Bobby Molinaro's sixth-inning sacrifice fly ended a two-run rally that helped the Philadelphia Phillies to a 6-3 victory tonight over the Houston Astros and Nolan Ryan, who failed to set a major league strikeout record.
Ryan had three strikeouts, giving him 3,504 in 16 full major league seasons. That left him four short of the lifetime record of Walter Johnson, who ended a 21-year career with the Washington Senators in 1927.
Ryan (1-1) pitched six innings, allowing five hits and four runs, and walked six. Vern Ruhle came on in the seventh for Houston, which trailed, 4-3, at that point.
Ryan, 36, will have to wait until Wednesday in Montreal, when he is scheduled to start against the Expos, to get another chance at the record.
"I went out to get the record, but it was obvious from the start it would be a long night," Ryan said. "It was obvious my control was the biggest factor. I was up with my fast ball and missing with my curve. I was getting my curve down, but it was missing outside.
"I got two strikes on a lot of batters, but I couldn't put anybody away. Philadelphia was very defensive. They weren't as aggressive as they normally are."
Philadelphia's Pete Rose agreed it would have been difficult for Ryan to break the record against the Phillies, who do not strike out much.
"It was a tough thing, needing eight strikeouts. A lesser number would have been much easier," Rose said. "I don't think he had the control he wanted. He started to throw the curve ball when he was ahead for some reason.
"You know it's going to fall sometime. He just wanted to do it at home."
In the first, Ryan gave up a run on two walks and singles by Pete Rose and Tony Perez. Home plate umpire Randy Marsh drew boos from the crowd of 32,130 several times when he did not call a strike on a close pitch by Ryan.
Ryan got his first strikeout against pitcher Dick Ruthven in the second inning. His second came when he caught Joe Morgan looking in the fifth.
Ryan got his third strikeout, Bo Diaz, in the sixth, but by the inning's end he had given up two runs on two hits and two walks. He threw 117 pitches in his second start of the season.
The Astros took a 3-2 lead in the fourth on a sacrifice fly by Phil Garner and singles by Jose Cruz and pinch hitter Bill Doran.
In the sixth, however, Ryan walked leadoff batter Mike Schmidt. Perez singled and Garry Mattox walked. Greg Gross' single sent Schmidt home and Molinaro scored Perez with the go-ahead run.
Sid Monge (2-0), who replaced Ruthven in the fourth inning, was the winner.
"I haven't thought who with the Expos I'd like to face," Ryan said. "I'll settle for a pitcher."