on this list of all time post season games. It would probably be understating the obvious to say the Dodger rotation of Koufax/Podres/Drysdale owned the Yankees.

Eventually I will get to my point, while Don Drysdale is on the top of this list, I don’t think anyone would argue that Sandy Koufax in game seven of 1965 actually pitched the greatest game in LA Dodger history. He not only shutout the vaunted offensive Twins in game seven. He not only shutout them out in Minneapolis . He did it on three days rest, after shutting out the Twins in game five. Sandy pitched three games in eight days, two of them shutouts, and saved his best for last, winning the World Championship game with the second highest game score ever recorded by a LA Dodger in the postseason.

There is a reason Sandy Koufax is a legend. He earned it from April – October.

While very few can say they saw Sandy and Don do their magic, the majority of us can point to 1988 and remember Orel shutting down the bash brother Oakland A’s.  The A’s were still a potent team, when Orel carved out their heart in game two. He would later finish the job in game five, earning World Series MVP honors.

HOF Don Sutton had a reputation as big game pitcher. He started that reputation with his shutout of the Pirates in the 1974 NLCS.  Don would also win the close out game four. Note of interest, future Dodger Jerry Ruess was Don’s opponent in the first and fourth game. In game one Ruess did well only giving up one run while losing 3 -0. Game four was a different story as the Dodgers pounded a multitude of Pirate pitchers for a 12 – 1 victory.

The Jose Lima game has been covered many times.

Leaving Burt Hooten, who always seems to be forgotten when discussing significant Dodger starters. I’ll be honest, I remember Burt being chased by the Phillie fans in game four of NLCS more than I remember this gem he pitched against the Yankees in 1977.  Probably because the Dodgers would eventually lose the 1977 World Series and Hooten would be a big reason why when he was hammered in the game six elimination game. If fans of Burt Hooten would like Burt remembered more fondly, Burt probably should have pitched better in that game six. The Dodgers were able to bail him out in the NLCS game when his nerves abandoned him, but they could not do it a second time.

1958 World Series MVP Larry Sherry and 1974 Cy Young  Mike Marshall deserve some mention but I’ll use that for another column about post season brilliance.

Notable names we don’t see on this list but who came very close.

Zach Grienke, Fernando, Sutton, Ruess, Drysdale –  78

Fernando, Osteen – 77

Kershaw, Orel, Ruess – 76

Grienke, Ramon Martinez, Tommy John – 75

Hell, might was well post the whole list with 75 points or more:

Player                      Date Series Gm# Opp   Rslt  IP H ER BB SO GSc
Zack Greinke          2014-10-04   NLDS   2 STL  W 3-2 7.0 2  0  2  7  78
Jerry Reuss           1981-10-11   NLDS   5 HOU  W 4-0 9.0 5  0  3  4  78
Fernando Valenzuela   1981-10-10   NLDS   4 HOU  W 2-1 9.0 4  1  1  4  78
Jerry Reuss           1981-10-07   NLDS   2 HOU  L 0-1 9.0 5  0  2  3  78
Don Sutton            1974-10-09   NLCS   4 PIT W 12-1 8.0 3  1  1  7  78
Don Drysdale          1965-10-10     WS   4 MIN  W 7-2 9.0 5  2  2 11  78
Fernando Valenzuela   1981-10-19   NLCS   5 MON  W 2-1 8.2 3  1  3  6  77
Claude Osteen         1965-10-09     WS   3 MIN  W 4-0 9.0 5  0  2  2  77
Clayton Kershaw       2013-10-03   NLDS   1 ATL  W 6-1 7.0 3  1  3 12  76
Orel Hershiser        1988-10-20     WS   5 OAK  W 5-2 9.0 4  2  4  9  76
Jerry Reuss           1981-10-25     WS   5 NYY  W 2-1 9.0 5  1  3  6  76
Zack Greinke          2013-10-11   NLCS   1 STL  L 2-3 8.0 4  2  1 10  75
Ramon Martinez        1996-10-02   NLDS   1 ATL  L 1-2 8.0 3  1  3  6  75
Tommy John            1977-10-08   NLCS   4 PHI  W 4-1 9.0 7  1  2  8  75

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/14/2014.

BTW game score is calculated using the following formula –

  1. Start with 50 points.
  2. Add one point for each out recorded, so three points for every complete inning pitched.
  3. Add two points for each inning completed after the fourth.
  4. Add one point for each strikeout.
  5. Subtract two points for each hit allowed.
  6. Subtract four points for each earned run allowed.
  7. Subtract two points for each unearned run allowed.
  8. Subtract one point for each walk.

In Clayton Kershaws first start of the 2014 postseason he entered the 7th inning with a game score of:

50 + 18 + 6 + 8 – 4 – 8= 70

Three more outs in modest fashion and who knows what Oct 2014 would have brought Dodger fans, but as Dodger fans learned the hard way, post season baseball is not six innings.

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