1986: SP Bruce Hurst
The 1986 Red Sox season was defined by the breakout of ace Roger Clemens. The former first-round pick had high expectations when he arrived in Boston in 1984, but two straight underwhelming, injury-plagued seasons had people questioning whether he was worthy of the hype. Clemens silenced all the doubters in 1986, taking home both the MVP and Cy Young awards with one of the best pitching seasons of all time (24-4, 2.48 ERA, 238 strikeouts).
Clemens may have had a regular season for the ages, but come the postseason, he took a backseat to lefthander Bruce Hurst. Hurst had spent the previous three seasons as a mid-rotation innings eater (4.18 ERA, 220 innings), but he took a major step forward in the 1986 season. Though he was limited to 25 starts due to injury, he posted a career-low 2.99 ERA and proved himself a worthy second option to Clemens.
Hurst kicked the postseason off by dominating the California Angels. He allowed just 4 earned runs over two starts; both Red Sox wins. He got the ball in Game One of the World Series and absolutely shoved, shutting out the high-powered Mets over eight innings in a 1-0 victory. Hurst was called on again in Game 5, this time to stop the bleeding after the Mets had won two straight to even the series. Once again, Hurst delivered, allowing just two runs over nine terrific innings.
Even though his Game 7 start (6 innings, three runs) wasn’t quite as sharp, Hurst would have undoubtedly been the World Series MVP if the Red Sox hadn’t choked the championship away. Instead, Hurst is remembered as a solid if unspectacular innings-eater rather than a World Series hero.