National League Roundup : Ryan Wins With 2nd Walk-Free Game in Row

Danny Jackson and Orel Hershiser are two of the leading candidates for the Cy Young Award in the National League, but the best pitcher at the moment is a 41-year-old right-hander for the Houston Astros.

He is Nolan Ryan, who reached a milestone Wednesday night at Cincinnati when he did not walk a batter for the second game in a row in pitching the Astros to a 7-1 victory over the Reds.

Until a few years ago, Ryan had never pitched in a game in which he didn’t walk a batter. Last Thursday night against the Dodgers, in his 31st appearance this season, he didn’t walk a batter in a 2-1 win. Until then, he had only one walk-free game in his career.

For Ryan, consecutive games without walks is as big as Johnny Vande Meer’s back-to-back no-hitters. Compared with walk-free games, no-hitters have been easy for Ryan.


Ryan, who gave up 4 hits and struck out 13, outpitched Jackson, the 21-game winner who would be a shoo-in for the Cy Young if he didn’t have to face the Astros.

Most of this season the Astros have been in a hitting slump. But when they face Jackson they are power hitters. They hammered him for seven runs and seven hits, three of them home runs in 5 innings. The left-hander has lost seven games, three of them to the Astros. In the three losses, he has pitched 15 innings, giving up 22 hits and 17 runs, all earned. In another start he beat them, 4-3.

Ryan’s third consecutive victory gave him a 12-11 record. In his career, he is 273-253. It is because he has been only a little better than a .500 pitcher that his detractors say he doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame.

But, Eppa Rixey (266-251), Robin Roberts (286-245), and Hoyt Wilhelm (143-122) weren’t all that much better. Of course, Satchel Paige was only 28-31 in the majors. He made it because of his brilliance in the Negro Leagues.


Almost always, Ryan has been a strong finisher. This season is no exception. In his last 6 starts, Ryan has pitched 44 innings, giving up only 24 hits, 6 earned runs, walking only 7 and striking out 53.

Ryan was 3-1, but the Astros only 3-3 despite Ryan’s brilliance. It has been the story of his career--many well-pitched games in which his team failed to win for him.

“He’s awesome,” Manager Pete Rose of the Reds said of Ryan. “He’s probably pitching as good as any pitcher in the league right now.”

Ryan, the all-time major league strikeout king, has struck out 224 in 218 innings this season.


“I threw the fastball about 75% of the time,” Ryan said. “They’re a free-swinging club, and they were chasing them.”

Pittsburgh 4, Montreal 1--Bobby Bonilla has finally emerged from a six-week slump, but it’s a little late to do the Pirates much good.

Bonilla, who doubled in the only run Tuesday night in a win over Dwight Gooden, hit a 3-run home run in the 12th inning at Montreal to win this one.

Bonilla’s first home run since Aug. 14 left the Pirates 10 games behind New York in the East with just 18 games to play.


New York 3, Chicago 1--Sid Fernandez, in danger of losing his spot in the Mets’ rotation, limited the Cubs to three hits in seven innings.

Fernandez (9-10) struck out eight before leaving with a slight strain in his right knee. Roger McDowell finished for his 16th save, although giving up the run.

The Mets scored all their runs in the third on a walk, triples by Howard Johnson and Mookie Wilson, sandwiched around Wally Backman’s double.

Philadelphia 9, St. Louis 2--Phil Bradley and Lance Parish homered at Philadelphia to help Bob Sebra win for the first time since July 12 last year.


The Cardinals, who gave up only 11 runs in winning seven in a row, have given up 30 runs in losing the last three.

San Francisco 6, San Diego 5--Tony Gwynn lined to third base for the final out at San Diego with the potential tying and winning runs on base.

Gwynn, returning to action despite a painful thumb injury in an effort to repeat as batting champion, went 1 for 5 and his average dropped to .307.

The three-game sweep enabled the Giants to take a two-game lead over the Padres in the battle for fourth place in the West.