Aug 18, 2009, 9:00 AM EDT
Over the years, Tom Seaver and Steve have become somewhat inextricably linked, as being two of the best pitchers–if not the very two best–of their generation. Their careers spanned nearly the same time period, they both came to define a franchise and won World Series titles as that team's best pitcher, they both racked up Cy Youngs (three for Seaver, four for Carlton) and All-Star appearances (12 for Seaver, ten for Carlton), they even both struck out 19 batters in a game–the two first pitchers to accomplish the feat in the modern era. Despite being compared to Nolan Ryan for much of his life due to the two's sporadic competition for the all-time strikeout lead in the early 80s, it was Seaver that Carlton considered to be his greatest rival.
However, despite the two ending up as rough equivalents in terms of all-time numbers, their numbers when it came to head-to-head matchups were not quite so even-handed. Simply put, Seaver owned Carlton, going 11-3 in games pitched against the Cardinals and Phillies ace–even in Carlton's 27-game 1972 season, two of his ten losses came at the hand of Seaver's Mets. The two met for the 15th time in on August 18th, 1981, with the 36-26 Phils visiting the 38-25 Reds at Riverfront Stadium.
Sadly, the 15th meeting went much like the first 14, with Seaver emerging victorious. Carlton was strong, going seven innings and allowing only two runs, but Seaver was just a little better, going eight and a third and just letting up one run (both struck out five and walked four, oddly). A two-run rally in the sixth for the Reds on RBIs from Ray Knight and Sam Meijas proved to be the difference in the game, as the Reds won the game 3-1. Neither team made the playoffs in that strike-split season, but both came close–the Phillies losing a five-game entry playoff to the Expos, and the Reds missing altogether despite technically having had the best record in the NL over the course of the whole season.
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