Let me set the scene for you: It’s October 27, 1991 and Game 7 of the World Series between the Atlanta Braves and Minnesota Twins is set to begin. The Braves are sending out 24 year old John Smoltz to start the deciding game against the Twins’ 36 year old Jack Morris (Insignificant, yet interesting, Smoltz was born May 15, Morris on May 16 of 1967 and 1955 respectively). Both pitchers had already pitched in the World Series, and specifically against each other in game 4. Morris and the Twins won game 1 behind Morris’ 7 innings of 2 run ball. Then Smoltz and Morris went toe to toe in game 4, which the Braves took 3-2. Morris pitched 6 innings giving up only 1 run on 6 hits, while the young John Smoltz mowed through 7 innings, giving up only 2 runs and striking out 7 (Neither Morris or Smoltz earned a decision). And now, its game 7 with the series tied 3-3 and the World Series trophy up for grabs. No bigger stage in baseball ever is set, and no bigger performance has ever been seen than what fans saw from Jack Morris.
Both Morris and Smoltz gave up their first hits in the 2nd inning, but neither had allowed a run. In the 3rd inning each had allowed a runner to reach 2nd base, but neither allowed them to score. Morris ran into some trouble in the top of the 5th, but got the Braves to strand 2 including a runner at 3rd base. John Smoltz was absolutely dealing on this night mowing down the Twins’ lineup, as he never faced more than 4 batters from the 3rd through 7th innings. Through 7 innings, the Twins and Braves were dead locked in a shutout. The top of the 8th saw the Braves threaten harder than ever before. With a lead off single followed by a double to left-center field, the Braves had 2nd and 3rd with no outs; prime scoring position. The veteran Jack Morris was still on the mound, and induced a weak groundout to 1B from the 3 hitter in the Braves lineup Ron Gant. Next, Morris intentionally walked David Justice bringing up Sid Bream with the bases loaded and 1 out. A sac fly scores one, a hit probably scores 2 and the Braves would be all that much closer to bringing home a championship. But Morris got Bream to hit a ground ball to first again where Kent Hrbek threw home to catcher Brian Harper, who launched it back to Hrbek at first for a 3-2-3 double play.
Inning over, no runs scored, shutout in tact, game salvaged. In the bottom of the 8th, the Twins also left 2 runners on after 1B Kent Hrbek lined into a double play to end the inning. Smoltz was removed from the game after 7.1 stellar innings, allowing just 6 hits and 1 walk and striking out 4. The 9th inning was rather uneventful compared to the previous, as Morris took care of the Braves in order and the Twins threatened but hit into yet another double play to end the scoring threat. 36 year old Jack Morris came back out to start the top of the 10th inning and immediately retired the Braves in succession with a foul-out, strikeout and a groundout. In the bottom of the 10th, Dan Gladden lead off with a double to left center, prompting Chuck Knoblauch to bunt him over to third on a successful sac bunt. Kirby Puckett then gets intentionally walked to set up 1st and 3rd with one out, a prime
double play ball situation. Then Jarvis Brown, the DH in the 5-hole, gets pinch-hit for and Gene Larkin steps up to the plate. Larkin launched the offering into deep left-center allowing Gladden to score, and the game was over; Twins 1, Braves 0 F/10.
The World Series was over; Twins 4, Braves 3.
Jack Morris’ final stat line reads: 10 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 8 K, W.
So reading through that, Morris’ game doesn’t sound like an all-time-great. He allowed quite a few base runners and got himself into trouble a few times. But was it an all-time great performance? Yes, absolutely. Game 7 of the World Series is the biggest stage in baseball, and pitching any amount of shutout innings is impressive. Let’s use Baseball Reference‘s fantastic Play-Index tool to find out just how rare Morris’ performance was.
There have been exactly 91 complete game shutouts in World Series play since 1903. Only 5 such games have occured after 1990, and only 3 such games since 2000, with only 1 since 2010. How about pitching 10 innings in a shutout in the World Series? That’s happened 3 times, and Jack Morris’ 1991 performance was the first time since Clem Labine in 1956 for the Brooklyn Dodgers (Christy Mathewson also did it for the New York Giants in 1913). How about how many complete game shutouts have there been in potential elimination games, such as Morris in 1991? 15 times since 1903, with only 2 games since 1990 (Morris in 1991, Curt Schilling in 1993). Also, there have only been 10 games since 1913 where a pitcher threw a complete game shutout in Game 7 of the World Series. Jack Morris’ 1991 performance is the most recent performance of that caliber.
Lastly, and the real kicker, is Jack Morris’ 1991 performance is the only game of its kind in MLB history. No other pitcher can claim 10 innings pitched in a World Series game 7. Not even filtering for a shutout, or by runs allowed at all. Morris is simply the only pitcher in game 7 history to pitch more than 9 innings. He tossed 126 pitches and 79 for strikes that night (62.7%) which seems relatively small for a 10 inning performance. For example, Johan Santana needed 134 pitches in 2012 for his 9 inning no-hitter.
Our recency bias as a generation is strong, and many people may not have actually seen Morris’ game (like me), so I’ll give a bit of context to cement my argument. In 2014, Madison Bumgarner put together a World Series performance for the ages and possibly, probably, the best all together World Series for a pitcher ever. His game 7 performance is regarded as heroic, unfathomable, and god-like. Bumgarner earned the save in game 7 in 2014 for 5 shutout innings of work, allowing 2 hits and striking out 4. Yes, MadBum’s incredible pitching in 2014 was the first shutout of more than 5 innings in a WS game 7 since Morris (and Smoltz) in 1991, but Morris pitched twice as many innings.
Jack Morris may not go down as one of the greatest pitchers of all time, but Morris delivered the best pitching performance of all time on baseball’s biggest stage just 25 years ago. Even the baseball fans of my generation should never let that performance fade into history.
**All of the information and statistics mentioned in this article are via Baseball Reference and their online tools for baseball statistics and more. **
New York Yankees Closing In On Deal For A’s Sonny Gray
While other teams such as the Atlanta Braves have jumped into the mix to acquire the front-line starter, it appears that the Yankees offer the A’s the best trade return.
According to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, the Braves can offer great pitching prospects to Oakland but the Yankees are more equipped to match the A’s positional needs such as centerfield.
Heyman also noted that the Milwaukee Brewers could jump back in the mix and that Gray “has no qualms about going to yanks (or anywhere else). but brewers would be special.”
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported that an “involved person says Yankees have ‘pieces to make it work’.
ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported that “Yankees and Athletics are ‘close enough to get over the hump’ today on a Gray deal, says source. Still gonna take some compromise.”
WFAN’s Sweeny Murti says that Oakland has come off it’s demands for a “Frazier/Torress package” and has asked for “Florial/Mateo package + more” stating “Yankees will not make that deal either.”
Gray, 27, is 6-5 with a 3.43 ERA and 1.18 WHIP this season.
It looks like this deal will come down to the wire.
Yankees And Athletics Reportedly Talking Trade
Oakland is a likely mass-seller approaching the trade deadline and the Yankees have been tied to both right-hander Sonny Gray and first baseman Yonder Alonso.
On Monday, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that a top-level Athletics scout recently watched the Yankees’ Class A Charleston affiliate which is a strong indication that the two teams are negotiating of at least preparing to negotiate a deal.
With the loss of Michael Pineda and the struggles of Masahiro Tanaka, the Yankee starting rotation is in desperate need of a front-line starter.
Gray ,who isn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2019 season, is an appealing option likely to be in high demand. The 27-year old is 5-4 with a 3.72 ERA this season.
The Yankees have a dire need a first base after the season-ending injury to Greg Bird, the Chris Carter “dud” and the overall lack of production from the first base position which posted a. .671 OPS this season ranking second worst in the the league entering Monday.
The Yanks have had 8 different players play the position this season.
The A’s Alonso, 30, is having a career year in Oakland posting a .924 OPS and smacking 21 home runs
The Yankees will be pressed to make a deal as their struggles leading up to the All-Star break have trickled over to July. New York has continued their sub .500 play and they’re run scoring has essentially flatlined in recent weeks.
Freddie Freeman Is Back With The Braves And Now Has A New Position
The Atlanta Braves got one of their best hitters back on Tuesday. Instead of playing his normal position however, Freddie Freeman made his first career start at third base.
Freeman, 27, was activated from the disabled list on Tuesday. The slugging first baseman has been out since May due to a broken wrist. Freeman was hit by a pitch during the Braves game against the Toronto Blue Jays on May 17. He was diagnosed with a fractured left wrist, and was expected to miss at least eight weeks.
Fortunately, Freeman was able to recover quicker than expected. Because it appeared as though he was going to be sidelined for a minimum of eight weeks, the Braves decided to acquire another first baseman. On May 20, they traded minor league infielder Juan Yepez to the St. Louis Cardinals for first baseman Matt Adams and cash considerations. At the time of the deal, the left-handed hitting Adams was hitting .292 with one home run and seven RBIs on the season.
Adams was able to have immediate success with the Braves. He more than adequately filled the hole left by Freeman’s absence. In 40 games for the Braves, he is batting .290 with 12 home runs and 32 RBIs. Adams hit .314 in the month of June.
When it came time for Freeman to begin his rehab assignment with Triple-A Gwinnett, he offered to play third base instead of first base. The reasoning behind this offer was that Adams was playing so well, and it would benefit the Braves to keep him in the lineup. On Saturday night, Freeman started at third base as the Gwinnett Braves visited the Charlotte Knights. He fielded his new position relatively well. The Braves saw enough to be convinced that Freeman could play third base at the major league level.
When the Braves took the field against the Houston Astros on Tuesday night, Freeman was at third base. He did not make any errors in the game, and went 1-for-4 at the plate. The Braves lost the game 16-4.
Before his injury, Freeman was having a great season. In 135 at-bats, he was hitting .341 with 14 home runs and 25 RBIs. This is why it was such a relief for the Braves when he said that he would voluntarily move to third base. This way, the team can now have both Freeman and Adams in the lineup.
The Braves are 40-42 this season. They have already exceeded expectations this year. Now that they have two left-handed hitting power threats in Freeman and Adams, their offense has the potential to be great.
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