MAY 1, 1991: Arlington Stadium, Rangers 3, Blue Jays 0
THE LINE: 9IP 0H 0R 0ER 2BB 16K
THE BACKSTORY: Ryan seemed ageless—at 44, he was a month into his 25th big league season and a year removed from his record sixth no-hitter—but on this day he felt broken down. He had a sore back and a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand; before leaving for the ballpark he told his wife, "I feel old today."
"My favorite game that I pitched has to be my seventh no-hitter: because it was late in my career, and it was in front of my home crowd. I heard later that as the game went on, you could see more and more cars coming into the parking lot. I definitely remember the crowd getting bigger inning by inning. It was just exciting to have their enthusiastic support and appreciation."
OCT. 28, 1995: Atlanta--Fulton County Stadium Braves 1, Indians 0
THE LINE: 8IP 1H 0R 0ER 3BB 8K
THE BACKSTORY: The Braves, leading 3--2 in their third World Series appearance in five years, had dominated the National League since 1991—but hadn't won a world championship. A win in Game 6 would deliver the franchise's first title since '57. A loss? The phrase "Buffalo Bills of baseball" was in the air....
"A no-brainer, for two reasons. Number 1, the circumstance. To perform in that setting, certainly it was a big deal. Secondly, the Indians were without question the best offensive lineup I faced in my career. Kenny Lofton led off, then you had Carlos Baerga, Albert Belle, Jim Thome, Manny Ramírez, Sandy Alomar.... They had five guys who had 20 home runs that year.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd go eight innings and give up one hit. For me the big moment was the first inning. I was typically a slow starter; I often struggled in the first inning. I had a really good warmup before the game. You're looking for movement and location and stuff. I had all three in my warmup—and everything I had in the bullpen, I had out on the mound. I got through the first in order and settled in.
Looking back, it's how well the game went and how well I pitched and the gravity of the moment.... For [the Braves] in particular, having lost a couple times in the World Series, to get over that hump and win one was just satisfaction."
MAY 28, 2000: Yankee Stadium Red Sox 2, Yankees 0
THE LINE: 9IP 4H 0R 0ER 1BB 9K
THE BACKSTORY: Yankees. Red Sox. Need we say more? Remember, this was pre-2004: The Curse of the Bambino was still a thing, and Yankee Stadium was still a house of horrors for Boston. Especially when a certain ex-Sox ace was on the mound.
"I would have to say the Sunday-night game against Roger Clemens. I got to go inning for inning in a packed Yankee Stadium while I was in my prime, and Roger was too. He was one of my idols. The game was tied at zero through the eighth inning, and we ended up winning. [Trot Nixon hit a two-run home run in the top of the ninth; the game ended when Martínez got Tino Martínez to ground out with the bases loaded in the bottom of the inning.] But just the fact that I was able to match one of my idols inning by inning was amazing."
OCT. 2, 1995: The Kingdome, Mariners 9, Angels 1
THE LINE: 9IP 3H 1R 1ER 1BB 12K
THE BACKSTORY: Seattle and California finished the regular season with identical records—the winner of this one-game playoff would win the AL West. The Mariners were also trying to clinch the first postseason appearance in franchise history.
"I had a lot of big strikeout games: 20 in a game in 2001, two 19-K games within six weeks in 1997. But this one stands out because the game itself had major significance at the time. A must-win game—go to the playoffs or go home. I feel like this was where I started to take my career to the next level in terms of pitching in the postseason, accountability and having people rely on you in the biggest games.
I was facing Mark Langston, one of the players the Montreal Expos received when they traded me to Seattle six years earlier. I felt like I was coming full circle. Now I was the kind of established pitcher that the Expos were looking for when they traded me for Mark.
I had my fastball and my slider working, and was really able to execute my pitches. When you're in that zone, it almost feels like things are happening in slow motion. It doesn't happen often, but that's the highest level you can be in. It's a really great feeling. It wasn't a dominating strikeout game, but this wasn't about an individual performance. Baseball started to take off in Seattle because of that win. This was about more than an individual performance."