Last Astro No-Hitter, Lopez Wrote This Story
COURTESY OF CHRON.COM ARCHIVES
So, since I covered national college football at the time, this was the first Astros game I covered all year. The late, great Neil Hohlfeld took a day off and I was tabbed to cover the Astros game.
You found it. No-hitter. To his credit, when Hohlfeld showed up, he allowed me to keep the story, even though it was his beat. I thought it was quite magnanimous of him. I found out 10-years later from Neil, “Don’t give me too much credit. I was drunk. It was my day off.”
By the way, a couple of little-known facts about the no-hitter: Eddie Taubense actually broke the age-old tradition of not talking about it. Before the eighth-inning, Taubense sidled up to Scott Servais and asked, “Hey, have you ever caught a no-hitter?”
Also, there were twice as many fans in the Astrodome for the ninth-inning as the early-innings. The Dome allowed fans to walk into the game at no-charge after the fifth-inning.
Here’s the story that wound up above Darryl Kile’s mantle for the rest of his life:
Kile no-hits N.Y. Mets/Great plays, strikeouts back 7-1 mound gem
JOHN P. LOPEZ
Darryl Kile, a surprising All Star in 1993, entered into Astros lore Wednesday night, throwing a stunning nine-strikeout no-hitter against the New York Mets in a 7-1 Astros win.
It was the Astros’ first no-hitter since Mike Scott’s pennant-clinching win over the San Francisco Giants in 1986 and only the third in baseball this year.
“It was just incredible, an unbelievable feeling,” said Kile, 24, who improved his record to 15-6 with the win, walked only one batter and wrapped up the game in terrific fashion with back-to-back strikeouts of Mets pinch-hitters Tito Navarro and Chico Walker.
“I guess the only thing better than this,” Kile said, “would be winning the seventh game of the World Series. What can you say? I can’t believe it.”
For a young rising star who struggled to make the team last spring and had to survive an emotional off-season when his father died, the no-hitter came thanks to an effort that could hardly have been more impressive.
From the start, Kile confused and overpowered the Mets, striking out one in the first inning, another in the second, third and fourth innings, and finally one in eighth and two in the ninth. Kile’s control proved to be impeccable, as he rarely got behind in the count and threw fewer than 90 pitches total.
“It’s incredible just to be a part of it,” Astros second-baseman Craig Biggio said. “He was in such control out there. I looked up around the fourth inning and, you know how sometimes you just get a gut feeling?
“I said to myself, “Man, he’s throwing. He might just get it.’ ”
Kile did, retiring the final 17 batters in a row and giving up only the one unearned run, which came on a bizarre play.
After walking Mets shortstop Jeff McKnight in the fourth inning, Kile threw into the dirt against Joe Orsulak.
The ball hit Orsulak in the right foot, which prompted Astros catcher Scott Servais to walk nonchalantly to the ball, thinking plate umpire Ed Montague had awarded Orsulak first base.
But Montague did not make the call, McKnight sprinted to third base and first-baseman Jeff Bagwell threw wildly trying to catch McKnight, bringing in the run.
The rest of the way, Kile was virtually untouchable, getting all but three of the final 17 outs on meek fly balls. In his first full year in the big leagues in 1991, Kile flirted with a no-hitter, but was pulled after six innings because Astros manager Art Howe thought he had thrown too many pitches in the game.
This time, Kile was nearly perfect.
“This is the best control I’ve had,” Kile said. “I just felt real good.”
But as much as Kile was superb, he also was helped by two of the most spectacular plays of the season in a seventh inning that nearly saw the gem slip away.
“You’ll never see any two plays better,” said Kile, who was mobbed on the mound after the final out and doused with champagne in the jubilant Astros locker room.
The huge plays came back-to-back, with third-baseman Ken Caminiti diving hard to his left to scoop a bullet from the bat of Mets first-baseman Eddie Murray.
It easily was the hardest-hit ball of the night, but Caminiti made the remarkable play.
One batter later, Astros shortstop Andujar Cedeno made a dive no less incredible than Caminiti’s, leaping deep into the hole on a shot from Orsulak. Cedeno turned and threw to Jeff Bagwell at first base in one motion and nipped Orsulak at the bag.
“My part was easy on those plays,” Bagwell said. “I just had to reach down and scoop them. Those were two of the best plays all year.”
They led to only the ninth Astros no-hitter in history. They led to Kile’s name joining an elite list that includes Scott, Nolan Ryan, Ken Forsch and Larry Dierker.
“Incredible,” Kile said. “I can’t believe it.”