The crowd caught on early, clapping in expectation when Bert Blyleven
had two strikes on an Oakland batter, which was often. After striking
out Mike Davis on a curve in the fifth, the 3,000th strikeout of
Blyleven's career, the fans took to chanting, "Bert! Bert! Bert!" as
the strikeouts piled up.
In the eighth and ninth innings, most of the 14,855 were standing
and clapping, chanting and cheering when another A's victim was about
to swing at or watch a third strike. "One more Bert! One more Bert!"
more than a few of them called out.
When Tony Phillips struck out on a fastball to end the eighth,
Blyleven tied the personal best he'd set with the Twins in 1974 and
equaled with Texas in 1977. When Jose Canseco struck out for the second
out in the ninth, Blyleven tied a team record set by three others in
the franchise's 25 1/2-year history.
Fifteen strikeouts and a two-hitter belonged to Blyleven on Friday
night as he became only the 10th pitcher in major league history to
reach 3,000 strikeouts.
Aiding him in Minnesota's 10-1 victory over Oakland was Kirby
Puckett, who became the seventh Twin to hit for the cycle - getting a
single, double, triple and home run.
Blyleven has thrown nine two-hitters since joining the Twins as a
teen-aged rookie in 1970. After the first 12 A's were retired without
much trouble, Bruce Bochte led off the fifth by grounding a single to
right field. With the Twins holding an eight-run lead in the eighth,
Alfredo Griffin lined a homer to right for the other hit.
Griffin and Carney Lansford were the only Oakland starters whom
Blyleven didn't strike out. Blyleven needed eight to reach 3,000 and
started the evening aware of that fact, knowing it would be a nifty
thing to achieve with some of his teammates from a decade earlier - now
"Old-Timers" - in the Metrodome watching.
"The way everyone played, scoring a lot of runs, it made it much
easier for me to do what I had to do," Blyleven said. "I knew I had 14
strikeouts going into the last inning and I wanted to do better than
that. I don't get many chances to do it and I'm very thankful that I
"I knew I needed eight going into the game and I wanted to get it
over with. I didn't want it to take three or four starts of getting one
and two each time. I was happy that that Lord gave me the stuff that I
had out there to get it done."
Ironically, in the inning of his historic strikeout, a 1-and-2
curve on which Davis swung, Blyleven also was faced with his only jam.
Bochte's single was followed by third baseman Gary Gaetti's throwing
error, putting runners at first and second. But Blyleven struck out
Dwayne Murphy on a full-count pitch and then got Davis, setting off a
minute-long standing ovation. Blyleven, 35, twice stepped off the mound
to tip his cap.
"When he struck out the 3,000th, I was screaming at (catcher Tim)
Laudner, making sure he got out there before Bert pitched to the next
hitter," said manager Ray Miller. "It's 4-0 and this guy gets a hit and
the next guy gets a hit and they're right back in the ball game. You
want him to enjoy it, but you also know the guy's heart is pumping and
you don't want him to lose track of what's happening. I was thinking,
`Let's get this guy out and celebrate later."'
Blyleven (10-10, 4.51) walked Mickey Tettleton to load the bases,
but Griffin grounded into a fielder's choice.
"I remember when I pitched my 3,500th inning when I was with
Cleveland, (Harry) Spilman hit a home run when he was going to be the
final out of the inning," Blyleven recalled. "That kind of took some
of the excitement out of it. When I got the (3,000th) strikeout, I
didn't want to give up a run because I didn't want to take anything
away from it."
The Twins scored three runs in the bottom of the fifth, leaving
Blyleven's strikeout and hit totals and Puckett's cycle bid to be the
only mysteries. Puckett tripled in the first, doubled in the fifth and
singled in the sixth before coming up with one out in the eighth and
Steve Lombardozzi at first base. Puckett was in a similar situation,
needing a homer for the cycle, Tuesday against Seattle. He struck out.
This time, he lined a pitch from Darrell Akerfelds well into the
left-field seats, becoming the first Twin to hit for the cycle since
Gary Ward did it at Milwaukee on Sept. 18, 1980.
"The guys were a little disappointed in me last time and Neal
Heaton said to me, `Puck, you're going to hit for the cycle this
time,"' Puckett said. "I said, `We'll see.' I was looking to hit the
ball hard, but not a home run. It was a slider and I got it. It was
good to have it happen. It was good for me to be able to share the day
with Bert. That's the best pitching exhibition I've seen in my life. A
Watching from center field was an easy job; Puckett did not have
to touch a ball. In addition to the strikeouts, there were nine
infielder grounders, two fly balls to left fielder Billy Beane and one
to right fielder Tom Brunansky. "I didn't have to do anything," Puckett
said. "It was a nice night. I'm glad I didn't have to face Bert."
Phillips did. The Oakland leadoff batter struck out three times
and grounded out. Donnie Hill struck out three times; Canseco, Davis,
Murphy and Tettleton did it twice each and Bochte once.
"You didn't know what to look for," Phillips said. "He kept me
off-balance all game. Usually during the course of a game, you can look
for one pitch and you'll get it. But we didn't. Plus, I think he was a
little pumped up going for 3,000. I knew he was going to get me the
last time up. I didn't have a prayer."
Blyleven, one of six active pitchers with more than 3,000
strikeouts, said that reaching the plateau "shows consistency and
longevity and I've always admired guys who can pitch 15 or 20 years and
be consistent. That's basically what I want out of my career. There are
going to be good times and there are going to be bad times."