If you’ve been having baseball flashbacks to 2013 lately, there’s a good reason for that. Seven starting pitchers from that year’s championship series are or were starting games in this year’s playoffs.
The passage of time is generally cruel to athletes (and people in general), especially athletes in their 30s.
You: "I'm only 35, I have my whole life ahead of me."— Troy Johnson (@_troyjohnson) December 6, 2016
Sports Broadcaster: "Here comes the oldest player in the league. He's 32. A miracle."
These seven pitchers (Hyun-Jin Ryu, Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Justin Verlander, Adam Wainright, Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez) have beaten the odds, continuing to be successful for playoff teams more than a half decade later.
Nowhere was that more apparent than in the first two games of the National League Division Series this weekend, where Sanchez and Scherzer had back-to-back seven-plus inning scoreless starts against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Does this sound familiar? Sanchez and Scherzer (along with the Astros’ Verlander) were teammates on the 2013 Detroit Tigers, and pitched the same spots in the rotation for the American League Division Series that year.
In Game 1, Sanchez pitched six innings, allowing six walks while striking out 12. He combined with his bullpen for a one-hit shutout of the Boston Red Sox (who would go on to win the World Series that year). In the second game, Scherzer no-hit the Red Sox through five, before allowing a pair of hits to Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia to score the first run of the series for Boston. Scherzer struck out 13 in seven innings (though the Red Sox ultimately won that game).
Per ESPN Stats & Info, this was the first time that two pitchers had ever held the same team hitless through five innings in consecutive games ever in postseason history — a feat they recreated and improved on, six years later.
On Friday, Sanchez had pitched seven innings without allowing a hit before he gave up a single to Jose Martinez in the eighth inning. After that, Sean Doolittle entered and got the last four outs without incident for a combined one-hit shutout. Eerily similar to Sanchez’ 2013 game one start, if not better. Though he struck out fewer batters, he also allowed five fewer walks and pitched deeper into the game, needing only one reliever to complete the shutout.
On Saturday, Scherzer pitched seven innings, allowing just one hit and two walks while striking out 11 and allowing no runs. Doolittle once again entered the game, and allowed a single to Paul DeJong. It was, naturally, Martinez again who ended the shutout streak (just as he ended the no-hitter the night before), as he doubled on a line drive that got through the arms of a leaping Michael A. Taylor to score DeJong.
Aside from that one play, though, the game went a whole lot better than his start in game two of the 2013 championship series (in which Scherzer’s bullpen imploded in the eighth and ninth innings for five runs) and the Nationals were able to hold the Cardinals to one run to take a 2-0 lead in the series.