With the Dodgers and Braves being tied at one game a piece and back to LA for Game 3, our Dodger playoff moment brings us back to 1981 where Fernandomania was running wild.
When the Dodgers face the Yankees it always means something more for both teams and in 1981, they faced off once again in the World Series. Down 0-2 and coming back to Dodger Stadium, the Dodgers had rookie Fernando Valenzuela on the mound and he delivered the turnaround victory that led the Dodgers’ comeback in the series.
Valenzuela pitched a tough game, going the distance despite allowing nine hits, walking seven and constantly pitching out of trouble. He started the game walking two Yankee hitters in the top of the first, but found his way out of it as it looked like he just didn’t have his best stuff on the night. Then, Ron Cey gave him a 3-0 lead with a three-run shot off Yankees starter Dave Righetti.
The Yankees then took a 4-3 lead in the third inning, but Valenzuela was able to get out of more jams and keep the Dodgers in it.
The Dodgers gave Valenzuela the lead back in the bottom of the fifth when Pedro Guerrero doubled in Steve Garvey to tie it and Cey scored on a double play grounder by Mike Scioscia.
Valenzuela was able to settle down after taking the lead and with the Dodger Stadium crowd behind him, he was able to go the distance and hold the Yankees to four runs the rest of the game to take the 5-4 victory.
The Dodgers went on to win the next three games to win their fifth World Series title, but it all started with the pitching performance from Valenzuela.
Valenzuela was a relatively unknown player coming from Mexico when the Dodgers signed him to contract prior to the 1979 season. Well, he wasn’t unknown for long after starting the 1981 season with the club, coming out victorious in his first eight starts with five shutouts and a 0.50 ERA.
That year, Valenzuela became the first ever player to win the N.L Rookie of the year and N.L. Cy Young Awards in the same season. He was also the first rookie to lead the N.L in strikeouts.
Here’s video of Fernando finishing off the complete game: