Six of the best postseason performances in a defeat
You may have heard that the Cleveland Cavaliers lost Game 1 of the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors. While you likely know about it because of an error by J.R. Smith that evoked Fred Merkle's baserunning "boner" and created a meme out of LeBron James' reaction, it also obscured that King James was amazing. James scored 51 points, collected eight rebounds and dished eight assists -- the first 50-point postseason game since 1993 and the first one ever in a loss.
It also means that his performance will soon be forgotten. As sad as it is, if you don't get the 'W' on the biggest stage, no one will care.
We care. So, today, we honor six of the best MLB postseason performances that, despite great personal effort, came up short.
Sherry Smith in Game 2 of the 1916 World Series
13 1/3 IP, 2 ER, 7 H, 6 BB, 2 K
It was over 100 years ago, but wherever the Brooklyn Robins' Sherry Smith is, I bet he's still smarting this loss. After all, when you pitch 13 1/3 innings and lose, 2-1, on a 14th-inning single by the Red Sox's Del Gainey, you'd expect the offense could scratch together a few more runs -- dead-ball era or not.
Of course, you may recognize the name of the winning pitcher: Babe Ruth. He topped Smith with 14 innings and drove in the Red Sox's first run of the game.
Mike Cuellar in Game 3 of the 1973 ALCS
10 IP, 2 ER, 4 H, 3 BB, 11 K
Nothing separated the teams this day as the O's Cuellar took on the A's Ken Holtzman. After the Orioles took a 1-0 lead in the second inning on an Earl Williams home run, the A's tied up the game in the eighth as Joe Rudi hit a two-out single to score pinch-runner Allan Lewis.
The two starters kept at it, and the game entered the bottom of the 11th still tied at 1-1. Perhaps Orioles manager Earl Weaver should have gone to the bullpen then. Because Al Campaneris, who hit only four homers all season, led off the inning with a game-winning walk-off homer on a slider that Cuellar wished he got farther inside, to give the A's a 2-1 victory.
Left fielder Don Baylor nearly saved the day for Cuellar and almost robbed Campaneris' game-winner. "It was a line drive and I had to be running and jumping," Baylor said. "If I'd have been stationary, I probably could have jumped and caught it."
George Brett in Game 3 of the 1978 ALCS
3-for-5, 3 HR, 3 RBI
It may not be a surprise to learn that Brett's three-homer game is the only one in a postseason loss. It's not groundbreaking information to learn that if someone bashes three long balls, teams tend to win.
Not the case on Oct. 10, 1978. Facing Catfish Hunter, Brett led off the game with a homer. He added another in the third, and his final one came in the fifth. Unfortunately for Brett, they were all solo shots, and thanks to a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth by Thurman Munson, the Royals came up short. The Yankees won, 6-5.
"You have the best flaming game ever and you lose," Brett said afterward. "We didn't win, so the whole thing went for naught."
Nolan Ryan in Game 5 of the 1986 NLCS
9 IP, 1 R, 2 H, 1 BB, 12 K
It was a must-watch matchup: The then 39-year-old Ryan going up against the 21-year-old phenom Doc Gooden. The two were in a stalemate for nine frames (though Gooden pitched the 10th).
Unfortunately, Ryan couldn't pitch the whole thing. Charlie Kerfield came in for Ryan and, after Wally Backman singled, nearly picked him off. But an error on Kerfield allowed Backman to get to second. An intentional walk later and Gary Carter's single ended the game.
Mike Mussina in Game 6 of the 1997 ALCS
8 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 2 BB, 10 K
You can't ask a pitcher for more than that: An eight-inning one-hitter with double-digit strikeouts against the vaunted Indians lineup. (And this came after his Game 3 performance when he struck out 15 Indians ... in another loss).
Unfortunately for Mussina's Orioles, Charles Nagy may have given up nine hits in 7 2/3 innings, but didn't give up any runs thanks to two timely double plays.
Instead, it came down to the 11th inning, when Tony Fernandez -- in the lineup only because Bip Roberts was hit in the hand during BP -- beat Armando Benitez to send the Tribe to the World Series.
Mussina's final line in the 1997 ALCS: 15 IP, 25 K, 1 R and the Orioles went 0-2.
2-for-5, 2 HR, 5 RBI
If not for one of the most remarkable comebacks in history, Brandon Moss would be a hero in A's lore. Instead, his first-inning two-run homer and three-run shot in the fifth, which gave Oakland the lead over the Royals, were soon forgotten.
Just look at that shot: it's off a 98-mph fastball to dead center field.
But once Moss' power display was over, the Royals ran roughshod around the bases and won a 12-inning thriller, 9-8.