WINNING WAYS OF BASEBALL BOSSES

Since 1900, Valenzuela is one of 17 pitchers in Dodgers franchise history to throw a no-hitter.

the way I am. When I go to warm up, I like to joke around. I don’t want to think much, take it too serious. I want to enjoy it and get loose.

Valenzuela says his warm-up that night wasn’t much to smile about, but often that doesn’t matter.

When you feel the worst, that’s when you have a better game, Valenzuela explains. That night I just did not have good command, good control. I had a lot of 3-2 counts. I wasn’t hitting my spot, with the fastball especially. Then I started using the cut fastball, and that’s when (hitters) started missing.

After inducing a steady stream of flyouts early in the game, Valenzuela had hitters mostly hitting groundballs to his infielders as the game progressed.

In a postgame interview, Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda noted that the only hard-hit balls were foul balls. That’s a testament to Valenzuela’s ability to work hitters.

On that night, his stuff wasn’t exceptional, Scioscia adds. He was just pitching the game, trying to help us win.

The Dodgers torched St. Louis pitchers Jose DeLeon and Ricky Horton for six runs and 12 hits to secure the victory, but twice balls hit in the infield put the no-hitter at riskon the first and final outs of the game.

Leading off the game for the Cardinals, Coleman hit a ball deep into the hole on the left side. Shortstop Alfredo Griffin fielded the ball and barely threw out Coleman at first.

Valenzuela, who struck out seven and walked three on the day, was cruising when he issued a one-out walk to McGee in the ninth. Up stepped Guerrero, now past his prime but still a dangerous hitter who sprayed the ball around the field.

Guerrero stroked a ball up the middle that would have passed through the infield just to the left of second base, but Valenzuela nicked it with his glove, slowing it down and changing its trajectory slightly. Second baseman Juan Samuel fielded the ball at the bag, stepped on it and turned a game-ending double play.

I used to cheat up the middle a little bit against Pedro, says Samuel, when asked about the chance of recording an out if Valenzuela hadn’t touched the ball. I thought I was going to be able to get to it, but it probably was going to be on the other side of the base. I would have to backhand it and flip it to Alfredo (covering the bag). Without Valenzuela’s assist, recording an out at second would have required perfect execution. From Scioscia’s viewpoint behind the plate, it was a near-impossible play.

If (Fernando) didn’t get a glove on it, Scioscia says, I’m sure the ball was going up the middle for a hit.

Baseball is a game of inches, and the final play of Valenzuela’s gem demonstrates that the difference of a few inches can make or break a no-hit bid.

A no-hitter is probably as much good fortune as it is good pitching, Scioscia says. If there are a couple of balls hit hard, they’re at someone. Fernando, actually, there were games when he was younger that his stuff was definitely no-hit stuff. For whatever reason, it didn’t work out that way. Valenzuela agrees with his one-time battery mate, noting that a no-hitter does not depend on only the pitcher. They give the no-hitter to the pitcher, but it’s the whole team, especially the defense. That night I had a good defense behind me.

Most of the time it happens earlier in your career, when you’re younger with a stronger arm, the lefty adds. After 10 years and then it happened, that was a surprise.

That June night produced a double dose of surprise, a feat that may never be matched. But you never know. As Valenzuela pointed out when discussing the no-hitter that came later in his career, No-hitters can happen any day, any time.

For now, anyway, only once in modern major league history have two happened on the same day. And for that, Stewart and Valenzuela will be forever linked in no-hit lore. BD

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