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Watch party: Fernando Valenzuela’s 10th major league start

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Dodgers at Reds, May 23, 1981

Los Angeles Dodgers v Philadelphia Phillies

We’re going back to the NBC ‘Game of the Week’ well for tonight’s watch party, for Fernando Valenzuela’s 10th major league start.

Dodgers-Reds lineups

Pos Dodgers Pos Reds
Pos Dodgers Pos Reds
SS Russell RF Collins (S)
CF Landreaux (L) CF Griffey (L)
LF Baker SS Concepcion
1B Garvey LF Foster
3B Cey 1B Bench
RF Guerrero 3B Knight
C Scioscia (L) 2B Oester (S)
2B Thomas (S) C O'Berry
P Valenzuela (L) P Soto
Baseball-Reference box score

The Dodgers were in Cincinnati to play the Reds on Saturday, May 23, 1981, and Fernandomania was in full swing by now, after his five shutouts in his first eight starts, and an 8-0 record. Valenzuela lost to the Phillies on May 18, falling to 10-1. His ERA entering this start was 0.91, with 74 strikeouts in 79 innings. He allowed only eight total runs in his nine starts.

Counting his time in relief the previous September with the Dodgers, in which Valenzuela allowed only four unearned runs, his career ERA entering this start was 0.74.

Behind Valenzuela the Dodgers got off to a scorching start in 1981, entering this game with the best record in baseball at 28-11, up 5½ games on the second-place Reds in the National League West.

Mario Soto started on the mound for the Reds.

Labor discord was nigh in Major League Baseball at this time, with talk of a looming potential strike prevalent during NBC’s pregame show. Dodgers pitcher Dave Stewart and Tom Seaver of the Reds talked about the players’ position with Bryant Gumbel.

The strike would come on June 12, and wipe out two months of the season. In an unprecedented year, MLB would split the season in halves, with the first-half winner battling the second-half winner in an extra playoff round to decide each division.

The Dodgers were 36-21 when the strike hit, still the best record in baseball. But the Reds were just a half-game behind at 35-21, a victim of the schedule at that point. In the second half Cincinnati again had the second-best NL record at 31-21, but finished 1½ games back of the Astros.

What resulted was the Reds, owners of the best record in baseball at 66-42, on the outside looking in once the playoffs began. But they still got a banner out of it.


We’re going to watch this broadcast beginning at 5 p.m. PT, on YouTube:

Watch party details

  • What: Dodgers at Reds
  • Where: Riverfront Stadium, Cincinnati
  • When: Saturday, May 23, 1981
  • Box score
  • Watch: YouTube, 5 p.m. PT