MLB’s rarest pitching matchup: 20-game winners facing off in Game 7

New York Yankees starting pitcher Roger Clemens winds up for a pitch to the plate in the first inning of Game 7 of the World Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix 04 November 2001. AFP PHOTO/Timothy A. CLARY (Photo by Timothy A. CLARY / AFP) (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)
New York Yankees starting pitcher Roger Clemens winds up for a pitch to the plate in the first inning of Game 7 of the World Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix 04 November 2001. AFP PHOTO/Timothy A. CLARY (Photo by Timothy A. CLARY / AFP) (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images) /
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Royals pitcher Bret Saberhagen in 1985. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Royals pitcher Bret Saberhagen in 1985. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

1985: Bret Saberhagen vs. John Tudor

The 1985 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Royals is mostly remembered for umpire Don Denkinger’s missed call in the ninth inning of Game 6 that set up Kansas City’s winning rally.

Because of the way it unfolded, Game 7 of the 1985 World Series is recalled largely as an afterthought.

It didn’t set up that way at the outset. The pitching matchup could hardly have been more stellar: Bret Saberhagen (20-6) for Kansas City against the Cardinals’ ace, John Tudor (21-8). Both were coming off their first 20-game winning seasons.

Tudor had won Game 1, scattering eight hits in a 3-1 victory. The Cardinals also won the second game before Saberhagen’s 6-1 performance in Game 3 got the Royals going. When Tudor shut out the Royals 3-0 in Game 4, St. Louis stood within one win of a quick Series finish. But Kansas City won Game 5, Denkinger’s intervention highlighted Game 6, and that sent the decision to a winner-take-all seventh game.

The ballyhooed Tudor-Saberhagen showdown didn’t last long. The Royals scored twice in the second, then kayoed Tudor with a three-run third. A six-run fifth made it 11-0, cementing one of the most decisive routs in Game 7 history.

Saberhagen breezed to the complete game victory, allowing just five baserunners, all of them on singles.