(c) Houston Astros
Ryan strikes out 11, sails past 4000
Astrosí 4-3 win ends New York run at 9 games
July 11, 1985 - by Ivy McLemore, Houston Post
Four thousand four . . . and counting.
Nolan Ryan won another battle against a statistical milestone Thursday night when he became the first pitcher in major league history to collect 4,000 strikeouts in a career with an 11-strikeout performance against the New York Mets.
The Astros capped the evening by winning a 12-inning war against the Mets on Bill Doranís fifth hit, a one-out, run-scoring single down the left-field line against reliever Tom Gorman that snapped New Yorkís nine-game winning streak.
Ryan reached the magical 4,000 mark when former Astro Danny Heep swung and missed at a curveball in the dirt on an 0-and-2 count to lead off the sixth.
Irony in victim
The Astrodome crowd of 20,921 came to its feet after the first two strikes and cheered wildly when Ryan struck out Heep to write a memorable page of baseball history.
Ironically, Ryan accomplished the feat against the same team that signed him as an eighth-round draft choice in 1965.
"Itís possible that (Philadelphiaís) Steve Carlton will pass the 4,000 mark," said Ryan, whose fastest pitch was clocked at 97mph. "But I donít think any of the other veteran pitchers will do it."
"Itíll be quite a few years down the road before anybody else does it. There are just so many factors involved. Youíre talking about years of consistency and being healthy enough to pitch enough innings. Only time will tell on anybody."
Carlton 96 behind
Carlton, on the 21-day disabled list with a strained rotator cuff, is second to Ryan on the all-time list with 3,908 career strike-outs.
Ryan had increased his career total to 3,999 in the previous inning when Darryl Strawberry and Gary Carter each took a third strike for the final two outs in the fifth, prompting the crowd to begin chanting "Nolan ... Nolan ... Nolan" when Ryan came out for the sixth.
Ryan, named to the National League All-Star team earlier in the day, left for a pinch-hitter in the seventh.
His 11 strikeouts represented his highest single-game total of the season. He had struck out 10 against Philadelphia on May 3 and against Montreal on May 8.
The veteran right-hander had earned a niche in baseballís Hall of Fame by becoming the first major-league pitcher to throw five no-hitters in a career. He enhanced his chances when he broke Walter Johnsonís all-time major-league record of 3,508 strikeouts on April 27, 1983.
Doranís hit in the 12th was his eighth in his last 10 at-bats. It scored Dickie Thon, who had opened the inning with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice by Dave Smith.
"But the night belongs to Nolan," said Doran, who improved his average to .284 with the first five-hit game by an Astro this season. "The man is amazing."
Thon collected three hits in one game for the first time this season, and Smith pitched three innings of scoreless relief to improve his record to 5-3 as the Asros improved their season mark in extra-inning games to 3-9.
"Itís especially gratifying to win an extra-inning game," manager Bob Lillis said.
"Nolan threw 123 pitches in seven innings tonight. He threw 123 pitches in nine and two-thirds innings last week in San Diego. He started getting his pitches up at the end."
The Mets put a damper on Ryanís strikeout party by scoring two unearned runs in the seventh to send the game into extra innings.
Disaster struck when centerfielder Ty Gainey dropped Len Dykstraís fly ball after a long run for a 2-base error. Dykstra was safe at third when he eluded a run-down between second and third after Ryan fielded Keith Hernandezís grounder. While the Astros were losing their cat-and-mouse game with Dykstra, Hernandez took second.
A sacrifice fly by Strawberry and a run-scoring single by Carter tied the score.
Ryan relied on his trademark in the second when he struck out Rafael Santana and Sid Fernandez with a runner in scoring position. The inning had evolved into a potential disaster when Carter and Heep singled and advanced on a wild pitch that preceded a run-scoring bloop double to left by Howard Johnson
Dykstra ended the inning with a grounder to second, but more tense moments awaited Ryan in the third.
Ryan, who issued five walks in four innings in his previous start, walked Hernandez, Strawberry and Carter to load the bases with one out. This time, Ryan found a better escape route than a strikeout when Heep grounded into a double play.
Ryanís strikeout total continued to mount in the fourth. He threw an 0-and-2 pitch that prompted Fernandez to walk away from the batterís box only to have plate umpire Dave Phillips call the pitch a ball. Fernandez fanned on the next pitch becoming Ryanís 3,997th strikeout victim.
The Astros came up with the equalizer in the same inning.
Glenn Davis extended his hitting streak to six games with a run-scoring single that followed a lead-off single by Phil Garner and a ground-out.
The Astros scored a run in each of the next two innings to take a 3-1 lead.
Doran collected his 11th consecutive hit and his third of the game with a single in the 11th that scored Thon.
Kevin Bass became the first Astro to hit 10 home runs with his blast in the sixth.
Ryan hits milestone as Astros top Mets
July 11, 1985 - by Neil Hohfeld, Houston Chronicle
In the grand scheme of baseball history, Dickie Thonís three little singles will pale in comparison to Nolan Ryanís 4,000th strikeout.
But donít be fooled. Before the season is over, the Astros may remember the first part of July as the period in which Thon, their heart and soul before he was injured last year, started to come all the way back.
Thon had three hits and scored the winning run in the 12th inning Thursday night as the Astros beat the Mets 4-3. The significance of Thonís performance was not lost on second baseman Billy Doran, whose fifth hit of the game drove in the winning run.
"Getting five hits and driving in the winning run on the night Nolan makes history is exciting," said Doran, "but Iím happier for Dickie than I am for myself."
"Heís been through hell. The last few weeks Iíve noticed him coming back little by little. I think heís going to be there."
In his last three starts, Thon is 7 for 14 with a home run, two doubles, three RBIs and his first stolen base of the season. His batting average finally is over .200 (.210 after Thursday.) The worst appears to be over.
"Iím feeling better and hitting the ball better," said Thon. "Iíve always thought that if you have a good night, you have to follow it up with another one. Iím still taking things one day at a time."
Three straight good games, though, is enough for Doran to start to wonder what it would be like if Thon returned to his 1983 form, when he hit .286 with 20 homers and 79 RBI.
"Taking nothing away from anybody in this room, we need him back to win," said Doran. "When Dickie is right, heís the best player on this team. He can do things the rest of us canít."
Until the last two weeks, Thon had been feeling his way through the season. He had sputtered and failed at the plate. Lately, though, there have been signs that Thon might be ready to reassume his role as the best shortstop in the league.
"Even when he was making outs the last few weeks, he was hitting the ball well," said Manager Bob Lillis. "Heís getting there."
Still, Lillis is taking a cautious approach. For the time being, Lillis said Thon will continue to start only against left-handers. The Mets will start three right-handers during the rest of this weekend series.
A note of interest. One of Thonís hits Thursday was off Roger McDowell, a right-hander.
"Weíll play it by ear," said Lillis. "Craig (Reynolds) is doing a good job against right-handers. Dickieís coming around, hitting the ball hard and gaining confidence."
Thon and Doran figured in two of the Astrosí four runs Thursday. Thon led off the fifth inning with a single and stole second base. Doranís third straight hit, a single to center, brought home Thon to give the Astros a 2-1 lead.
After Kevin Bassí solo homer made it 3-1 in the sixth, the Mets scored two unearned runs off Ryan to tie the score. An error by center fielder, Ty Gainey, and a botched rundown play by Thon put the Mets in position to tie the game.
Darryl Strawberryís sacrifice fly and Gary Carterís single tied it at 3, denying Ryan, who finished the game with 4,004 strikeouts, a chance to win on his historic night.
Instead, the Astros pulled off another monumental happening. They actually won an extra-inning game. It was their first since May 22 and raised their overtime record to 8-10.
Thon led off the 12th with a single off losing pitcher Tom Gorman. Dave Smith, the winning pitcher, bunted Thon to second before Doranís single down the left-field line.
"It was neat to win this one for Nolan, but it was neat to score in extra innings," said Smith. "The thing that I thinking about just now is that Dickie and Billy won this game, just like old times."
So, too, was the enthusiasm of the crowd of 30,921. After three straight ho-hum crowds of under 10,000 against the Phillies, Smith noticed the players came to life before Thursdayís fired-up audience.
"I wish we could have these three, four times a week," said Smith, who raised his record to 5-3. "I was looking around the dugout tonight, and it was a different bench. People donít realize this, but fans do affect players."
"I know that Nolan Ryan doesnít get 4,000 strikeouts every night, but itís about time we had some electricity around this place. Look back at 1980, when we won a lot of games this way. You donít think that had something to do with it?"
Perhaps. On Thursday, much of the crowd came to see either Ryan make history or to watch the Mets, a team with a huge following in Houston. The Mets were on a 9-game winning streak, the longest in the league this year.
Ryan didnít disappoint the crowd. He struck out Danny Heep to lead off the sixth inning for number 4,000. For good measure, Ryan added four more strikeouts to finish with 11.
But because the Astros gave the Mets two runs in the seventh, Ryanís record stayed at 8-6. He hasnít won since June 17, when his record was 8-3.
That was forgotten after this historic night. But as Ryan has said all along, strikeout records are things that will be forgotten in time.
If Dickie Thon continues to hit they way he did in the last week, the 1983 Astrosí season just might be something to remember after all.
"If weíre going to win we need him," said Doran. "Itís that simple. I think heís starting to come around."