Stats & Info: John Smoltz

Jamie Squire/Getty Imag
The Cardinals (managed by Tony La Russa, on left) and Rangers (managed by Ron Washington, on right) lead their teams into the 36th Game 7 in World Series history.

For the 36th time in baseball history and first since 2002, a Game 7 is needed to decide the World Series, this time between the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers. If recent history is any indication, start popping the corks in St. Louis. Since 1980, home teams are 8-0 in World Series Game 7s (prior to 1980, home teams were 10-17).

Furthermore, of the last nine World Series to go seven games, eight were won by the team that won Game 6. The only team since 1979 to lose Game 7 after winning Game 6 was the Cleveland Indians against the Florida Marlins in 1997.

Playing in a Game 7 is nothing new for the Cardinals. In fact, they are making their 15th appearance in a postseason winner-take-all Game 7, the most all-time. And they’ve had quite a bit of success, winning 10 postseason Game 7s, also the most all-time.

St. Louis leads all franchises with seven Game 7 wins in World Series action, but has lost three of its last four. On the other side, Texas is making its first appearance in a Game 7 of any series in franchise history.

Pitching Matchup
Matt Harrison will make his second World Series start for Texas. Harrison took the loss in Game 3 after allowing five runs (three earned) on six hits in 3 2/3 innings. Harrison will try to be the first starting pitcher who lost a game earlier in the series to win Game 7 of a World Series since Frank Viola (1987 Minnesota Twins).

It was reported Friday that the Cardinals will start Chris Carpenter, and that should make St. Louis fans breathe a sigh of relief. Carpenter is 8-2 in his postseason career, including 3-0 this season. In three career World Series starts, he is 2-0 with a 1.71 ERA and has allowed just four earned runs in 13 innings against the Rangers this series.

Carpenter has pitched on three-days rest just once and it was earlier this postseason in Game 2 of the NLDS at Philadelphia.

According to Elias, Carpenter will be the ninth pitcher to start two winner-take-all games in one postseason.

The others were Blue Moon Odom (1972 Oakland Athletics), Pete Vuckovich (1982 Milwaukee Brewers), Bret Saberhagen (1985 Kansas City Royals), John Smoltz (1991 Atlanta Braves), Jaret Wright (1997 Indians), Curt Schilling (2001 Arizona Diamondbacks), Roger Clemens (2001 New York Yankees), Kerry Wood (2003 Chicago Cubs) and Pedro Martinez (2003 Boston Red Sox). No pitcher has ever won two winner-take-all games in one postseason, no matter if he started the game or not.

Stat of the Game
Elias tells us that Tony La Russa needs a win in Game 7 to avoid becoming the first manager to lose the clinching game of four World Series on his home field. In 1988, the Athletics lost in five games to the Los Angeles Dodgers, with Game Five at the Oakland Coliseum; in 1990, the Athletics were swept by the Cincinnati Reds, with Game Four in Oakland; in 2004, the Cardinals lost all four games to the Red Sox, with Game Four at Busch Stadium.

Could streaking Verlander win 25?

September, 2, 2011
Justin Verlander goes for his 21st win on Friday, as the Detroit Tigers host the Chicago White Sox. Presuming he starts every fifth day, mark Verlander down for six more starts in 2011. That puts some notable milestones within his grasp.

Could Verlander be the first pitcher in 21 years to win 25 games in a season? In 1990, Bob Welch went 27-6 for the A’s on his way to the Cy Young Award. Since then, two pitchers reached 24 wins (John Smoltz in 1996 and Randy Johnson in 2002), but no one made it to a quarter-century. In fact, only two AL pitchers have even reached 23 wins (Pedro Martinez in 1999 and Barry Zito in 2003).

If he reaches 25 wins, Verlander would be just the sixth pitcher to do so since the designated hitter arrived in 1973. In the past 30 years, Welch’s season stands alone.

On Friday, Verlander could be the first Tigers pitcher to reach 21 wins since Jack Morris in 1985. You have to go back to Mickey Lolich in 1971 to find their last 25-game winner.

With 218 strikeouts, Verlander also has a shot at a rare 25-win, 250-strikeout season. In the past 65 seasons, only four pitchers have pulled that off: Steve Carlton (1972), Lolich (1971), Denny McLain (1968) and Sandy Koufax (three times).

Verlander has put himself in this position thanks to wins in each of his past eight starts. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Brandon Webb in 2008 was the last pitcher to win nine straight, and the last Tigers pitcher to do so was McLain in 1968.
Justin Verlander

With these lofty numbers potentially looming, MVP buzz now accompanies each start. Appearing only every fifth day, starting pitchers are debatable MVP candidates. However, in terms of value to his team, it’s hard to ignore what Verlander has done.

Consider the following from Elias: Verlander is 14-3 in games following a Detroit loss. In the past 30 years, only two pitchers have earned 15 victories following a team loss in a single season: Felix Hernandez (15 in 2009) and Roger Clemens (15 in 1992).

Verlander has already reached the historical minimum win total for a starter to win the award. In 1943, Spud Chandler won 20 games on his way to the MVP. The eight starters to win it since have all won at least 22 games.

Even with more wins, Verlander’s ERA might not be low enough. Four of the last five starting pitchers to win an MVP finished with an ERA below 2.00. The exception was Roger Clemens (24-4, 2.48 ERA) for the 1986 Red Sox.
James Shields
Recently anything James Shields has started he's gone on to finish. For the third consecutive game Shields pitched a complete game as the Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Houston Astros. He is the first pitcher in Rays history to throw three consecutive complete games.

Shields hasn't just been piling up innings, but he's also been keeping players off the bases. In each of the starts he's allowed five hits or fewer, just the fourth pitcher since 2000 to compile such a streak.

Two of the previous three -- Roy Halladay in 2003 and Randy Johnson in 2000 -- went on to win the Cy Young award. You have to go back to Greg Maddux in 1998 for the last time a starter did so in four consecutive outings.

This is already Shields' sixth complete game this season, which sets the record for most in a season in franchise history. He is only the sixth pitcher with six complete game victories in his team's first 76 games in the last 20 seasons.

The list is rather impressive with Pat Hentgen in 1997, Randy Johnson in 1994 and John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and David Cone in 1992.

Shields continued to dominate with his changeup, relying on it as an out pitch even more than usual. He recorded 18 of his 27 outs with the pitch.

Astros hitters were 0-for-17 with five strikeouts and a double play on at-bats ending with a Shields changeup.

Just three of his 30 two-strike pitches were fastballs, his lowest in a start in over two years. As a result, all nine of his strikeouts were with his offspeed pitches. All 24 of Shields' strikeouts over his stretch of three consecutive complete games have been with offspeed pitches.

While the Astros were outdueled by Shields, Houston's staff did complete an extremely rare feat. The Astros had three pitchers pitch Friday, all with the last name Rodriguez (Wandy, Fernando, Aneury). Our good friends at Elias passed along this gem. This was the first game in the modern era (since 1900) that a trio of teammates with the same surname pitched in the same game.

Elsewhere around the diamond:

• Jon Lester became the latest pitcher to go for his 10th victory only to come up short as the Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Boston Red Sox. According to Elias, excluding 1981 (strike delayed season), the last time that the Majors didn't have a 10-game winner until at least June 25 was in 1950. Four pitchers earned their tenth wins of the season on June 28 that year (Art Houtteman, Bob Lemon, Preacher Roe, and Johnny Sain).

-- Dan Braunstein contributed to this report
More incredible notes from Cliff Lee's complete game victory Tuesday over the Tampa Bay Rays, giving the Texas Rangers their first postseason series victory ever:

• Lee won his sixth straight decision as a starter to begin his postseason career, tied for third-most all-time with Lefty Gomez. The record is eight by Orlando Hernandez.

• Lee had the fourth CG win on the road in a winner-takes-all game in the last 40 years, and the first since John Smoltz for the 1991 Atlanta Braves.

Cliff Lee
• Lee has won five straight postseason starts in which he pitched seven or more innings, and only Bob Gibson, Dave Stewart and Red Ruffing have longer streaks in major league history.

• Lee became the sixth starting pitcher to win two road games in a single postseason series, allowing one run or fewer in each. The last was Roy Oswalt for the 2005 Houston Astros in the NLCS.

• Lee's 21 strikeouts are the third-most in a single series for an AL pitcher since 1920.

• Lee threw his fifth postseason game with seven or more IP and no walks, which ties Christy Mathewson for the second-most ever. Greg Maddux has the record with seven such games.

• Lee's Game Score of 82 made it the fifth game this postseason of 80 or better. That ties an all-time record for a single postseason, set in 1967 (when there were five in a seven-game World Series) and tied in 1997.

• That Game Score is tied for fourth-best by a starting pitcher in a winner-takes-all postseason game. Sandy Koufax (1965 Los Angeles Dodgers), Jack Morris (1991 Minnesota Twins) and Ralph Terry (1962 New York Yankees) were the only three with a higher Game Score and they all did it in Game 7 of the World Series.

• There were four complete games in the LDS in which the pitcher allowed one run or fewer, the most since the 1986 LCS also had four.


• The Rangers became the first team in MLB history to score twice from second base on infield outs in a postseason game. The last teams to do it even once was the Baltimore Orioles in Game 5 of the 1970 World Series in the Cincinnati Reds. Before Tuesday, the Rays had never allowed it to happen once in any game, regular season or postseason.

• During the regular season there were three instances of a runner scoring from second base on an infield out.

• Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz both hit three home runs in the series, becoming the second pair of teammates in major league history to hit three HR apiece in a postseason series of five-or-fewer-games. The other pair was Babe Ruth (three HR, all in one game) and Lou Gehrig (four HR) in the Yankees four-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1928 World Series.

The Ones2Watch4

April, 19, 2010
Four players from our One2Watch4 series (which kicked off the TMI blog in March), had impact performances on Sunday.

  • Rays ace Matt Garza improved to 3-0 by dominating against the Red Sox on Sunday. Garza, among the best right-handers in baseball against left-handed hitters, held Boston lefties to a 1-for-11 showing in the victory.

  • * - Won Cy Young Award

  • Shin-Soo Choo went 11-for-19 with three home runs and 11 RBI this week, leading the Indians to a 4-2 record in that time. Of note is Choo's early success against opposing pitchers' sliders. Sunday, Choo's decisive grand slam came off a Gavin Floyd slider. Last year, Choo struck out 30 times against sliders, walking just eight times. Already this season, Choo has four walks against the pitch, with only one strikeout.

  • Jay Bruce, struggling all season, hit his first two home runs of the year, giving him six career multi-homer games. The two RBI Bruce had matched his total from the first 12 games of the season.
  • Carlos Gonzalez was a would-be hero for the Rockies, hitting a go-ahead home run in the eighth inning before Jason Heyward stole some of his thunder. Gonzalez has made an impact all year with his bat, though this was the first time he’d done so for power. He’s played in nine games this season and had a hit in eight.