"I think everybody should be amazed," Tigers pitcher Nate Robertson, the scheduled Game 3 starter in St. Louis, said of his teammate. "You're witnessing one of the greatest postseason performances by an individual in the history of baseball."
While there have been memorable individual postseason performances -- such as Don Larsen's 1956 World Series perfect game or Bob Gibson's 17 strikeouts in the last St. Louis-Detroit Fall Classic in 1968 -- Christy Mathewson is the benchmark for consecutive scoreless innings in a single postseason. He pitched a mind-boggling three shutouts for the Giants in 1905, and those all came in a series won in five games over the Philadelphia A's.
Those 27 consecutive scoreless innings are followed by Lew Burdette's 24 for the Milwaukee Braves during the 1957 World Series victory over the Yankees. In both cases, obviously there was nothing else to do but pitch in a World Series. Major League Baseball added a League Championship Series round during the expansion season of 1969, and then the Division Series was added in 1995.
So there is most certainly a proviso in this story, and any Whitey Ford fan will note that Ford was 4-0 with no runs allowed for the Yankees over the course of the 1960-61 Fall Classics. But what Rogers is doing goes beyond any discussion of extra series. It is one for the ages so far and a study in domination.
Mathewson is the only other person who made three postseason starts without allowing a run. That's pretty good company.
"I'm no Christy Mathewson, that's for sure, but I've had scoreless streaks before," Rogers said. "I'm so glad it's happening now for us as a team. It helps us win. But I will never put myself in the category of someone like that or even remotely close. I know I'm just trying to be a good pitcher and make as many good pitches as I can."
Here's another example of how he has done that to nearly historic proportions: Rogers is now tied for third on that scoreless-streak list with Jerry Reuss, who also pitched 23 consecutive scoreless innings for the Dodgers in the 1981 postseason. That streak by Reuss encompasses his two starts in the NLDS against Houston and his first start in the NLCS against Montreal. Reuss lost to the Yanks in the opener of that World Series, which was won by the Dodgers.
There have been three other pitchers who were 4-0 in a postseason, and although each led his team to a world championship, here is a disclaimer:
Curt Schilling did it for the Diamondbacks on the way to their 2001 title, but he also had two no-decisions against the Yankees in the World Series. One of those was courtesy of Byung-Hyun Kim's blown save, and in the Game 7 clincher, Schilling gave up the leadoff homer in the eighth to Alfonso Soriano, and Randy Johnson eventually won the game in relief.
Livan Hernandez helped the Marlins to the 1997 world championship with a 4-0 postseason record. He won both starts against Cleveland in the World Series, allowing eight runs over 13 2/3 innings. He won twice in the NLCS against Atlanta, but one of those was in relief.
Scoreless innings streaks in a single postseason
|27||Christy Mathewson||New York (NL)||1905|
|23||Jerry Reuss||Los Angeles||1981|
Jack Morris was 4-0 for the Twins in 1991, and his 10 scoreless innings in the Game 7 clincher against Atlanta will remain a classic. But sandwiched between his Game 1 and Game 7 starts was a no-decision in the Game 4 loss at Atlanta.
Morris also was 3-0 for the Tigers in their 1984 world championship run, winning both starts in that Fall Classic. He only was needed for Game 1 of that year's three-game sweep of Kansas City in the ALCS.
Rogers joins one other Tiger as well on the 3-0 postseason list: Mickey Lolich. He won all three starts against those Cardinals in '68, the last time it was World Series-only, and he beat Gibson in that memorable Game 7.
Steve Carlton was 3-0 for the Phillies when they won it all against the Royals in 1980, getting the decision in Game 2 and the decisive Game 6.
One of the more interesting names to mention is that of Bruce Hurst. He was 3-0 for the Red Sox in the 1986 postseason and working on 4-0 until the bottom of the sixth in Game 7 of the World Series at Shea Stadium. That's when Keith Hernandez hit a bases-loaded single off him and Gary Carter drove in the tying run, so Hurst left for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the inning and wound up with a no-decision and no Boston title.
Will Rogers face a similar fate in his bid to go 4-0? Will he become the first pitcher ever to make four postseason starts and win them all? Will he even be needed, as the Tigers hope to sweep three at St. Louis? Or will he be needed in relief should the Cardinals win the next two and then take an early Game 5 lead?
Whatever happens in the next week, this much is certain: Rogers has turned in one of the greatest overall postseasons by a pitcher to date, shutting down a vaunted Yankees lineup, blanking the A's over 7 1/3 innings in Game 3 of the ALCS, and now giving Detroit an important answer to that Game 1 victory here by St. Louis. Even the frigid playing conditions on Sunday night made what he did all the more remarkable, not to mention the fact he will turn 42 on Nov. 10.
"I'm just glad I hung in there and persevered just so I could be here at this point in time, not that I expected this by any means," said Rogers, who pitched to chants of 'KEN-NY! KEN-NY!' all night. "I know what I'm capable of and dominating teams is not one of them very often. Probably got lucky in a lot of ways.
"I think, just for me, more than anything else it's a goal you have. When you're unsuccessful at something at any point in your career, you want to take that away, and my goal, why I hung around so long, is I knew there were things I still wanted to accomplish. And by no means was a playoff game probably not one of the bigger ones. It benefited me some ways, made me hang around longer at this age, but it just makes it that much more worthwhile."