Do World Series Blowouts Blow Players' Minds?

ARLINGTON, TX: Mike Gonzalez #51 of the Texas Rangers reacts as Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run in the seventh inning during Game Three of the MLB World Series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Is a big loss in the World Series any worse than a regular loss? What does history tell us?

As Albert Pujols and the Cardinals were dismantling the Rangers 16-7 in Game 3 of the World Series, Tim McCarver addressed the psychological ramifications of getting blown out in the World Series. He suggested that while players learn to quickly forget a blowout loss in the course of a long regular season, they're not so easy to overcome in the World Series.

Is this true? Do teams that feel the sting of lopsided humiliation fail to regain their composure in subsequent games? No, not really. In fact, the 21 teams that have lost a game by at least nine runs went on to post a record right around .500, and win the Series nine times. If the list is expanded to include eight-run losses, it grows by eight teams, with the 29 teams winning 12 of 29 championships, but their record in individual games improving to just over .500.

Having settled that, where does the 16-7 St. Louis win sit in the pantheon of big World Series victories? Very high on the run count (tied for second) and further down on the differential (tied for eighteenth). Here, categorized for your convenience, is a sampling of the most lopsided games in the archive of the fall classic.

The Opening Salvo

Five teams have opened the World Series with a convincing win of nine runs or more, but only two of them went on to win the title. Most recently, the Red Sox humiliated the Rockies 13-1 in their first-ever trip to the big show and followed that up by sweeping them out the door. The 1987 Twins surprised the favored Cardinals 10-1 in their opener before splitting the next six tames to take the title. The '96 Braves got all over the Yankees in Game 1, crushing them 12-1. They won the next game too before New York bounced back and won four straight. The White Sox' first trip to the World Series since the Black Sox scandal got off to a swimming start in 1959 with an 11-0 blanking of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Chicago didn't win again until Game 5 when they beat Sandy Koufax 1-0 before losing Game 6 and the title. The last time the Chicago Cubs went to the World Series, they opened play by beating up on Hall of Famer Hal Newhouser and cruising to a 9-0 victory, but eventually lost the 1945 Series in seven games.

Tit-for-Tat

Two times in World Series history, opponents have blown each other out. The first occasion was, surprisingly, in 1968, the Year of the Pitcher. The Cardinals manhandled the Tigers 10-1 in Game 4, going up two-games-to-one in the process. It was the second time in the Series that Bob Gibson had bested 31-game winner Denny McLain. Having been chased early in that game, McLain was sent back to the mound for Game 6 with the Tigers facing elimination. This time he responded by scattering nine hits and shutting out St. Louis for 8 2/3 innings. For their part, the Tigers put up a sawbuck in the second inning and waltzed to a 13-1 win before claiming the championship the next day.

Fourteen years later, the Cardinals turned the same trick on the Brewers. After absorbing the Game 1 defeat mentioned above, they were facing elimination in Game 6. They backed the four-hit pitching of John Stuper (who, like McLain, lost his shutout in the ninth) with a 13-run onslaught before winning Game 7 by the more routine score of 6-3.

The Big Finish

Four teams in the annals of World Series play were never given a chance to rebound from getting blown out because their big loss resulted in their elimination. The earliest example of this came in 1911 when the New York Giants trailed the Philadelphia A's three games to two and were knocked out 13-2 in Game 6. The Giants had allowed double figures only twice all season. In 1934, the Gas House Gang of St. Louis bested the Tigers 11-0 in Game 7, a contest that very nearly could have ended in a forfeit when Detroit fans disrupted play by showering Joe Medwick with garbage after he slid hard into Marv Owen. Two days after Don Larsen achieved perfection in Game 5 of the 1956 Series, the Yankees sucked all the drama out of Game 7 by scoring twice in the first, twice in the third and once in the fourth and then putting away the Dodgers for good with a four-run seventh. Meanwhile, Johnny Kucks was spinning a three-hit shutout. One of the ugliest World Series games ever played was Game 7 of the 1985 fall classic, won by the Royals 11-0 over a disgruntled and distracted Cardinals team, still reeling from the hosing they'd gotten the night before on the infamous Don Denkinger call that cost them the clincher.

Spitting in Adversity's Grim Visage

The 1960 Pirates are the team that wrote the book on getting blown out in the World Series. Over three dozen teams have lost three games on their way to a World Championship, but none of them did it by being utterly destroyed like the Bucs. They lost 16-3 in Game 2, 10-0 in Game 3 and 12-0 in Game 6. They interspersed that with three wins and won Game 7 with a five-run comeback in the bottom of the eighth and Bill Mazeroski's famous walk-off home run in the ninth. They were World Champions in spite of being outscored 55-27 and posting a team ERA of 7.11.

The Biggest Thrashings

The greatest beating in World Series history was fittingly administered by one of the most potent teams ever assembled, the New York Yankees of the late 1930s. In Game 2 of the 1936 finale, they crushed the Giants 18-4, pounding out 17 hits and drawing nine walks. (Strangely enough, Joe DiMaggio bunted twice in this game, once for a single and once where he was credited with a sacrifice although he reached on an error.) The Yanks took two of the next three before laying a slightly less strenuous 13-5 beatdown on their cross-river rivals to clinch the Series. Other 12-run-plus victories not already mentioned include:

Game 6, 2001: The Diamondbacks made it obvious early that there would be a Game 7, scoring in each of the first four innings, including eight runs in the third on their way to a 15-0 lead and 15-2 victory. Arizona manager Bob Brenly was first- and second-guessed for leaving starter Randy Johnson in the game with a double-figure lead and finally pulled him after seven. Johnson had enough left in the tank to pitch the final 1 1/3 innings of the clincher the next night.

Game 5, 1951: The Giants and Yankees were tied at two games apiece when the latter dropped a 13-1 bomb on the former. They were aided by eight walks from Giant pitchers and one of Phil Rizzuto's two career World Series home runs. The Yankees went on to win Game 6 for the title.

Game 5, 2002: After losing to the Angels 11-10 and 10-4 in Games 2 and 3, the Giants evened things up in Game 4 and then went up 3-2 with a punishing 16-4 win in Game 5. It appeared to have the psychologically devastating effect to which Tim McCarver was alluding last night, when the Angels managed only two hits through six innings of Game 6 and the Giants were up 5-0, nine outs away from the title. Except that it didn't. The Angels rallied for six runs and then won Game 7, 4-1.

 

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