Richard fans 15, ties rookie mark for first MLB start
by Joe Heiling, Houston Post
SAN FRANCISCO - They've called the Astros' James Rodney Richard "a right-handed Vida Blue."
And the label fit snugly on Richard's towering 6-foot-8 222-pound frame Sunday as he subdued the San Francisco Giants, 5-3, and tied a major league record by striking out 15 in his coming-out party.
In the opener of the doubleheader, the first Houston has ever swept from the Giants, Jack Billingham out-dueled Gaylord Perry, 1-0, on a five-hitter and struck out 11.
The total of 26 strikeouts in the twin-bill tied a major league mark established by the Phillies against the Mets on Sept. 9, 1970.
It completed a red letter day for the fifth-place Astros.
Back on Sept. 22, 1954, Karl Spooner of the old Brooklyn Dodgers whiffed 15 New York Giants in his debut. Now Richard has repeated the feat against the West Coast version of the Giants, putting his name alongside Spooner's on the all-time scrolls.
And, inevitably, the linking of Rodney's name with that of Blue, who is employed by the A's just across the Bay here in Oakland, will continue.
"I don't compare myself with Blue," reminds Richard, a 21-year-old righthander. "Others have done that, not me."
"I'd like to have his record of 23 wins. Who wouldn't? But that's all up to the future and what it holds for me."
Richard is from Ruston, La., and Blue hails from Mansfield, La.
"He's from the same area," says J. R., as his teammates call Richard. "Mansfield is about 50 miles away, but he went to a different school. I never even heard of him before this year."
Everybody knows Blue now. And someday they may know Richard just as well.
The Giants seized a 2-0 beachhead against Richard in the first inning, but they couldn't tag him for a run again until the eighth.
Hits by Ken Henderson and Bobby Bonds plus Alan Gallagher's two-run double -- he had three of SF's seven hits -- put Richard into an early 2-0 hole.
But the Orange rushed rookie Jim Willoughby for the tying runs in the third on Jesus Alou's triple, a walk to Joe Morgan, who doubled to end an 0-for-31 slump earlier, and RBI hits by Cesar Geronimo and Cesar Cedeno, the two Dominican youngsters.
They went ahead, 3-2, the next inning when John Mayberry singled, was wild-pitched to second and scored on Larry Howard's hit.
In the fifth, the Astros pitched over the decisive run, as it turned out, on Morgan's walk and the first of his two stolen bases and Geronimo's double. Geronimo, 4-for-8 in the twin-bill, then scored on Cedeno's single.
After his slow start, James Rodney came on strong. Blazing strong, that is.
He struck out one in each of the first two innings and whiffed the side in the third. Only in the fourth did J. R. fail to log a "K" on the books.
Richard blew down a pair in the fifth and sixth and got one more in the seventh to reach the ten total.
In the eighth, a walk to Willie Mays and a passed ball moved the Giants' superstar into scoring position. When Bonds fouled out to Mayberry at first base, Mays tagged up and scooted to third.
It proved a big move when Denis Menke booted Chris Speler's ball at third, allowing Mays to cross with the third run for the NL West leaders.
But James Rodney posted two more whiffs that inning and the record was clearly in sight when he went out for the ninth.
Shadows covered the infield as he fanned Dick Dietz for the third time. Henderson went down swinging and so did Hal Lanier and the Astros rushed out to congratulate their new, instant hero.
"This wasn't his best game," said Larry Howard, who caught Richard at Oklahoma City. "In one game against Des Moines, he struck out 17 but got 16 of them in six innings. He never went more than two balls to any batter, either."
In his debut, James Rodney erased Houston's individual strikeout high for the season. Don Wilson cut down 12 Cincinnati Reds on July 3, but Richard is now the leader.
Overshadowed by the towering rookie's heroics was Billingham's second shutout this season, which came just 15 days after he blanked the Cubs for his first one.
He won, 3-0, at Chicago on Aug. 21 after retiring the first 18 batters he faced in order.
His seventh victory (against 14 defeats) wasn't as spectacular, but in a strong performance, Billy walked two and struck out 11--his season high.
Notching his fourth big league shutout--he zeroed the Giants last September--Billingham allowed nothing but singles. Not a Giant reached third base and just three made it to second.
The game's lone run was a tainted talley in the second inning when Perry brought about his own downfall.
Singles by Menke and John Edwards with one out brought rookie Ray Busse to the plate. The young shortsthop bounced the ball back to Perry, who whirled and fired away to second base.
His throw was high and went hopping into centerfield. Menke had gone to third on the play and he sprinted home on Perry's error, one of three by the Giants.
Perry, 14-11, silenced the Domemen on three hits the next six innings and Jerry Johnson pitched a runless ninth as the Astros grabbed only their second 1-0 victory this year.
On April 27, Larry Dierker beat the Phillies' Jim Bunning by that score on a six-hitter. This was the first of Houston's eight shutout wins.
With their 65th one-run game, the Orange tied a club record set originally in 1963. They're 28-37 (won-lost) in one-runners in 1971.
Richard Fans 15 in Sweep
September 5, 1971 - by John Wilson, Houston Chronicle
San Francisco --The Houston Astros unveiled their celebrated James Rodney Richard Sunday, and the 21-year-old smoke-throwing right-hander put his name in the record book in his major league debut.
The 6-foot-8, 225-pounder from Ruston, La., struck out 15 to tie the record for an inaugural performance in the big leagues as the Houston Astros swept a doubleheader from the San Francisco Giants, 1-0 and 5-3.
Richard's overpowering performance took the spotlight away from the more artistic 5-hit shutout by Jack Billingham as the Astros swept their first doubleheader ever from San Francisco.
With Billingham striking out 11 in the first game, the Astros tied the major league record for strikeouts in a doubleheader. Philadelphia pitchers struck out 26 last September in games against the New York Mets.
Richard tied Karl Spooner's 15-strikeout performance. In that left-hander's big league debut in 1954, Brooklyn's Spooner's performance was also against the Giants.
Had Giants Loose
Richard, whose blazing fastball had the Giants extremely loose in the batter's box, struck out Willie Mays three times and Dick Dietz three times. Giants batters took many called strikes while stepping back from the plate.
The tall Louisianan, in his third year of professional ball, had 12 strikeouts going into the ninth inning. He then showed great poise and remarkable stamina by blowing down Dietz, Kent Henderson and Hal Lanier in the ninth, seemingly still throwing with the same power as in the earlier innings.
The Giants scored a pair off him in the first inning and got another in the eighth when he didn't get the breaks.
Henderson opened the game with a solid single to center. With two out, Bobby Bonds beat out a slow high bouncer to third. Alan Gallagher then hit a low liner over first, and barely fair for two bases that tallied both runners.
In the eighth, Richard walked Mays to start the round. He then had two down when Denis Menke booted Chris Speier's grounder to allow the run to score. Mays had advanced on a passed ball and on a foul-out.
Cesars' bats Rule
Cesar Geronimo and Cesar Cedeno batted in two runs each as the Astros gave Richard the batting support he needed. Larry Howard knocked in the other run as the Astros got to Jim Willoughby, another rookie making his first major league start.
Manager Charlie Fox used 30 men in the second game as the Giants struggled to keep from losing both ends of the doublheader and any ground to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
But Richard wouldn't yield and lived up to his advance billing in his first major league exposure. Richard was the top draft choice in 1969, but the lanky phenom needed a year-and-a-half to harness his skills and find his pitching groove.
He won 12 and lost 7 at Oklahoma City this year. His top performance was a 17-strikeout-effort in which he struck out 16 in the first six innings before rubbing a blister on his finger.
Five-Hitter for Jack
Billingham spun a five-hitter in the first game for his second shutout of the season. The 28-year-old right-hander gave up a pair of two-out singles in the second, another pair of two-out singles in the sixth and lead-off one bagger to Willie Mays in the ninth.
The Giants sacrificed Mays to second but Billingham struck out Bobby Bonds--his 11th strikeout--and got Dick Dietz on a grounder to end the game.
Gaylord Perry's throwing error cost him the game as it let in the only run of the game.
Denis Menke and John Edwards hit back-to-back singles in the second with one out, Ray Busse rapped a double play ball back to the mound but Perry threw the ball into center field as Menke scored from second.
The Giants made three errors and twice failed to throw out men who could have been nailed on the bases.
But the Astros couldn't take advantage of the opportunities and Billingham had to make the one run stand up. Billingham's record now is 7-14. He pitched a shut-out against Chicago August 21, but had lost his last two starts. Billingham has pitched four major league shut-outs, two of them against the Giants. He shut them out on six hits last September.
ASTRONOTES -- The Astros play two games at Atlanta beginning tonight and then leave two days off before finishing the road trip with three games at Cincinnati. Ron Cook or Tom Griffin will pitch tonight against George Stone (6-5).
Game of 9/5/1971, game 2 -- Houston at San Francisco (D) Courtesy of Retrosheet Houston AB R H RBI San Francisco AB R H RBI Alou J, rf 5 1 1 0 Henderson K, lf 5 1 1 0 Morgan J, 2b 2 2 1 0 Fuentes T, 2b 4 0 1 0 Geronimo C, lf 4 1 2 2 Lanier H, 2b 1 0 0 0 Cedeno C, cf 4 0 2 2 Mays W, 1b 3 1 0 0 Menke D, 3b 4 0 1 0 Bonds B, rf 4 1 1 0 Mayberry J, 1b 4 1 1 0 Gallagher A, 3b 4 0 3 2 Howard L, c 4 0 1 1 Speier C, ss 3 0 0 1 Busse R, ss 4 0 0 0 Rosario J, cf 3 0 0 0 Richard J, p 3 0 0 0 Hart J, ph 1 0 1 0 Duffy F, pr 0 0 0 0 Howarth J, cf 0 0 0 0 Gibson R, c 1 0 0 0 McMahon D, p 0 0 0 0 Rader D, ph 1 0 0 0 Stone S, p 0 0 0 0 Healy F, ph 1 0 0 0 Hamilton S, p 0 0 0 0 Willoughby J, p 1 0 0 0 Barr J, p 0 0 0 0 Dietz D, c 3 0 0 0 -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 34 5 9 5 35 3 7 3 Houston 002 120 000 -- 5 San Francisco 200 000 010 -- 3 Houston IP H R ER BB SO Richard J (W) 9.0 7 3 2 3 15 San Francisco IP H R ER BB SO Willoughby J (L)* 3.0 6 3 3 1 3 Barr J+ 1.0 1 2 2 1 0 McMahon D 2.0 1 0 0 0 2 Stone S 2.0 1 0 0 1 1 Hamilton S 1.0 0 0 0 0 2 * Pitched to 2 batters in 4th + Pitched to 2 batters in 5th E -- Mays W, Menke D DP -- San Francisco 1 LOB -- Houston 6, San Francisco 8 2B -- Morgan J, Gallagher A, Geronimo C 3B -- Alou J SB -- Morgan J 2 SH -- Richard J WP -- Willoughby J PB -- Howard L T -- 2:39 A -- 25,527
Play by Play
Game of Sunday, 9/5/1971, game 2 -- Houston at San Francisco (D) Starting Lineups: Houston San Francisco 1. rf Jesus Alou lf Ken Henderson 2. 2b Joe Morgan 2b Tito Fuentes 3. lf Cesar Geronimo 1b Willie Mays 4. cf Cesar Cedeno rf Bobby Bonds 5. 3b Denis Menke 3b Al Gallagher 6. 1b John Mayberry ss Chris Speier 7. c Larry Howard cf Jimmy Rosario 8. ss Ray Busse c Russ Gibson 9. p J.R. Richard p Jim Willoughby ASTROS 1ST: J.Alou grounded out (J.Willoughby to W.Mays); J.Morgan doubled to right field; C.Geronimo flied to K.Henderson; C.Cedeno grounded out (J.Willoughby to W.Mays); 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Astros 0, Giants 0. GIANTS 1ST: K.Henderson singled to center field; T.Fuentes grounded out (J.Morgan to J.Mayberry) [K.Henderson to second]; W.Mays struck out; B.Bonds singled [K.Henderson to third]; A.Gallagher doubled to right field [K.Henderson scored, B.Bonds scored]; C.Speier grounded out (R.Busse to J.Mayberry); 2 R, 3 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Astros 0, Giants 2. ASTROS 2ND: D.Menke grounded out (A.Gallagher to W.Mays); J.Mayberry struck out; L.Howard was called out on strikes; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Astros 0, Giants 2. GIANTS 2ND: J.Rosario grounded out (J.Morgan to J.Mayberry); R.Gibson walked; J.Willoughby struck out; K.Henderson flied to C.Geronimo; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Astros 0, Giants 2. ASTROS 3RD: R.Busse struck out; J.Richard grounded out (C.Speier to W.Mays); J.Alou tripled to right field; J.Morgan walked; C.Geronimo singled to right field [J.Alou scored, J.Morgan to third]; C.Cedeno singled to center field [J.Morgan scored, C.Geronimo to third]; D.Menke forced C.Cedeno (C.Speier to T.Fuentes) [D.Menke to first]; 2 R, 3 H, 0 E, 2 LOB. Astros 2, Giants 2. GIANTS 3RD: T.Fuentes struck out; W.Mays was called out on strikes; B.Bonds struck out; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Astros 2, Giants 2. ASTROS 4TH: J.Mayberry singled to left field; J.Willoughby threw a wild pitch [J.Mayberry to second]; L.Howard singled to center field [J.Mayberry scored]; J.BARR REPLACED J.WILLOUGHBY (PITCHING); R.Busse forced L.Howard (A.Gallagher to T.Fuentes) [R.Busse to first]; J.Richard out on a sacrifice bunt (J.Barr to T.Fuentes) [R.Busse to second]; J.Alou grounded out (C.Speier to W.Mays); 1 R, 2 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Astros 3, Giants 2. GIANTS 4TH: A.Gallagher singled to right field; C.Speier flied to C.Cedeno; J.Rosario forced A.Gallagher (J.Morgan to R.Busse) [J.Rosario to first]; R.Gibson flied to J.Alou; 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Astros 3, Giants 2. ASTROS 5TH: J.Morgan walked; J.Morgan stole second; C.Geronimo doubled to right field [J.Morgan scored]; D.MCMAHON REPLACED R.GIBSON (PITCHING); D.DIETZ REPLACED J.BARR (PLAYING C); C.Cedeno singled to right field [C.Geronimo scored]; D.Menke grounded into a double play (T.Fuentes to W.Mays) [C.Cedeno out at second]; J.Mayberry grounded out (W.Mays to D.McMahon); 2 R, 2 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Astros 5, Giants 2. GIANTS 5TH: D.Dietz struck out; K.Henderson grounded out (J.Mayberry unassisted); T.Fuentes singled to left-center; W.Mays struck out; 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Astros 5, Giants 2. ASTROS 6TH: L.Howard struck out; R.Busse struck out; J.Richard grounded out (W.Mays to D.McMahon); 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Astros 5, Giants 2. GIANTS 6TH: B.Bonds struck out; A.Gallagher singled to right field; C.Speier walked [A.Gallagher to second]; J.Rosario struck out; D.RADER BATTED FOR D.MCMAHON; D.Rader grounded out (J.Mayberry unassisted); 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 2 LOB. Astros 5, Giants 2. ASTROS 7TH: S.STONE REPLACED D.RADER (PITCHING); J.Alou flied to K.Henderson; J.Morgan walked; J.Morgan stole second; C.Geronimo grounded out (A.Gallagher to W.Mays); C.Cedeno grounded out (C.Speier to W.Mays); 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Astros 5, Giants 2. GIANTS 7TH: D.Dietz was called out on strikes; K.Henderson grounded out (J.Mayberry to J.Richard); T.Fuentes grounded out (J.Mayberry unassisted); 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Astros 5, Giants 2. ASTROS 8TH: H.LANIER REPLACED T.FUENTES (PLAYING 2B); D.Menke singled to shortstop [D.Menke to second (error by W.Mays)]; J.Mayberry popped to C.Speier; L.Howard grounded out (W.Mays to S.Stone) [D.Menke to third]; R.Busse struck out; 0 R, 1 H, 1 E, 1 LOB. Astros 5, Giants 2. GIANTS 8TH: W.Mays walked; L.Howard allowed a passed ball [W.Mays to second]; B.Bonds popped to J.Mayberry in foul territory [W.Mays to third]; A.Gallagher was called out on strikes; C.Speier reached on an error by D.Menke [W.Mays scored (unearned), C.Speier to first]; J.HART BATTED FOR J.ROSARIO; J.Hart singled [C.Speier to second]; F.DUFFY RAN FOR J.HART; F.HEALY BATTED FOR S.STONE; F.Healy was called out on strikes; 1 R (0 ER), 1 H, 1 E, 2 LOB. Astros 5, Giants 3. ASTROS 9TH: J.HOWARTH REPLACED F.DUFFY (PLAYING CF); S.HAMILTON REPLACED F.HEALY (PITCHING); J.Richard struck out; J.Alou grounded out (C.Speier to W.Mays); J.Morgan struck out; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Astros 5, Giants 3. GIANTS 9TH: D.Dietz struck out; K.Henderson struck out; H.Lanier struck out; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Astros 5, Giants 3. Final Totals R H E LOB Astros 5 9 1 6 Giants 3 7 1 8