Dave Stewart, baseball’s dominant pitcher in April, helped make this a June to remember.
The Oakland Athletics’ right-hander, who had lost six of 10 decisions since going 5-0 in April, pitched a no-hit, 5-0 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays Friday night. It was baseball’s fourth no-hitter this season and third in June, coming only hours before Fernando Valenzuela’s no-hitter for the Dodgers against St. Louis.
“The more you think about the guys coming out of their dugout, the more you realize just what this means,” Stewart said. “You look at the Bells, the Fernandezes and the Grubers, and you know you’ve done a job.”
The Blue Jays lead the league in runs scored, home runs and runs batted in.
“About the fifth inning, I was aware that I had one,” Stewart said. “I just kept thinking ‘One hitter at a time, one strike at a time.’
“I was getting the fastball over, and when I went to the forkball it worked for me.”
Stewart, 33, struck out a season-high 12 in ending a streak during which he had lost his last three decisions and five of the last six.
“I felt real good,” he said. “I had a crisp fastball tonight and my location was really good. If they were going to beat me, they were going to have to beat my number one--my fastball. I used that to set up my off-speed stuff.”
Stewart struggled early, walking the first two, then was perfect until a two-out walk in the ninth. Tony Fernandez flied to center to end the game.
“I was calm all night,” Stewart said. “It hasn’t sunk in yet. But maybe that’s a good thing or I’ll start thinking I can do it all the next time.”
Stewart did not need much help from his fielders. The only ball that came close to being a hit was Fernandez’s grounder leading off the fourth inning. First baseman Mark McGwire darted to his right and went to his knees to backhand the ball and flipped to Stewart covering for the out.
Before grounding out, Fernandez ripped a line drive that struck first base umpire Tim Welke. Welke had to look down to make sure he was standing in foul territory.
Fred McGriff hit the longest ball off Stewart, a drive that center fielder Dave Henderson caught at the 400-foot sign.
“My heart stopped for a minute on that one,” Stewart said. “I thought that might be the first hit. But it was to the deepest part of the ballpark.
“I thought McGriff’s ball would at least be a double off the wall, especially after Hendu broke so hard on it.”
His reaction when Henderson caught it?
“Whew!” Stewart said.
Said McGriff: “Didn’t quite get all of it. He’s a classy guy. You hate to be no-hit, but you have to feel good for Stewart.”
Said Dave Henderson: “The first seven innings, he was the same old Stew. When he got into the eighth and ninth, guys started moving away from him (in the dugout). “I didn’t want to be around him. I didn’t want him to blame me (if the no-hitter failed).”
Dave Henderson and Rickey Henderson hit two-run homers against John Cerutti (4-6) as the Blue Jays lost their fifth consecutive game.
Said A’s Manager Tony La Russa: “In the ninth inning, all of a sudden I wanted it real bad for him. And when you want it real bad, you get real nervous. . . . It was important for Stew personally, and he deserves it.
“He looked a lot like Nolan (Ryan) the last few innings. Those great ones, when they smell it--damn, they turn it up.”
Stewart’s was the second no-hitter against the Blue Jays in their 14-year history. Cleveland’s Len Barker pitched a perfect game against Toronto May 15, 1981. It was the first no-hitter by an Oakland pitcher since Mike Warren pitched one against the White Sox Sept. 29, 1983.
Stewart has won 20 or more games three years in a row, but has been beaten out for the Cy Young Award by Roger Clemens, Frank Viola and Bret Saberhagen.
Stewart started the 1989 All-Star game and was voted most valuable player of the 1989 World Series after winning two of Oakland’s four games in a sweep of the San Francisco Giants.
“This was the highlight of my career,” Stewart said. “Winning 20 ballgames, that’s something because they don’t have to vote on 20 wins. But I thought after winning a World Series and an MVP that you couldn’t top that. This does.”
Stewart began the first by walking Junior Felix, who was caught stealing by Terry Steinbach. Stewart also walked Fernandez and then retired 25 before walking Felix with two outs in the ninth.
The sellout crowd of 49,817 was silent as Stewart went to the mound for the ninth. An estimated 7,000 had left the SkyDome with the Blue Jays trailing.
The scoreboard urged the crowd to cheer for the Blue Jays, and they did, but it did not help.
The crowd then began cheering and rhythmic clapping, this time for Stewart.
“It’s just a great feeling, something I’ll always remember.”
One Blue Jay who didn’t get a chance to face Stewart was Nelson Liriano. The Blue Jays’ part-time second baseman broke up consecutive no-hit bids by the Angels’ Kirk McCaskill and Rangers’ Nolan Ryan with hits in the ninth inning in the span of a week last season.
A list of no-hitters thrown by Athletics’ pitchers (Philadelphia 1901-54, Kansas City 1955-67, Oakland 1968-present).
Date Pitcher Opp. Scr June 29, 1990 Dave Stewart at Toronto 5-0 Sept. 29, 1983 Mike Warren Chicago 3-0 Sept. 28, 1975 Vida Blue Angels 5-0 Glenn Abbott Paul Lindblad and Rollie Fingers Sept. 21, 1970 Vida Blue Minnesota 6-0 May 8, 1968 Catfish Hunter* Minnesota 4-0 Sept. 3, 1947 Bill McCahan Washington 3-0 Sept. 9, 1945 Dick Fowler St. Louis 1-0 Aug. 26, 1916 Joe Bush Cleveland 5-0 May 12, 1910 Chief Bender Cleveland 4-0 July 22, 1905 Weldon Henley at St. Louis 6-0