Ryan offers congratulations after no-no
Pitching legend joins Fiers in dugout for celebration
HOUSTON -- As if there weren't enough emotions swirling around him as he celebrated his first career no-hitter, Mike Fiers also had the added bonus of sharing the immediate moments after the last out with the man who had more no-hitters than anyone.
Fiers, exactly four games into his Astros career after being traded from the Brewers at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, was met with several well-wishers as he exited the field and made his way to the tunnel to take him to the celebratory clubhouse.
Teammates. Coaches. Support staff. And, oh yes, Nolan Ryan.
Ryan, who currently serves as the Astros' executive advisor, watched the no-hitter from the GM booth. But he made his way down to the dugout when it was over to congratulate Fiers, whose no-hitter was the first by an individual Astros pitcher since Darryl Kile no-hit the Mets on Sept. 8, 1993.
Meeting Ryan for the first time, in this environment, just added to the happy chaos surrounding Fiers as he attempted to digest what he had just done on the field -- against a first-place Dodgers team not exactly known for being offensively deficient.
"For him to congratulate me, coming down in the dugout ... it's the first time I met him," Fiers said of Ryan. "And what a pitcher he was."
But as Fiers proved with this outing, no-hitters come in all shapes and sizes, which he discussed with the Hall of Fame pitcher.
"I told [Ryan], 'You know, I wasn't throwing as hard as you,' and he said, 'You don't have to. You pitch and hit your spots and keep those guys off balance and things happen,'" Fiers recalled.
Ryan should know. He threw seven no-hitters in his career, setting a Major League record after the fifth one in 1981. That was his only no-hitter as an Astro, which, coincidentally, came against the Dodgers, on Sept. 26, in a 5-0 Houston win.
"You just think about what you need to do to try to get somebody out," Ryan said. "That's what I did. I didn't get wrapped up in it. You saw with the fans tonight, as it got closer, they got more involved."
Watching Fiers from the GM booth, Ryan was feeling the same emotions as most of the 33,833 in the stands at Minute Maid Park, but in a more subdued manner, of course. As he sat watching, Ryan was simply hoping Fiers had enough to get through the full nine, a task that becomes increasingly more difficult as the innings whittle down to the last two.
"You worry about something happening," Ryan said. "You want to see somebody accomplish it."
You also worry, in this case, about pitch counts. Fiers was over the 100-pitch mark in the seventh inning, sparking some conversation about whether Fiers should be permitted to finish the game.
"It was discussed up in the box," Ryan said. "What you hope is that he has a short inning where that doesn't become an issue and puts him in a critical spot."
That's exactly what happened. The deeper Fiers got into the game, the more he was able to conserve his pitches. That gave manager A.J. Hinch the go-ahead to let Fiers finish what he started, and in doing so, make history.
"It's always a lot of fun to see somebody get it accomplished," Ryan said. "You see a lot of people get close. Getting those last six outs, that's what's it's all about."