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The Top 10 Post-Season Pitching Performances in Baltimore Orioles History

Dave McNally

I think I can safely speak for the vast majority of my fellow Baltimore Orioles fans when I say that we aren’t entertaining any realistic hopes of making the playoffs this season.  So, with the dreaded off-day following the season opener, we have to look backwards in search of October glory…at least until the future crystalizes a little more.  Since the O’s have a rich, 78-game post-season history, I set out to identify the ten best October performances by Baltimore starting pitchers.

Game scores have recaptured my interest in recent days, so once again that’s how we’ll determine the rankings:

Game Score is a metric devised by Bill James to determine the strength of a pitcher in any particular baseball game. To determine a starting pitcher‘s game score:

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

9th & 10th Place – tied with 81

Scott McGregor – 1983 World Series Game 5 & Dave McNally – 1966 World Series Game 4

These two performances nailed down two of the Orioles three World Series championships.  McNally hurled a four-hit shutout at Memorial Stadium on 10/9/66 to beat the Dodgers Don Drysdale 1-0 and complete a sweep.  Frank Robinson’s fourth-inning homer provided the only score, the Birds turned three double plays, and Los Angeles didn’t even get a runner to second base until the final frame. 

McGregor finished off the Orioles most recent title on 10/16/83 at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia with a shutout of his own.  He scattered five hits and two walks, and got fourteen flyouts versus six ground balls.  Eddie Murray homered twice, and Rick Dempsey wrapped up World Series MVP honors with a long ball of his own, but McGregor held Philadelphia down by refusing to allow anybody past first base until the 5-0 final margin had already been tallied.

7th & 8th Place – tied with 82

Jim Palmer – 1966 World Series Game 2 & Dave McNally – 1971 World Series Game 1

For four innings at Dodger Stadium on 10/6/66, 20-year-old Palmer was engaged in a scoreless duel with fellow Hall-of-Famer Sandy Koufax, who was pitching the last game of his career.  Three errors by L.A. centerfielder Willie Davis led to a trio of unearned runs in the fifth though, and Palmer never let the Dodgers off the mat.  He escaped a second-and-third with one out jam in the second inning, and finished with a four-hit shutout to send the series back to Baltimore with the Birds on top two games to zero.

McNally got off to a rough start as a pair of second-inning errors by his teammates helped the Pirates plate three unearned runs at Memorial Stadium.  The first two Pittsburgh hitters got aboard an inning later, but McNally retired every hitter the rest of the way save for one man that reached on an error in the ninth.  Merv Rettenmund’s three-run homer off Dock Ellis gave the Orioles a lead in the third, and McNally earned a 5-3 victory.

5th & 6th place – tied with 84

 Jim Palmer  – 1973 ALCS Game 1 & Mike Cuellar – 1973 ALCS Game 3

Two brilliant efforts with four days of each other, and the Orioles lost the series three games to two!  Palmer struck out 12 Oakland A’s in a five-hit shutout to beat Vida Blue 6-0.  Blue failed to survive the bottom of the first at Memorial Stadium.  This one was pretty much over before it got started.

Cuellar got the ball with the series tied a game apiece at the Oakland Coliseum.  Through seven innings, he out-dueled Oakland’s 21-game winner Ken Holtzman, and the Orioles led the contest 1-0.  A two-out single by Joe Rudi tied the game for the A’s though in the bottom of the eighth, forcing extra innings.  Holtzman held the O’s to just three hits (including Earl Williams’ second-inning homer) through eleven innings, and got the victory when A’s shortstop Bert Campaneris took Cuellar deep leading off the bottom of the eleventh. 

4th place – 85

Mike Boddicker – 1983 World Series Game 2

The Orioles desperately needed a win after dropping game 1 to the Phillies at home, but Boddicker -despite a valiant effort- was in trouble midway through the game.  Baltimore was behind 1-0 on an unearned run, but John Lowenstein’s leadoff homer sparked a three-run fifth, including a RBI-sacrifice fly by Boddicker himself.  After that, he allowed just two singles the rest of the way, and retired three Hall-of-Famers plus Pete Rose for the final four outs of a 4-1 triumph.

2nd & 3rd place – tied with 88

Mike Boddicker – 1983 ALCS Game 2 & Mike Mussina  – 1997 ALCS Game 6

Six days before his World Series victory, the rookie Boddicker evened the ALCS at a game apiece with a 14-strikeout, five-hit shutout.  Orioles left-fielder Gary Roenicke walked twice, doubled, homered and scored three of Baltimore’s four runs.

Mussina hurled one of the most frustrating games in franchise history on 10/15/97 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.  Baltimore trailed the ALCS to the Indians three games to two, and Mussina gave them eight brilliant innings of one-hit pitching with ten strikeouts.  Unfortunately, his Orioles teammates left 14 base runners stranded before the overcast Wednesday affair was complete, and it ended up 1-0 in Cleveland’s favor on an 11th-inning homer by Tony Fernandez off Armando Benitez that sent the Indians to the World Series.

1st place – 97

Dave McNally – 1969 ALCS Game 2

We conclude with another 1-0, 11-inning affair, but this time the good guys won.  McNally and Baltimore-native Dave Boswell of the Twins locked up in a scoreless duel through ten at Memorial Stadium.  Each team had opportunities, but none better than the bases loaded with nobody out shot the Orioles wasted in the second.  McNally pitched around a pair of eleventh inning walks to hold Minnesota scoreless.  He’d struck out eleven and surrendered just three singles.  He got a well-deserved victory when Boswell got pulled with two on and two out in the bottom of the inning, and pinch-hitter Curt Motton greeted Twins reliever Ron Perranoski with a game-winning single.



NOTES – Here are the Orioles five worst post-season game scores:

35 – Dave McNally – 1971 World Series Game 5

lasts 4 innings plus 2 batters as Pirates take 3-2 lead in series

34 – Jim Palmer – 1973 ALCS Game 4

knocked out in 2nd inning, though O’s rallied to force decisive game 5

26 – Dennis Martinez – 1979 World Series Game 4

knocked out in 2nd inning, though O’s win to take 3-1 series lead

20 – Mike Cuellar – 1970 ALCS Game 1

4 1/3 IP , 10 H, 6 R…but O’s won 10-6

18 – Scott Erickson – 1997 ALCS Game 4

coughed up a 5-2 lead & allowed 2 HR among 11 hits, 7 runs in 4 2/3


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