If striking out the Angels in the eighth inning Tuesday night was his farewell to the Anaheim Stadium fans who thrilled to his exploits during eight of his best seasons, Nolan Ryan said goodby with a flourish.
He would rather have said goodby with a victory.
The 43-year-old right-hander made the 700th start of his career, a level reached by only five pitchers before him. He also increased his career strikeout total to 5,257 when he struck out Dick Schofield, Luis Polonia and Devon White in the eighth, which evoked a standing ovation from the 37,692 fans at Anaheim Stadium.
“They’ve always treated me special here, and I’ve always felt like I have a special relationship with them,” said Ryan, who struck out 11.
But Kirk McCaskill wouldn’t allow Ryan to add another victory to his collection of 301. Ensnaring the Rangers in a web of superb control, McCaskill pitched a four-hitter in the Angels’ 2-0 victory over Ryan and the Texas Rangers. It was McCaskill’s first shutout since Aug. 20, 1989, and his first complete game since last September.
“Believe me, it’s a thrill to beat Nolan Ryan,” said McCaskill, who made only 94 pitches and improved to 10-9. “It’s something I’ll be able to tell my (3-month-old) son. I could tell him now, but he might not understand.”
Ryan (12-7) understood that he had been beaten by an outstanding effort.
“He really pitched well,” Ryan said of McCaskill, who was 4 in 1965 when Ryan broke into professional baseball. “He kept us off stride and made good pitches. He never was in trouble but that one inning (the sixth).”
The sixth was the only inning in which Texas got a runner past first base. Geno Petralli lined a shot off the mound for an infield hit and went to third on former Angel Gary Pettis’ broken-bat single to right. But Angel catcher Lance Parrish caught Pettis attempting to steal second and Jeff Huson flied out to center, defusing the threat.
“Kirk was pretty sharp. I’ve probably seen him throw the ball a little harder and have better stuff, but he had great control,” Parrish said. “He made a lot of good pitches.”
So did Ryan, who has struck out 46 in his last six games but is only 1-3 with one no-decision since earning his 300th victory July 31.
“He struck me out three times,” Parrish said after Ryan’s fifth double-figure strikeout game of the season and 204th of his career. “I don’t know what it is, but I can’t seem to hit him.”
The Angels scored their two runs on one hit, in the third. Johnny Ray dumped a single to short right-center field for the first hit of the game and moved into scoring position when Schofield walked on a 3-and-2 pitch. Both advanced when Ryan’s one-strike curveball to Polonia broke inside and in the dirt, and Ray scored on Polonia’s meek tapper toward first that was played by Ryan, who never hesitated in going to first for the sure out.
That was the first run he had given up at Anaheim Stadium since his final 1979 appearance, having pitched two 3-0 shutouts here last season and two scoreless innings in the 1989 All-Star Game.
“I saw out of the side of my eye where (Ray) was and the angle,” Ryan said. “In that situation I have to assume they’re going to score a run and get the out. You can’t open the inning up and give them an opportunity for a big inning.
“If I knew later it was going to be the game-winning run I might have gone (home with the throw). I probably had a 50-50 shot. With our type of ballclub you have to feel the chances of them shutting us out aren’t real good.”
Schofield scored the second run on a grounder to third by White that was thrown away by third baseman Jeff Kunkel, a run than McCaskill wouldn’t need. He did need--and want--to pitch a complete game to boost his morale, which has been shaken by the bone spurs in his right elbow that have limited his starts and made him feel like an incomplete pitcher.
“I wanted to throw one this year and this is about the only way I could do it,” he said, referring to the low-pitch count. “I wanted to prove it to myself and the bullpen, because those guys know they have to be ready every time I pitch.”
Chuck Finley will pitch for a major league all-star team that will play an eight-game series against a team of Japanese all-stars in Japan beginning Nov. 2. . . . Bert Blyleven might throw off the mound today for the first time since going on the disabled list Aug. 19 because of a strained right shoulder. He long-tossed Tuesday without discomfort. “It’s getting better,” said the 39-year-old right-hander, who has been at 279 career victories since July 20. His status is day to day.
Donnie Hill, placed on the disabled list retroactive to Saturday because of a sprained left wrist, threw batting practice Tuesday--at his request. “I’ve got a lot of days with nothing to do,” said Hill, who pitched one inning July 8 during the Angels’ 20-7 loss at Milwaukee. “I might as well find something to do. It’s not going to hurt my (injured) hand.”
Brian Downing got a cortisone injection to alleviate muscle spasms in his right-lower back, which is not the area that has troubled him the past two seasons. He wasn’t available Tuesday. . . . Kent Anderson (pulled hamstring) is jogging and hitting. He is eligible to come off the disabled list Sept. 9. . . . All military personnel and their dependents will be admitted free to Angel home games.