ATLANTA — The Elias Sports Bureau came out with an interesting stat Sunday afternoon (via ESPN’s Buster Olney). The last time two pitchers with numbers as good as Gio Gonzalez and Brandon Beachy after 50 innings pitched in a season ever faced one another was June 4, 1985.
That game, between the L.A. Dodgers and the New York Mets, was started by Fernando Valenzuela and Dwight Gooden.
Managing the Mets? Davey Johnson, of course.
Gonzalez is 6-1 with a 1.98 ERA entering Sunday night’s game. He’s allowed just 12 earned runs in 54 2/3 innings, struck out 69 batters, has allowed the fewest hits per nine innings in the league (5.4) and also leads the league in strikeouts per nine innings (11.4).
Beachy is 5-2 with a league-best 1.77 ERA. He’s allowed just 12 earned runs in 61 innings pitched. His WHIP (walks + hits per innings pitched) is a smidge lower than Gonzalez’s and his hits allowed per nine is a smidge above.
All that means, really, is that we’re most likely in for one of the best pitching match-ups of the season tonight at Turner Field.
But back to that 1985 game. Times columnist Dan Daly sends word that he was actually in attendance at that game, hopping over to see the show while on assignment during the Lakers-Celtics NBA Finals that year.
“Sat in the right field bleachers that night at Chavez Ravine,” Daly e-mailed. “It was just An Event — Doc vs. Fernando — that you wanted to be at. It was 1-1 going into the ninth, and then the Mets got to Valenzuela and won 4-1. Electric atmosphere. And it was only June.
“Another Times writer was in LA at the time — Happy Fine — and he was the one who dragged me to the game. He said, ‘You’ve gotta see this pitching matchup. You can’t be in L.A. and not go.’
“So I went with him — and was I ever glad. It was just fabulous. Fernando was such a terrific pitcher (and so beloved in L.A.), and Gooden was at his absolute peak. In 1985 he was about as unhittable as any pitcher ever. The crowd, you could tell, just knew this was an Important Moment, even if it was just the regular season.”
Valenzuela went 8 2/3 innings that night, the first eight of them scoreless, while Gooden went the full nine, allowing one earned run on eight hits and two walks. He struck out 12. Valenzuela struck out four, gave up nine hits and walked two.
I didn’t get a chance to ask Johnson, who doesn’t speak to reporters on Sunday, before the game what he remembered about that night in L.A. — what his view from the dugout was for that pitching match-up as he prepared for this one. Maybe once this one is in the books he’ll be able to compare it.
At any rate, here are the full lineups for tonight’s finale with the Braves as the Nationals get their 10th opportunity for their first sweep of the season.
Steve Lombardozzi LF
Bryce Harper RF
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Adam LaRoche 1B
Ian Desmond SS
Danny Espinosa 2B
Rick Ankiel CF
Jesus Flores C
Gio Gonzalez P
Michael Bourn CF
Tyler Pastornicky SS
Martin Prado 3B
Dan Uggla 2B
Matt Diaz LF
Eric Hinske 1B
Jason Heyward RF
J.C. Boscan C
Brandon Beachy P