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The Night of Two No-Hitters : Fernando Pitches One for the First Time as He Stymies Cardinals, 6-0

June 30, 1990|BILL PLASCHKE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Thirty minutes before the Dodgers faced the St. Louis Cardinals Friday, Fernando Valenzuela noticed on a clubhouse television set that Oakland pitcher Dave Stewart had thrown a no-hitter in Toronto.

"Fernando turned to some teammates and he said, 'That's great, now maybe we'll see another no-hitter,' " Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda said.

Valenzuela then pitched as well as he predicted, throwing the first no-hitter of his career in a 6-0 victory.

It was the first time in the modern baseball era that two no-hitters have been pitched on the same day, and the fifth no-hitter in the major leagues this season. It was the Dodgers' first no-hitter since Jerry Reuss had one against the San Francisco Giants on June 27, 1980, and only the team's second no-hitter since 1970.

"And it couldn't have happened to a tougher, more competitive guy," Lasorda said. "You look at Fernando and he has done everything in his career except a no-hitter. And now . . . this."

Proving that he is more than a mere memory, Valenzuela provided new memories for the 38,583 at Dodger Stadium. Only four Cardinals reached base--on three walks and an error--and Valenzuela struck out seven.

With Willie McGee on first base and one out in the ninth inning, former Dodger Pedro Guerrero hit a grounder up the middle that seemed destined for the outfield. But Valenzuela stuck out his glove, the ball nicked the leather and rolled to Juan Samuel, who stepped on second base and threw to first baseman Eddie Murray, who made the double-play catch that sent Dodgers running to the mound.

Valenzuela did not throw his glove or jump up and down. He stood on the mound and jabbed his arms into the air until he was hugged by catcher Mike Scioscia.

"Do you think if I don't touch that ball, it goes through for a single?" Valenzuela asked afterward. "Whoooa. I think it does. I think I don't touch it, I'm in trouble.

"I was just glad to see Scioscia running to the mound from the plate. Only then did I know it was over. Thank goodness Alfredo Griffin made the catch and the throw."

When reminded that it was Samuel who made the final play, Valenzuela laughed.

"That shows you how excited I am," he said after improving to 6-6 with a 3.73 earned-run average. "This is a great moment for me."

A no-hitter by Valenzuela seemed a remote possibility, at least on paper. He had won only once in his last six starts. He had not beaten the Cardinals since May 6, 1988, in St. Louis.

He was averaging 9.2 hits against him per nine innings. He had only thrown two complete games this season, including his first shutout since 1987 when he beat the Chicago Cubs, 5-0, April 27.

He had never had a no-hitter or a one-hitter in his 10-year career. His best effort had been a two-hitter--of which he had eight, the latest coming last Aug. 12 at San Francisco.

"But this is a different pitcher than in previous seasons," Scioscia said. "This guy is not as quick as the old Fernando, but this guy still knows how to win."

Valenzuela's 10-year Dodger career began with Cy Young and rookie of the year awards in 1981, but had since fallen on hard times because of shoulder problems. He started well Friday night, struggled in the end and didn't need much help.

The only thing close to a hit was a fly ball by Craig Wilson into the left-center field gap with one out in the eighth. It was chased down and grabbed by Stan Javier, who was playing because Kal Daniels was suffering back spasms.

"The only hard-hit balls were foul balls," Lasorda said.

Valenzuela, 29, breezed through the first six inings, only Guerrero reaching base when Gibson dropped his fly ball in left field with two outs in the first. At that point, Valenzuela had thrown 75 pitches.

But in the final three innings, he threw 49 pitches, and was obviously tired.

"But this was a different kind of tired," Valenzuela said. "This kind of tired did not bother me. You think I feel anything during those last inning? No way."

With one out in the seventh, he began to struggle, walking Guerrero and Todd Zeile. But he settled to retire Terry Pendleton on a fly ball and Jose Oquendo on a grounder to third.

He fell behind in the count to two of the three hitters he faced in the eighth, but still retired Rex Hudler on a grounder to shortstop, Ozzie Smith on a wild swinging strikeout and Wilson on the fly ball to Javier.

During this time, his only conversations on the bench concerned his second-favorite topic, hitting.

"All the starting pitchers have a bet as to who will hit higher, and we always talk about it," pitcher Mike Morgan said. "So when Fernando came back after making his first two outs at the plate, we would say, 'Oh for one,' and then 'Oh for two' and he would shake his head."

Valenzuela even got the last laugh there, as he singled to left and scored on Kirk Gibson's two-run single in the seventh. But by the ninth inning, everybody had forgotten about his bat.

"We all had goose bumps," Morgan said. "We were all just watching and hoping and waiting to charge the field."

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