As part of the Astros' 50th anniversary, the weekly "Game to Remember" series features a former Astros/Colt .45s great discussing his favorite game while playing for the Houston franchise. This week: Jim Deshaies.
At the time, Jim Deshaies had no idea he was about to set the stage for one of the greatest three-day pitching performances in Astros history. His goal was simply to help the Astros get another step closer to clinching the National League West title.
What he achieved on Sept. 23, 1986, in the Astrodome against the Dodgers was nothing short of magical. It was an unlikely performance that put him in the record books, only to be upstaged by teammates Nolan Ryan and Mike Scott in a span of 48 hours.
Even though Ryan threw seven no-hitters and struck out more batters than anyone else and Scott won the National League Cy Young Award and fanned 306 batters in 1986, they were never able to do what Deshaies accomplished. The left-hander set the modern-day Major League record by striking out the first eight batters he faced in a 4-0 win over the Dodgers.
"The bottom line is I had hair back then and I could run from home to first base without needing a ventilator," said Deshaies, currently an Astros broadcaster. "That was a long time ago."
Game to Remember
Jim Deshaies Facts and Figures
1. Full name: James Joseph Deshaies.
2. Game to Remember: Sept. 23, 1986 (Astros 4, Dodgers 0).
3. Nickname: J.D.
4. Jersey number: 43.
5. Primary Position: SP.
6. Bats/Throws: Left/Left.
7. Born: June 23, 1960.
8. Birthplace: Massena, N.Y.
9. Major League debut: Aug. 7, 1984.
10. Years in Major Leagues: 12.
11. Years with Houston: 7 (1985-91).
12. Other teams: Yankees (1984), Padres (1992), Twins (1993, '94), Giants (1993) and Phillies (1995).
13. Key stats with Houston: 61-59 record, 3.67 ERA in 181 games (178 starts).
14. Claim to fame: Deshaies set the modern-day Major League record when he struck out the first eight batters to start a game against the Dodgers on Sept. 23, 1986.
15. Did you know? Deshaies finished seventh in the NL Rookie of the Year voting after winning 12 games in 1986.
16. What's he doing now? Deshaies is in his 16th year as the Astros' color analyst on television.
With the Astros rolling toward the division title, a crowd of 27,734 came to the Astrodome on a Tuesday night to watch Deshaies face the Dodgers. It was earlier that year Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda proclaimed the Astros were simply renting first place. Turns out they were renting to own and won the division by 10 games.
Deshaies, then 26, was en route to winning 12 games in his first full season in the Major Leagues. He was pitching for the first time that Tuesday in nearly two weeks and 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 like gangbusters, striking out Steve Sax, Reggie Williams and Enos Cabell in the first inning. 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," he 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 Lasorda not decided he had seen enough strikeouts and sent Larry See to pinch-hit for him. Lee 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 pitched the entire nine innings for the first of his six career shutouts.
With the Astros now on the verge of clinching, more than 37,000 fans came to the Astrodome the next night and watched Ryan strike out 12 batters in eight scoreless innings, allowing just one hit, in a 6-0 win. Deshaies' performance suddenly took a back seat.
"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 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 NL 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.