Mike Scott took the mound for the Astros late in the 1986 season with a chance to clinch the National League West crown. He was so pumped up that he plunked Dan Gladden of the Giants square in the back on the first pitch he threw.
"I just settled down and tried not to go overboard and pitch a normal game," Scott said.
What Scott did on Sept. 25, 1986, in the Astrodome was anything but normal.
Scott, en route to winning the NL Cy Young Award, became the first pitcher in baseball history to throw a no-hitter in a clinching situation, beating the Giants, 2-0, to win the division. Scott leaped into the air when he got a rookie named Will Clark to ground out to first baseman Glenn Davis to end the game and spark a huge celebration.
"I got a little air under my cleats," Scott said. "The pitch wasn't that good. He happened to ground it out, and when I look back, I still kind of hold my breath hoping he doesn't get a base hit, because it wasn't a very good pitch. He happened to ground out to first and that was it."
Game to Remember
Mike Scott Facts and Figures
1. Full name: Michael Warren Scott.
2. Game to Remember: Sept. 25, 1986 (Astros, 2 Giants 0).
3. Nickname: Scottie.
4. Jersey number: 33.
5. Primary Position: SP.
6. Bats/Throws: Right/Right.
7. Born: April 26, 1955.
8. Birthplace: Santa Monica, Calif.
9. Major League debut: April 18, 1979.
10. Years in Major Leagues: 13.
11. Years with Houston: 9 (1983-91).
12. Other teams: Mets (1979-82).
13. Key stats with Houston: 110-81 record, 3.30 ERA, 42 complete games, 21 shutouts, 1,318 strikeouts in 1,704 innings.
14. Claim to fame: Scott is the only pitcher in baseball history to throw a no-hitter in a clinching situation.
15. Did you know? After winning the 1986 NL Cy Young, Scott won 20 games and was second in the 1989 NL Cy Young Award voting, finishing behind San Diego's Mark Davis.
16. What's he doing now? Scott is retired and lives in Southern California as an avid fan of the NHL's Anaheim Ducks.
The no-hitter was the gem in a magical season for the Astros and Scott, who led the NL in ERA and strikeouts that season. He was just as dominant in the postseason, beating the Mets twice in the National League Championship Series before being denied a chance to finish them off in Game 7, when the Mets rallied to win Game 6 in 16 innings.
Scott was so dominant he was named the Most Valuable Player of the 1986 NLCS, despite the Astros losing the series in six games. But nothing matched throwing a no-hitter to clinch the division.
"I remember coming to the ballpark," Scott said. "It's probably the first time that year we wanted Cincinnati to win a game. They were in second in the division and they were playing a day game, too, and if they would have lost in the morning, we would have clinched it without doing it on the field.
"We kind of hoped they won, and they did, and we wanted to win because we were going on the road the next day. I threw a good game."
Indeed. Scott struck out 13 batters, walked two batters and managed not to hit any additional batters after striking Gladden with the first pitch. The only runs the Astros managed were a homer by Denny Walling in the fifth and an RBI single by Jose Cruz in the seventh.
"We knew it was going to happen, but it's more fun if you win and everybody can run on the field," Scott said. "I didn't necessarily want to be the guy out there, but I was glad I was able to be out there when we clinched it."
Scott's gem actually capped an astonishing three-game performance by Astros starters.
Astros pitcher Jim Deshaies set an NL record by striking out the first eight batters he faced against the Dodgers on Sept. 23, 1986. The next day, Nolan Ryan struck out 12 batters in eight scoreless innings, allowing just one hit to the Giants. That set the stage for Scott's heroics.
"It was a pretty good stretch," Scott said. "Nolan pitched an unbelievable game. It just happened to be at a great time. We were getting ready for the playoffs and our confidence was up. You have peaks and valleys, and we were peaking at the perfect time."
Scott doesn't make it back to Houston much these days, but when he does, he's constantly reminded by Astros fans about the no-hitter. In fact, Scott doesn't even have to venture out of California to stumble across a reminder of that memorable day.
"I still get tickets in the mail to sign," he said. "They look like they were from the 1920s, but they're actual tickets from that game. Randomly, I still get them."