A Perfect Weekend
It was fitting that Dodger Stadium, the home of the team that has been synonymous with superb pitching for 30 years, was the site of some historic pitching last weekend. On Friday night, the Expos' Mark Gardner pitched a nine-inning no-hitter against" Los Angeles but lost 1-0 in the 10th. On Sunday afternoon, Montreal's Dennis Martinez pitched the 15th perfect game of nine innings or more—and the 13th since 1900—while beating the Dodgers 2-0. It was the first time that National League teammates pitched no-hitters as close as two days apart.
"Mark and I were kidding after the game; I told him, 'You set the table for me, you made me feel that I had to do even better than you,' " said Martinez, 36, the oldest pitcher after Cy Young (37 in 1904) to pitch a perfect game. "But I can't believe that was me who did that today. It's kind of unbelievable."
It was that kind of weekend. Montreal's Ron Hassey also made history as the first catcher to catch two perfect games. He caught Len Barker's for Cleveland in 81.
Gardner's no-hitter also had an odd sidelight. L.A.'s Lenny Harris broke up the no-hitter with an infield single over the mound to start the 10th. Harris went to third on a single by Eddie Murray and scored on a single by Darryl Strawberry off reliever Jeff Fassero, who had his streak of 9? hitless innings stopped.
For Martinez, though, the perfect game capped a remarkable comeback. Once a promising pitcher for the Orioles, his effectiveness declined rapidly in the mid-'80s. In 1984 he entered alcohol rehab to get his personal life in order, but his career hit a low point in '86 when his ERA ballooned and he was booed mercilessly by Baltimore fans. On June 16 of that year, he was unloaded to the Expos for infielder Rene Gonzales. Since the deal, he has won almost twice as many games (66) as any Oriole, and last year he became the oldest player to make the All-Star team for the first time.
When the Expos fell out of the pennant race early this year, a number of teams tried to trade for Martinez. But Montreal general manager Dave Dombrowski, knowing that Martinez is so well conditioned he might pitch effectively into his 40's, refused to deal the ace of his staff. Good move. On Sunday, Martinez, who is from Nicaragua, became the only non-U.S.-born pitcher to throw a perfect game. After getting the Dodgers' final hitter, Chris Gwynn, on a fly to centerfield, Martinez wept. "I've never pitched a no-hitter anywhere, not even as a kid," he said. "To have this happen this far into my career, it's so great, it's scary."
Forget all the trade talk of recent years involving Royals rightfielder Danny Tartabull. And those whispers that he won't play hurt. And his frustration at being overshadowed by Bo Jackson. Tartabull is finally content, and it shows.
Through Sunday, he was second in the American League in batting (.332), tied for fourth in home runs (22) and tied for fifth in RBIs (68). He gives credit for this year's hot start to two people: his manager and personal hitting guru, Hal McRae, and his father, former major league outfielder Jose, who is now a minor league coach with the Gulf Coast Royals, Kansas City's rookie team in Davenport, Fla.