It's about time. Until Wednesday night, it was starting to look as though baseball would have to be content with only seven no-hitters this season.

When Terry Mulholland took the mound for the Philadelphia Phillies against the San Francisco Giants, more than a month had passed since the last hitless pitching performance. And with so much attention focused recently on Pete Rose's prison sentence, Nolan Ryan's 300th victory and George Steinbrenner's forced resignation, the no-hit craze seemingly had subsided.

It was only temporary. Mulholland, distinguished previously by his trade from the Giants to the Phillies last June for veteran reliever Steve Bedrosian, dominated his former teammates with eight strikeouts and no walks, pitching August's first no-hitter and the record eighth in a season that has evolved into the antithesis of the home-run slew of 1987.

"It's been a very, very strange year," former Baltimore Orioles and current Pittsburgh Pirates pitching coach Ray Miller said yesterday. "I watch the matchups in the National League. . . . They just don't make sense. You have a pitcher going against a club that he should have no chance against, and look what happens. It's the most amazing thing. We've dominated some clubs offensively and the next day get dominated by someone we should beat."

When Mark Langston and then-Angel Mike Witt combined for California on a no-hitter against Seattle April 11, many dismissed it as a product of the owner's lockout. Because of a shortened spring, it was reasoned, pitchers were better prepared than hitters at that stage.

But June arrived. Seattle's Randy Johnson started it by stopping Detroit on June 2. Nine days later, Texas's incomparable Nolan Ryan pitched his record sixth no-hitter against Oakland. Completing a four-no-hitter month, Oakland's Dave Stewart and Los Angeles's Fernando Valenzuela achieved the feat in respective ends of an ESPN doubleheader June 29.

July was almost as crazy, as the New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox split a pair of no-hitters within two weeks of each other -- with the White Sox winning both games. After Andy Hawkins lost to Chicago, 4-0, on July 1, Melido Perez threw a six-inning gem against the Yankees on July 12.

And now Mulholland, a 13-21 lifetime pitcher whose best showing until Wednesday was a two-hitter against the Giants last August. The promising left-hander threw the first nine-inning no-hitter in the 20-year history of Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium.

"You guys saw it; I felt it," Mulholland said. "It was just a great, great experience. I can't really describe what was going through my mind after {third baseman} Charlie {Hayes} snagged that {game-ending} line drive. It was like a ton of bricks just fell off my shoulders."

Miller's best pitcher, Doug Drabek, came within one strike of pitching a no-hitter at Veterans Stadium on Aug. 3, but lost it when Sil Campusano singled with two out in the ninth.

"The hitters are worse," said one-time Washington Senator Dick Bosman, who threw a no-hitter for Cleveland in 1974. "I'm not taking any credit away from the guys who have pitched them, but when I see what I see in Triple-A, you're seeing a downturn in hitting.

"There is an element of luck to pitch one. I can speak personally about that," said Bosman, now pitching coach for the Rochester Red Wings, Baltimore's Class AAA farm team. "Nothing surprises me a whole heck of a lot anymore. I just don't see the quality of hitter that I used to. From what I see coming up, I really don't see the resurgence of the '27 Yankees anywhere -- that's our club notwithstanding."

MOST NO-HITTERS IN A SEASON SINCE 1900

EIGHT: 1990 Mark Langston, 7 innings, and Mike Witt, 2, California; Randy Johnson, Seattle; Nolan Ryan, Texas; Dave Stewart, Oakland; Fernando Valenzuela, Los Angeles; Andy Hawkins, Yankees (Lost, 4-0); Melido Perez, White Sox (6 innings); Terry Mulholland, Philadelphia.

SEVEN: 1908 Cy Young, Boston (AL); George Wiltse, N.Y. (NL); John Lush, St. Louis (NL); George Rucker, Brooklyn; Dusty Rhoades, Cleveland; Frank Smith, Chicago; Addie Joss, Cleveland, perfect game.

SEVEN: 1917 Edward Cicotte, Chicago (AL); George Mogridge, New York (AL); James Vaughn, Chicago (NL); Fred Toney, Cincinnati; Ernest Koob, St. Louis (AL); Robert Groom, St. Louis (AL); Ernie Shore, Boston (AL), perfect game.

NO-HITTERS IN THE '80s

1980: Jerry Reuss, Los Angeles.

1981: Charlie Lea, Montreal; Nolan Ryan, Houston; Len Barker (perfect game), Cleveland.

1982: None.

1983: Dave Righetti, Yankees; Bob Forsch, St. Louis; Mike Warren, Oakland.

1984: Jack Morris, Detroit; Mike Witt, California (perfect game); David Palmer, Montreal (5 innings).

1985: None.

1986: Joe Cowley, White Sox; Mike Scott, Houston.

1987: Juan Nieves, Milwaukee.

1988: Tom Browning, Cincinnati (perfect game); Pascual Perez, Montreal (5 innings).

1989: None.