The 10 worst pitching changes in World Series history

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Kevin Cash isn’t the only manager to blow a World Series game courtesy of a bad bullpen decision. A number of pitchers suffered the same fate as the Rays’ Ian Snell. Here’s a reminder of costly mistakes committed on baseball’s biggest stage.

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10. Jose Contreras, Joe Torre, Game 4, 2003 World Series

10. Jose Contreras, Joe Torre, Game 4, 2003 World Series

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Some unwritten rules are meant to be broken. Torre made some great moves during the Yankees amazing 1996-2001 run. However, Torre made arguably the worst decision of his illustrious career when he pulled Contreras for Jeff Weaver in a tie game. The savvy Cuban had another inning in him after tossing two great frames in which he struck out four. The huge problem with Torre’s decision has less to do with yanking Contreras than who he chose to replace him with during a monumental game. Torre opted to trust the shaky Jeff Weaver over Mariano Rivera. The only Hall of Famer who received unanimous support just watched Weaver with his atrocious 5.99 ERA lose the game from the bullpen. The reason Torre gave for not using Rivera is the ridiculous you can’t use your closer on the road in a tie game without the lead. That notion is as outdated as saying you can’t go for it on 4th and 1. If Rivera pitched two innings, the potent Yankee lineup could have very likely scored against the Marlins less than average bullpen. If that played out the Yankees would have taken a 3-1 lead and probably never looked back. Instead the Bombers never won another game in 2003.

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9. Tommy John, Bob Lemon, Game 6, 1981 World Series

9. Tommy John, Bob Lemon, Game 6, 1981 World Series

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The Yankee bullpen was gassed when for some reason Lemon yanked John out after four well pitched innings in a tie game. John, who had plenty in the tank, gave up just one run. The Yankees relievers yielded eight runs and the Dodgers won the first of two World Series after shortened seasons (2020 being the second).

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8. Brian Anderson, Mike Hargrove, Game 7 1997 World Series

8. Brian Anderson, Mike Hargrove, Game 7 1997 World Series

Illustration for article titled The 10 worst pitching changes in World Series history
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The Tribe was three outs from its first World Series title in nearly a half-century. However, Hargrove replaced the solid Anderson, after a third of an inning, for closer Jose Mesa, who had already blown two games during the playoffs. The legs came off of Joe Table and Cleveland, who gifted the World Series to the upstart Marlins.

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7. Bruce Hurst, John McNamara, Game 7, 1986 World Series

7. Bruce Hurst, John McNamara, Game 7, 1986 World Series

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The reliable Hurst was dealing until he hit a rough patch in the sixth inning. McNamara, who made more bad decisions in the World Series than Donald Trump has with the coronavirus, could have stayed with Hurst or gone with Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd but he opted to trust struggling, young Calvin Schiraldi, who pitched poorly in Game 6 in a questionable quick hook of Roger Clemens. Schiraldi and McNamara blew the series, not Bill Buckner. May the underrated Billy Buck rest in peace!

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6. Roger Mason, Jim Fregosi, Game 4, 1993 World Series

6. Roger Mason, Jim Fregosi, Game 4, 1993 World Series

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Phillies’ Roger Mason delivers a pitch during Game 1 of 1993 World Series.
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Roger Mason is the least accomplished pitcher on this list but he was competent during the ‘93 Fall Classic, which is more than can be said for his teammates in the bullpen. Fregosi removed Mason for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the fifth with the Phillies leading 10-7. Ricky Jordan swung the bat for Mason, who was lights out in his 2 2/3 innings, and grounded out. Lenny Dykstra followed with his second homer of the game to give the Phillies a 12-7 lead. However, that advantage was squandered by the bullpen (including Mitch Williams), which ultimately allowed the Blue Jays to win 15-14. If the Phillies won, the series would have been even. Outs are what matters, Fregosi.

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5. Mike Montgomery, Joe Maddon, Game 6, 2016 World Series

5. Mike Montgomery, Joe Maddon, Game 6, 2016 World Series

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For such a genius, Joe Maddon has made some boneheaded mistakes in the World Series. Again, this move isn’t remembered since the Cubs ultimately won their first World Series since 1908. Kudos to Maddon, who did a heck of a job keeping his squad together during the season but he did make some curious pitching moves.

One day after throwing 42 pitches for an eight-out save, Aroldis Chapman replaced Montgomery to throw 20 pitches with a five-run lead, which didn’t make sense. The most dominant closer in baseball was already overworked coming into Game 5. Shouldn’t the southpaw with the 101-mph fastball have been resting since the Cubs were about to play their most important game since 1945? I forgot. Maddon is an unconventional mastermind. Now it all makes sense.

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4. Curt Schilling, Bob Brenly, Game 4, 2001 World Series

4. Curt Schilling, Bob Brenly, Game 4, 2001 World Series

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People forget about this managerial gaffe since it didn’t cost the Diamondbacks the World Series. Brenly removed Schilling with a 3-1 lead after seven innings. The D-Backs right-handed ace, who had given up just three hits in the game, still had some bullets left since he threw 88 pitches. Brenly went to Byung-Hyun Kim since he wanted Schilling to be on three days’ rest for a potential Game 7. The hole in that logic was that Schilling was dealing and if Arizona went up 3-1, the odds of a Game 7 were small. Kim earned a spot in baseball infamy for giving up home runs to Tino Martinez and Derek Jeter, which tied and won the game for the Yankees in one of the greatest games ever to be played at Yankee Stadium.

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3. Blake Snell, Kevin Cash, Game 6, 2020 World Series

3. Blake Snell, Kevin Cash, Game 6, 2020 World Series

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The Dodgers had no answer for the Rays ace, who struck out 9 out of the 18 Dodgers hitters he faced. With one out in the seventh, Snell gave up a single and was about to face the top of the LA order. Mookie Betts, Corey Seager and Justin Turner. Snell whiffed each of the three big bats twice. However, Cash took the ball from Snell. Tampa’s typically airtight bullpen melted down quickly. Cash defended himself by noting that he didn’t want Snell to face the heart of the Dodgers attack a third time. We’ll never know what would have happened if Snell stayed in the game but we do know that the lefty was dealing like the second coming of Sandy Koufax.

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2. Roger Mason, Jim Fregosi Game 6, 1993 World Series

2. Roger Mason, Jim Fregosi Game 6, 1993 World Series

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Phillies manager Jim Fregosi talks with Roger Mason during Game 2 of 1993 World Series.
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It’s deja vu all over again as Mason, Fregosi and Mitch make the list twice.

Roger Mason lowered his microscopic ERA to 0.84 but was taken out in the eighth inning. Mitch Williams, who pitched so well during the season and throughout the NLCS against the heavily favored Atlanta Braves, had a dead arm. That’s the reason Joe Carter hit the dramatic walk-off home run against Wild Thing. Of course, understanding Phillies fans egged Williams South Jersey home. Apparently they had no idea where Fregosi resided. Give Williams credit since he never made any excuses.

“I knew from the moment the ball left my hand that I made a mistake,” Williams once told me. Williams regretted that he had to throw from the slide step. “But that’s baseball,” Williams said. “I wanted to put the ball in a spot where Joe couldn’t hit out of the park. What was so painful about that was that we were down 5-1 in that game and took the lead. That was the epitome of our season. That team never quit. The way the game ended was beyond painful.”

Carter was 0-4 before facing the spent Williams in game 6.

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1. Zack Greinke, A.J. Hinch, Game 7, 2019 World Series

1. Zack Greinke, A.J. Hinch, Game 7, 2019 World Series

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It turns out that Kevin Cash pulling Snell early isn’t even the worst quick hook of the past two World Series.

Hinch is down with analytics but he also trusts his eyes. If any manager was going to let Greinke, who was dominant until the seventh inning, stay in the game after he had the Washington Nationals off balance all night, it was Hinch. The Astros skipper defied analytics during the 2017 World Series when he left unheralded reliever Brad Peacock in to pitch the final 3.2 inning of game 3 Peacock struck out four and didn’t allow a hit to earn his first major league save. It was the longest hitless World Series relief outing since 1964.

The athletic Greinke, who has won his share of Gold Gloves, threw leather at the Nats and an assortment of perplexing pitches. The focused former Cy Young Award winner faced only one batter over the minimum after six innings. With one out in the seventh Greinke made his only mistake of the night giving up a homer to Anthony Rendon, who cut the margin to 2-1. It was the Nats first hit since the second inning. After issuing a walk to the dangerous Juan Soto. Hinch pulled Greinke, who was utterly fantastic.

Astros ace Gerrit Cole was warming up along with Will Harris. “When we saw Cole warming up,” Nats hitting coach Kevin Long said, “We were almost like, ‘Please bring him in.’ Because that’s how good Zack Greinke was.”

Hinch, who committed two egregious errors during one visit to the mound, called for Harris and opted to rest Cole until the most dominant pitcher in baseball could sign a $324 million contract with the Yankees. That cements the move as one of the dumbest in World Series history as Howie Kendrick wasted little time in launching a two-run homer that gave the Nats the lead.

Too bad the Astros couldn’t steal a sign that would prevent a quick hook, which ultimately cost the team the World Series.

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