Chicago's no-name rookie is no-hit kid Orioles dominated by Alvarez, 21, in 2nd big-league start

August 12, 1991|By Kent Baker

It was a day to remember in the season to forget.

Even the most zealous local baseball fans probably never had heard of Wilson Eduardo Alvarez, but his name now is on the lips of all 40,455 who attended history yesterday.

The Chicago White Sox left-hander gave a lame-duck ballpark his personal send-off with the sixth no-hitter in Memorial Stadium's 38-year lifetime, beating the Baltimore Orioles, 7-0.

In his second major-league start, Alvarez never flinched while becoming the youngest pitcher (21 years, 141 days) to pitch a no-hit game since Vida Blue (21 years, 55 days) of the Oakland A's did it against the Minnesota Twins on Sept. 21, 1970.

From the beginning, he was commanding against an Orioles team that never had seen him. Alvarez struck out the side in the first inning and picked up momentum after his teammates staked him to a 4-0 lead against Dave Johnson.

"After I got through the first two hitters, everything felt comfortable," said Alvarez.

"The kid had great stuff right from the start," said White Sox manager Jeff Torborg. "We've seen him twice in spring training, but he didn't throw like this."

There was no indication such excellence was coming from the Venezuelan, who has spent the entire season with Birmingham, where he was leading Class AA baseball in strikeouts and had a 1.83 ERA.

After all, his first start in the majors two years ago was a disaster. In his debut for the Texas Rangers, he faced five hitters, and all of them reached base. Two of them homered.

"A couple of years ago I didn't have too much experience," he said. "It happened too quick. I started that year in A ball. I didn't feel ready."

This time, he was prepared, mesmerizing the Orioles with sneaky quickness, an effective curveball and a changeup.

"The kind of stuff you don't get a hit on," said Orioles center fielder Mike Devereaux. "I'm taking nothing away from him."

Orioles right fielder Dwight Evans said: "He's got better stuff than you think when you get up there. From the side, it didn't look like he was throwing that hard. He's quicker than you think.

"My hat's off to him and the guys behind him. They gave him every chance to throw the no-hitter."

Particularly center fielder Lance Johnson, who made a diving catch of Chris Hoiles' shot to right-center field in the eighth, and catcher Ron Karkovice, who called the game and committed an error when he threw away Cal Ripken's topper in the seventh, the closest thing to a scoring controversy.

By the ninth, the crowd was totally behind Alvarez, who pitched 12 no-hitters in the youth leagues of his native country over a six-year period.

"That was disappointing, but I can understand it," said Orioles manager John Oates. "I had never seen a no-hitter in 17 years of baseball until this year, and I've seen two since the All-Star break."

He referred to the four-man no-hitter by the Orioles against Oakland on July 13.

In the ninth, Devereaux lined out to center field on a 1-2 count and Juan Bell struck out on a 3-2 pitch, with Karkovice throwing to first for the putout.

That brought up the meat of the Orioles order, starting with Ripken.

"When it got late, I said we're not going to let Ripken break it up," said Torborg. "We were going to make him hit a bad pitch."

Ozzie Guillen went to the mound to remind Alvarez to be careful with Ripken. "I told him he was the best hitter in their lineup," said Guillen.

So, Alvarez walked Ripken on four pitches, then walked Dwight Evans, another patient batter, on five. That sent Randy Milligan to the plate, and Alvarez quickly got ahead with a 1-2 count.

He threw the curve. Milligan swung and missed. And the White Sox mobbed their pitcher near the mound after the first no-hitter by a rookie since Mike Warren of Oakland shut down the White Sox in September 1983.

"That was the best left-handed stuff we saw all year," said Orioles catcher Bob Melvin. "His ball was moving all over the place early. He tired a little later and was pitching everybody away.

"I thought we were going to break it up because we started hitting some balls good to right-center, but they were playing us there and the wind started to blow in a little."

It was a crushing development to the Orioles.

"No one likes to get no-hit," said Melvin. "I like the other side of it better."

"This is tougher than a normal defeat," said Devereaux. "We've been losing lately, and all of a sudden we hit the bottom of the barrel."

It was the White Sox's first no-hitter since Melido Perez stopped the Yankees over six innings July 12 of last season. Joe Cowley had pitched the White Sox's most recent complete-game no-hitter, against the California Angels on Sept. 19, 1986.

Alvarez threw 127 pitches, 75 of them strikes. The Orioles flied out or popped out 17 times, and Alvarez struck out seven. The other three outs outs were on a ground ball and double-play grounder.

Not once did he shake off the sign given by Karkovice, a heady veteran.

"He relied on my knowledge of the hitters," said Karkovice.

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