Looking back at Deshaies' historic pitching performance
HOUSTON -- When Jim Deshaies set a Major League record by striking out the first eight batters he faced against the Dodgers on Sept. 23, 1986, in the Astrodome, it was the start of three days of dominant pitching performances by the Astros.
Deshaies, then 26, was en route to winning 12 games in his first full season in the Majors. He was pitching for the first time in nearly two weeks that Tuesday, and he felt strong coming out of the bullpen before the game, which wasn't always the case for him.
"I was terrible at the start of games," Deshaies said. "The team was always holding its breath until I could get through the first couple of innings, and I picked up steam as I went along."
Deshaies started the game by striking out Steve Sax, Reggie Williams and Enos Cabell in the first inning. He whiffed Pedro Guerrero, Alex Trevino and Jeff Hamilton in the second, and when Dave Anderson became his seventh consecutive strikeout victim to start the third inning, Deshaies began to hear the crowd buzz.
"After I got the seventh, I get the ball back and I was rubbing it up, and I hear a secondary ovation," Deshaies said. "I kind of turned around and look at the scoreboard, and they put a message saying, 'Jim Deshaies has just tied the modern record for most strikeouts to start a game with seven.' That was the first time I got wind of something was going on."
Deshaies broke the record by striking out Jose Gonzalez to bring up the ninth spot in the order, which would have been pitcher Dennis Powell, had Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda not decided he had seen enough strikeouts and sent Larry See to pinch-hit for him. See popped out to end the streak.
"At that time, you're so caught up in what you're doing, and you don't second-guess what's going on," Deshaies said. "It didn't cross my mind it was out of the ordinary, or to question his motives. I really felt I should have gotten the ninth one. I had him 2-2, I believe. When you're pitching and in a zone like that, you can almost foresee results if you make a certain pitch."
Deshaies struck out only two batters the rest of the way, but he pitched the entire nine innings for the first of his six career shutouts.
"I threw high fastballs," Deshaies said. "I wasn't a hard thrower, but I had deception and a sneaky fastball. I used to throw a lot of high fastballs and have swings and misses up there. When I had good games, that was my best pitch. The more memorable sequence was Pedro Guerrero had a long at-bat -- I think double-digit pitches at-bat. He kept fouling pitches off. I finally struck him out looking. I finally threw him a changeup on 3-2, and he took it."
He only had a day to revel in his feat before Nolan Ryan dominated the Giants the next day, striking out 12 and allowing one hit in eight innings. Charlie Kerfeld threw the ninth.
"I'm in the clubhouse after the game and I'm shaving, and [catcher Alan] Ashby is next to me, so I joked and said, 'Everything that Nolan's done in the game, and you think he could have let me be the guy for more than 24 hours?' I was just having fun with it," Deshaies said. "Ash says, 'Well, I've got a feeling Scotty's [Mike Scott] going to come out tomorrow and show you both up.'"
The next day, Sept. 25, 1986, produced one of the greatest moments in team history. Scott became the first pitcher to toss a no-hitter in a clinching situation when he shut down the Giants, striking out 13 batters, to give the Astros the National League West crown with a 2-0 win.
"It's kind of fun to be lumped with that three-game sequence -- a two-hitter, one-hitter and no-hitter," Deshaies said.
The record has stood for 29 years, but last season it came in jeopardy as then-rookie Jacob deGrom also struck out eight in a row.
"It's OK that it's tied," Deshaies said. "The ninth guy for me popped up. His ninth guy was the pitcher who got a base hit. So I claim tiebreaker status, however, he did go on to win the Rookie of the Year. He may have a more legitimate claim to tiebreaker."