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MLB – Highlights – 1981 NLCS – Houston Astros VS Los Angeles Dodgers

DOG ASIDE:

Nolan “The Ryan Express / Big Tex” Ryan signed a lucrative free-agent contract with the Houston Astros after the 1979 season. The normally light-hitting Ryan got his Houston years started with a bang in a nationally televised game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 12, 1980….when he hit a three-run home run off future Hall of Fame P Don Sutton. On July 4 of that season, at Riverfront Stadium, Ryan recorded his 3,000th career strikeout….when his victim was César Gerónimo of the Cincinnati Reds….as Gerónimo had also been Bob Gibson’s 3,000th strikeout victim, in 1974.  Ryan got his third taste of postseason play in 1980….but the Astros were stopped one game short of the World Series.

In the 1980 NLCS versus the Philadelphia Phillies, Ryan pitched well in Game 2, leaving the game tied 2–2 in the seventh….while having contributed to both Astros runs with a run scored following a walk….and a sacrifice bunt leading to a run….but again got a no decision in a game that went extra innings. In the fifth and final game of the series, Ryan and the Astros held a 5–2 lead entering the 8th inning. But Ryan allowed three consecutive singles before walking in the third run. The Houston bullpen allowed the Phillies to take a 7–5 lead, and only a game-tying Astro rally permitted Ryan to escape the loss.

On September 26, 1981, Ryan threw his fifth no-hitter, breaking Koufax’s mark while becoming the third pitcher to throw a no-hitter in each league. That season, his 1.69 ERA won the National League ERA title.

Facing the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1981 NLDS….Ryan threw a complete game 2-hitter in the opener….when he outlasted the Dodgers’ rookie sensation Fernando Valenzuela. It was Ryan’s second and last career postseason win. In the fifth and final game of the series, Ryan left trailing 3–0 and took the loss.

By the end of the 1982 season, both Ryan and Steve Carlton were approaching Walter Johnson’s all-time strikeout record….while sometimes passing one another’s career totals in successive starts….then on April 27, 1983….Ryan won the race with his 3,509th whiff, against Brad Mills of the Montreal Expos….as Steve Carlton would reach the same mark two weeks after Ryan.

In 1986, Ryan’s Astros faced the New York Mets in the National League Championship Series….as Ryan had a shaky start in Game 2 and taking the loss. He returned in Game 5, throwing 9 innings of 2-hit, 1-run, 12-strikeout ball…..however, one of those hits was a Darryl Strawberry home run which tied the game at 1–1….as Dwight Gooden matched Ryan pitch for pitch. Ryan got a no-decision as his Astros lost in 12 innings.

In Ryan’s final season with the Astros in 1987….he led the major leagues in both ERA (2.76) and strikeouts (270) at the age of 40….but finished the season with an 8–16 record as the result of extremely poor run support. Despite his .333 winning percentage, Ryan tied for 5th place in the 1987 Cy Young voting….while continuing to increase his MLB record for strikeouts with every pitching outing for the next 5 years with the Texas Rangers.

The acquiring of Nolan Ryan by the Houston Astros in 1980 was one of the most significant signings by the club in their entire history….and the truth be told….there is no telling what he and fellow pitcher J R Richard would have been able to do along with knuckleballer Joe Niekro, Bob Knepper and Vern Ruhle…..had J R not had his career ended by a heart condition in 1980….the year Ryan was acquired….which makes this video well worth the watch.

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