Roger Clemens pitched the greatest post-season game in history. Yes, it was better than even Don Larsen’s perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers in the fifth game of the 1956 World Series.
Baseball-Reference lists the 10 best game scores in post-season history. Clemens’ game against the Seattle Mariners in Game 4 of the 2000 ALCS is ranked first.
Larsen’s perfect game is tied for fourth with Roy Halladay’s no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds in the 2010 NLDS and Big Ed Walsh’s shutout of the Chicago Cubs in the 1906 World Series.
Clemens faced 30 batters, allowed one hit, two walks and struck out 15 Mariners. Larsen faced 27 batters and struck out seven.
Clemens dominated as few pitchers ever have in the post season. Mike Cameron, who struck out twice in three at-bats, was almost in awe of Clemens.
“He was dominating today. He was dominant. He had a great fastball,” Cameron said. “That’s Roger. He has wonderful command of the plate. He had every single pitch working for him and every pitch was above average,”
In the second inning of Larsen’s game, Jackie Robinson hit a line-drive that bounced off Yankee third baseman Andy Carey’s glove. The ball bounced directly to shortstop Gil McDougald, who threw out Robinson on a close play at first.
In the fifth inning, Mickey Mantle made the most important defensive play of his career when he ran down Gil Hodges’ deep drive to left-center field.
After striking out the first two Mariners in the first inning, Clemens brushed back future New York Yankees favorite, Alex Rodriguez on two consecutive pitches. A-Rod eventually drew one of the two walks Clemens allowed. After the game, Clemens said that he was trying to work Rodriguez inside.
“I don’t think the first one [at Rodriguez] was that close. The second one was closer. But I don’t think the first one was that close. I was just trying to go at his hands inside.”
Al Martin, who got the only hit off Clemens when he led off the seventh inning with a ground ball double beyond first baseman Tino Martinez’s reach, supported Clemens.
“Hitters are expected to stand in and face the high fastball, which is easier said than done, said Martin. “You’ve got to ignore it. If you’re going up there worrying about him throwing one inside on you, you’re done,”
Clemens 15 strikeouts are the primary reason that his game was better than Larsen’s. A swing and a miss cannot produce a hit.
Eight more Dodgers than Mariners made contact, which means that there were eight more times when a Dodger had a chance for a hit. Larsen needed his defense eight more times than Clemens needed his.
One might argue that the Dodgers were a more fearsome offensive team than the Mariners. Brooklyn averaged 5.56 runs a game, batted .271 and hit 201 home runs. The Mariners averaged 5.60 runs a game, batted .269 and hit 198 home runs. There is no difference.
A few individuals are not great supporters of Roger Clemens and might even long for the good old days when Don Larsen pitched, but when one eliminates emotion, it is obvious that Clemens’ pitched the greatest game in the post-season.