ALL-STAR GAME : A QUICK STUDY : AL Pitchers Teach a Lesson by Making Fast Work of NL
They’ve all heard the rap about the quality of pitching in the American League.
You know, the league is full of pitchers who wouldn’t challenge a hitter with a fastball.
It’s a reputation the 10 American League All-Star pitchers--from Nolan Ryan, 42, to Greg Swindell, 23--were determined to change, if for only one night.
“I just heard something this morning about how the National League hitters always dominate this game,” said Cleveland’s Doug Jones, who gave up one hit in 1 1/3 innings to earn a save in the AL’s 5-3 victory.
“We’ve got guys who are throwing just as hard as they do. I think the American League is basically a fastball league now. The only difference between the leagues is the designated hitter.”
There weren’t a whole lot of National League players belittling AL pitching at Anaheim. The National League’s best had nine hits--all singles--and three of those came in the first inning when they roughed up Oakland’s Dave Stewart for two runs.
Then came the AL’s don’t-let-'em-hit parade: Texas’ Ryan, Kansas City’s Mark Gubicza, Oakland’s Mike Moore and Cleveland’s Swindell. Those four held the NL to three hits over the next 5 2/3 innings.
“The way Swindell and Gubicza were cranking it up there might change some of those opinions just a tad,” said Angel Manager Doug Rader, who was the AL’s third base coach. “If you want a benchmark, how about this? When Roger Clemens doesn’t even make the club, I think this league’s pitching is in pretty good shape.”
It didn’t look so great in the first inning when Stewart gave up three singles, two walks and a stolen base. The National League scored twice, but it could have been considerably worse. St. Louis shortstop Ozzie Smith was caught stealing, and teammate Pedro Guerrero lined to left to end the inning.
“I struggled with my forkball and that’s my bread-and-butter pitch,” said Stewart, who was passed over for the last two All-Star squads despite impressive statistics. “I’ve given up two runs in the first inning lots of times and come back to shut a team out the rest of the way. Unfortunately, you don’t get that chance in a game like this and you can’t be selfish about it. “
The majority of the American Leaguers who pitched--a record-tying eight--made the most of their opportunities, though.
Ryan became the oldest pitcher to win an All-Star game, taking that honor from Early Wynn, who was 38 when he won in 1958. Ryan struck out three and yielded only an infield single to San Diego’s Tony Gwynn in two innings.
“I think this is the highlight of my All-Star career,” Ryan said. “It was special because it was in Anaheim Stadium. This place brings back a lot of great recollections for me. And it’s been a nice trip for myself and my family.
“The key to my two innings was a good changeup and a pretty good curve. I think they were looking for my fastball, but I got ahead of them and didn’t have to give them many good pitches to hit. I think most of our pitchers did what we expected. Their pitching was indicative of the seasons they’re having so far.”
Swindell wasn’t sure what to expect. He admitted to being so excited, he almost forgot where he was. But he managed to match Ryan, striking out three and giving up two hits in a 1 2/3-inning stint.
“I really didn’t care if I gave up 10 runs, I just wanted to have fun here,” Swindell said. “but Tony (La Russa, the AL manager) told us in a meeting yesterday that we were going to do what it takes to win this thing.
“I was really pumped up. The adrenaline was flowing when I went in.”
This was not exactly a dream spot for a young pitcher making his first All-Star appearance. He threw his warmups and then had to enter the game against Houston’s Glenn Davis (16 homers and 47 RBIs this season), San Francisco’s Kevin Mitchell (31 and 81) and Cincinnati’s Eric Davis (16, 52).
“I didn’t really think about who I’d be facing until I got out there, but that’s why they call it an All-Star game,” Swindell said. “I did what we all did pretty well tonight and that’s keep the ball down. We got a lot of ground balls and some line drives, but we kept the ball in the park.
“You have to give Tony some of the credit. He put together a pretty good staff.”