Pitching is said to win championships. To the chagrin of the most fans leaving Citi Field on Sunday night, the adage didn’t hold up in the World Series for the Mets.
Despite sending out a dynamic, young arm each game during the Fall Classic, the Royals array of contact hitters and relentless attitude proved to be too much, and the Amazin’s fell 4-1. The rotation of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz pitched to a 2.77 ERA during the regular season but managed a pedestrian 4.20 ERA in five playoff games.
Comparisons to the last time the Mets were crowned world champions in 1986 had fans hoping history would repeat itself. Both teams featured a quality rotation, with pitchers in or on the verge of their primes. But nearly 30 years later, a crucial ground ball rolled under the glove of a Met as opposed to an opponent and the series resulted in a different outcome.
In the 29 years since Jesse Orosco fell to his knees after recording the final out at Shea Stadium, there have been several other impressive rotations to reach the World Series. Here’s a look at how six of them fared.
1989 San Francisco Giants
Starter’ regular-season ERA: 2.89
Starters’ World Series ERA: 12.43
The Mets found out the hard way if you are going to head into a World Series relying on strong pitching, you better hope they perform. The Giants took that to another level in 1989 when a strong threesome of Rick Reuschel, Scott Garrelts and Don Robinson saved their worst for last in a four-game sweep of the Bay Bridge series.
While the Oakland Athletics decided to use a two-man rotation because of the 12-day layoff between Game 2 and 3 due to an earthquake, the Giants felt compelled to give each of their three aces a chance to pitch, and they all underperformed.
1992 Atlanta Braves
Starters’ regular-season ERA: 2.93
Starters’ World Series ERA: 2.57
Before Greg Maddux had fans doing the tomahawk chop in Atlanta, the Braves had one of the league’s best rotations led by Tom Glavine and John Smoltz. Southpaw Steve Avery was the third cog of the Braves’ World Series rotation that saw Atlanta lose four games to two to the Toronto Blue Jays.
The defeat was certainly not at the fault of the starters, who each pitched two games in the Fall Classic and did not let up more than three earned runs in those appearances.
1995 Atlanta Braves
Starters’ regular-season ERA: 3.07
Starters’ World Series ERA: 2.60
Three years later, the Braves were back in the World Series. This time, with Greg Maddux anchoring the rotation, they were able to win the franchise’s first championship since arriving in Atlanta in 1966. Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz went a combined 47-16 during the regular season and the staff led the majors in ERA. Maddux won his fourth-consecutive NL Cy Young Award, and the trio earned a total of seven during their Hall of Fame careers.
This time it was the Braves who won defeated the Cleveland Indians in six. Glavine won World Series MVP after winning both his starts and allowing just two earned runs over 14 innings. Although Smoltz struggled in his lone start of the series, Maddux was his usual self with a complete-game shutout in Game 1. Avery earned a win in his lone start, as well.
2005 Houston Astros
Starter’ regular-season ERA: 2.85
Starters’ World Series ERA: 4.29
Riding the backs of Houston natives and former Yankees Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte, the Astros reached their first-ever World Series in 2005. The staff had the best ERA throughout the regular season, rounded out by 20-game winner Roy Oswalt and veteran Brandon Backe.
The Astros came in with the big names but were outpitched by less-heralded White Sox starters in what was a competitive, yet swift, four-game sweep. Continuing the trend, Backe had the only scoreless outing of the four Astros’ starters, which included a forgettable performance from The Rocket in Game 1 during which he gave up three runs in just two innings.
2010 San Francisco Giants
Starters’ regular-season ERA: 3.19
Starters’ World Series ERA: 2.48
Of the three San Francisco Giants clubs to have won a World Series during the last five years, it was the initial title team in 2010 that boasted the best rotation. A talented group featuring Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez and 20-year-old Madison Bumgarner performed well as baseball’s third-best staff in the regular season. However, it was not until the playoffs that they truly impressed the baseball world as the foursome pitched to a 2.23 postseason ERA.
In the World Series alone against the Texas Rangers, the starters accounted for all four wins in the five game series. Lincecum won two, while Bumgarner’s eight shutout innings in Game 4 were a sign of postseason heroics to come.
2013 St. Louis Cardinals
Starters’ regular-season ERA: 3.20
Starters’ World Series ERA: 5.43
A staff most reminiscent of the Mets current rotation, the St. Louis starters disappointed and helped the Red Sox achieve their third world championship in nine years.
Led by the veteran Adam Wainwright, the Cardinals rotation featured a third-year, second-year and rookie pitcher in Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly and Michael Wacha, respectively. The foursome pitched well throughout the season, especially Wacha who went 4-1 with a 2.78 ERA down the stretch.
That all came apart during a World Series in which the slugging Red Sox had their way with the Red Birds’ rotation. Wacha didn’t make it out of the fourth inning in the deciding Game 6, while 2006 playoff hero Wainwright pitched to a mediocre 4.50 ERA in two starts.