If preseason performance were an indication, Ken Forsch would be the last Houston Astros pitcher to expect to hurl a no-hitter.
Forsch, however, was quick to celebrate the opening of the regular season Saturday night when he hurled the earliest no-hitter in the history of baseball, a 6-0 decision over the visiting Atlanta Braves in which he walked two.
Forsch, battling a hamstring pull and leg soreness during spring training, lost all three exhibition decisions and gave up 14 hits to Minnesota in one four-inning stint and 13 safeties to Montreal in seven innings.
Then, two days before he was to make his first regular season start, the right-hander received a mysterious insect bite that caused his left arm to swell and make him doubtful for 24 hours.
"I was really sick Thursday," Forsch said. "It was my worst day."
Pitching with such ease that no Brave batter came even close to a hit, Forsch, 32, joined his brother Bob to become the first brother combination to throw no-hitters. Bob no-hit Philadelphia to lead St. Louis to a 5-0 victory last April 16.
The previous earliest no-hitter was thrown by Ed Cicotte of the Chicago White Sox on April 14, 1917, in an 11-0 triumph over the St. Louis Browns. Bob Feller of the Cleveland Indians hurled a no-hitter on opening day in 1940-but the date was April 16.
Forsch's performance was the 190th no-hitter in the major leagues and the first since Tom Seaver of Cincinnati held St. Louis hitless last June 16.
The only base-runners against Forsch were Jeff Burroughs to lead off the second and Barry Bonnell with two out in the eighth. Both walked on 3-1 pitches.