Before 1980, only three pitchers in major league baseball had 3,000 career strikeouts, but since then, seven more have passed that milestone.
Bert Blyleven joined the group with a flourish Friday night at Minneapolis. The 35-year-old right-hander pitched a two-hitter and struck out a career-high 15 batters in a 10-1 victory over the Oakland A’s.
Blyleven, who came into the came with 2,992 strikeouts, reached the 3,000 level when he got Mike Davis in the fifth inning. Nolan Ryan leads the with 4,209 strikeouts. Others still going strong are Steve Carlton, Tom Seaver, Don Sutton and Phil Niekro. Carlton needs three more to reach 4,000.
Gaylord Perry, Walter Johnson, Bob Gibson and Ferguson Jenkins (who made it in 1982) also had more than 3,000 strikeouts.
The strong performance was a switch this season for Blyleven, who has served up 33 home runs, tops in the majors.
“I’ve been hurt a lot by one pitch this year, and I thought about that one pitch,” he said. “I don’t care how many years you pitch, you’re going to have ups and downs. It’s just a matter of finding the ups.”
Kirby Puckett, the hottest hitter in baseball this week, made sure Blyleven breezed to the 222nd win of a career that began in 1969.
Puckett hit for the cycle. He tripled in the first, doubled in the fifth, singled in the sixth and got his 22nd home run in the eighth. It was the fourth consecutive game in which the center fielder had at least three hits. In the four games he is 13 for 20, has scored 6 runs and, although leading off, has driven in 8 runs.
Puckett raised his average to .343 and trails Wade Boggs, the batting leader, by only four points.
The excited Puckett wanted to talk about Blyleven’s pitching. He had the best seat in the house, he said.
“It was the best pitching exposition (sic) I’ve ever seen,” he said. “I was just standing out there and didn’t have to move. I’m sure glad I didn’t have to face him.”
Boston 5, Kansas City 3--The Red Sox, returning from a disastrous trip (3-10), made immediate good use of friendly Fenway Park.
Boggs came out of a 1-for-17 slump with a pair of hits, Jim Rice had three hits and Tony Armas hit his fifth home run of the season and his first since July 6.
Bruce Hurst weathered a barrage of three home runs in the fourth inning to improve his record to 6-5 with his first victory since suffering a groin injury May 31.
“Any ballclub can have a slump,” Armas said. “I hope ours is over.”
The defeat dropped the World Series champion Royals 10 1/2 games behind the Angels in the West.
With the Yankees splitting a doubleheader at Cleveland, the Red Sox increased their lead in the East to 4 1/2.
Cleveland 4-3, New York 3-5--It was almost a glorious night for 65,934 fans at Cleveland, but Don Mattingly spoiled the finish.
After Phil Niekro, earned his 308th victory in a relief role in the opener of a doubleheader, the Indians battled back to wipe out a 2-0 deficit and were all even, 3-3, going into the ninth inning of the nightcap.
But the celebration for the largest crowd ever to see a twi-night doubleheader came to an abrupt halt when Mattingly hit a two-run home run to give the Yankees a split.
Ron Guidry (5-9) lost the opener when Julio Franco’s bloop double in the sixth drove in the tiebreaking run. Niekro, whose younger brother, Joe, started for the Yankees in the second game, pitched 2 scoreless innings of relief to improve his record to 8-7.
Baltimore 7, Toronto 3--As if one hot rookie isn’t enough, the Orioles found another in this game at Toronto.
Jim Traber hit his sixth home run in 13 games, while Tom Dodd, just called up from Charlotte of the Double-A Southern League, hit a two-run home run to highlight a five-run sixth inning that carried the Orioles to victory.
The rally helped Ken Dixon improve his record to 10-8. He needed help from Rich Bordi in the eighth.
“I never thought I’d be called up,” said Dodd, a right-handed batter. “When you’re 27 and playing Double-A, you think you’re past your prime. It’s a dream come true.”
Texas 7-8, Milwaukee 2-6--Steve Buechele drove in five runs in the first game of the doubleheader at Milwaukee, and when rookie Pete Incaviglia hit his first grand slam to open the second game, the Rangers were on their way to a sweep.
Incaviglia’s 18th home run came after Bob Gibson, getting a rare start, opened the game by loading the bases on two walks and a hit.
The sweep enabled the Rangers to pull within three games of the Angels in the West.
Bobby Witt (6-9) struck out seven in 6 innings and won the opener. Although he couldn’t hold an 8-0 lead, Edwin Corea (7-9) won the nightcap.
Detroit 5, Chicago 4--Lou Whitaker hit the first pitch of the game into the right-field stands at Chicago, and the Tigers were never headed.
Walt Terrell (10-8) went seven innings to gain his third victory without a defeat since the All-Star game. Willie Hernandez finished up for his 20th save, leaving the potential tying run on third.
It was the 16th time in nine seasons that Whitaker hit a home run leading off for the Tigers. The win was the Tigers’ 12th in the last 16 games.