Nolan Ryan reached his 110- pitch limit in the eighth inning Friday night.
By then, however, it was obvious that there is still no limit to his effectiveness, though the Dodgers may not represent much of a criteria.
Ryan, at 40 and in his 20th season, worked 7 innings of the Houston Astros' 5-1 victory.
He struck out 11, walked none and allowed only five hits and an unearned run before leaving to appreciative applause from a Dodger Stadium crowd of 35,641.
Ryan has struck out 10 or more batters 167 times in his career. This season, he has done it five times in 13 starts.
He has permitted three runs or less in 12 of those starts, fashioning a 2.68 earned-run average that is more reflective of his performance than a 4-5 record.
"He's an amazing guy," Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda said of Ryan. "A man that age can still get out there and pump like that. . . . there's just no other way to say it except amazing."
The Dodgers are somewhat amazing, too.
There's no way to get a grip on them.
Just when they seemed to have come alive offensively, they had only four hits against Atlanta's Doyle Alexander in losing the finale of their recent road trip, 7-1, got only four hits off three Astro pitchers in losing, 1-0, Thursday night, and managed only six hits off Ryan and Larry Andersen, who pitched the last 1 innings.
"Two runs in three games," Lasorda moaned. "I don't know what it is.
"I mean, it's a shame. We got a good-pitched game last night and a good-pitched game tonight. You've got to win both those."
Fernando Valenzuela lost the Thursday night series opener, and Bob Welch (8-3) lost this one.
Welch had the Astros scoreless with two outs in the sixth when Denny Walling drilled a drive to right that Ralph Bryant, replacing the injured Mike Marshall, seemed to lose in the lights. He shied away from it and the ball fell at his feet and rolled away for what was scored a triple.
Glenn Davis followed with a single to give Ryan a 1-0 lead.
Welch kept it at that until the eighth, when he again had two outs only to issue consecutive walks to Bill Doran and Walling. Davis scored both with a double, after which Kevin Bass singled to score Davis and bring on Brad Havens, who balked Bass to second and yielded a run scoring single to Jose Cruz.
Did Welch tire?
"I was throwing good and felt fine," he said. "Then I walked those two guys with two outs. I just plain walked them and screwed up the whole game. One zip is a lot different than five zip."
The Dodgers got their only run with two outs in the home eighth on a single by Dave Anderson and a pinch hit infield single by Ken Landreaux, which Doran threw wildly to first.
The Astros, who have won six of eight games with the Dodgers this year, have won three in a row to move to within 1 1/2 games of Cincinnati and San Francisco, who are tied for the National League West lead. The Dodgers have lost three in a row to fall four games under .500.
Dodger Notes The Dodgers announced the signing of free-agent first baseman-outfielder Danny Heep to a one-year contract. Heep, 29, hit .282 in 86 games with the New York Mets last year and has a four year major league average of .257. Any club signing Heep before June 4 would have been required to compensate the Mets with an amateur draft choice, the principal reason he had remained unsigned--in addition to the frigid economic environment. His agent, Alan Hendricks, said Heep left the Mets because of a desire to play more. "The Cardinals, Phillies and Expos were also interested in him now," Hendricks said, "but the Dodgers were his No. 1 choice because they seemed to offer the best opportunity for him to play." Dodger Vice President Fred Claire said he sees Heep serving as a role player, strengthening the club from the left side of the plate amid Len Matuszek's injury and Ken Landreaux's slump. Landreaux's average is .214 overall, has one hit in his last 21 at bats and 2 for 17 as a pinch hitter. Trainer Bill Buhler said Matuszek's foot injury is not healing as quickly as hoped. Matuszek will see a specialist Monday. Heep is expected to spend two weeks with the Double-A San Antonio farm club before joining the Dodgers. . . . Claire said that he continues to talk with Mark Polan, the agent for relief pitcher Terry Forster, but that no decision has been reached regarding Forster's possible return to the club. "I expect to talk to him again tomorrow," Claire said, "even though it's his wedding day." . . . Matt Young, sidelined by a strained elbow, threw fastballs for 15 minutes without pain. "If it still feels good when I get to the park tomorrow I'll go back on the mound and throw breaking pitches," Young said. "If there's no problem after that I should be ready to pitch Tuesday."