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.”
In the ninth, Valenzuela struck out Vince Coleman on a called third strike that caused Coleman to scream at home plate umpire Jerry Layne. McGee then walked on four pitches. But on an 0-and-2 count, Guerrero, celebrating his 34th birthday, ended the game.
Offensively, Valenzuela was supported by two RBIs by Hubie Brooks and Gibson. Brooks scored runs on a fly ball and his first home run since June 9, his 10th overall. The Dodgers also scored on a suicide squeeze by Javier and an eighth-inning homer by Juan Samuel, his fifth.
Kal Daniels scratched himself from the starting lineup during batting practice Friday, the sixth consecutive start he has missed since his back injury. Stan Javier started in center field, and Kirk Gibson was moved to left field. It was a quick change of fortune for Javier, who earlier in the afternoon had been informed by Manager Tom Lasorda that he was being benched for at least one game to allow Gibson and Daniels to play in the same outfield. Javier entered Friday night’s game with 15 hits in his last 16 games and a .411 batting average during that time.
Ray Searage will return to Class-A Bakersfield today and Sunday for his 10th and 11th rehabilitation appearances. Searage, 1-2 with a 3.65 ERA for Bakersfield, has 16 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings. He has been on the disabled list since May 14 because of a sore left elbow.
Injured third baseman Jeff Hamilton took 40 swings during an eight-minute batting practice session, but said only two minutes of those swings felt good. He will try to hit on consecutive days for the first time today. . . . In a meeting earlier this month, Tim Belcher was elected as the Dodgers’ full-time player representative, with Chris Gwynn the alternate. Belcher was only the interim representative last winter when he played a big role in the union negotiations with management. He had replaced the departed Dave Anderson.
A list of no-hitters by Dodger pitchers (Brooklyn 1890-1957, Los Angeles 1958 to present).
Date Pitcher Oppon. Scr June 27, 1980 Jerry Reuss San Frncsco 8-0 July 20, 1970 Bill Singer Philadelphia 5-0 Sept. 9, 1965 Sandy Koufax Chicago 1-0* June 4, 1964 Sandy Koufax Philadelphia 3-0 May 11, 1963 Sandy Koufax San Frncsco 8-0 June 30, 1962 Sandy Koufax New York 5-0 Sept. 25, 1956 Sal Maglie Philadelphia 5-0 May 12, 1956 Carl Erskine New York 3-0 June 19, 1952 Carl Erskine Chicago 5-0 Sept. 9, 1948 Rex Barney New York 2-0 April 23, 1946 Ed Head Boston 5-0 April 30, 1940 Tex Carleton Cincinnati 3-0 Aug. 27, 1937 Fred Frankhouse Cincinnati 5-0** Sept. 13, 1925 Dazzy Vance Philadelphia 10-1 Sept. 5, 1908 Nap Rucker Boston 6-0 July 20, 1906 Malcolm Eason St. Louis 2-0 June 2, 1894 Edward F. Stein Chicago 1-0*** Jne 22, 1891 Thomas Lovett New York 6-0
* Perfect game; ** 7 2/3 innings; *** 6 innings
Pitcher Team and Opp. Scr Date Mark Langston* Angels vs. Seattle 1-0 April 11 and Mike Witt* Randy Johnson Seattle vs. Detroit 2-0 June 2 Nolan Ryan Texas at Oakland 5-0 June 11 Dave Stewart Oakland at Toronto 5-0 June 29 F. Valenzuela Dodgers vs. St. Lou. 6-0 June 29
* Langston pitched 7 innings; Witt 2 innings.