A's Hudson halts O's run, 4-0

A's standout allows 1 hit for 7 1/3 innings to win 5th in row

Clark hit is near-catch

2-hit loss ends O's 4-game win streak

May 28, 2000|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

He possesses a higher career winning percentage than Mike Mussina, a better split-fingered pitch than Roger Clemens and more run support than Pat Rapp. Camden Yards got its first glimpse of Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Tim Hudson last night and won't likely forget the experience.

Hudson, all heat and movement, shut down the Orioles' four-game win streak with 7- one-hit innings in what ended as a 4-0 combination two-hitter. If not for center fielder Terrence Long's near-miss of Will Clark's fifth-inning line drive, Hudson (6-2) may have celebrated history rather than the second-most suffocating performance the Orioles have experienced this season.

"You really can't feel bad about that," said Orioles manager Mike Hargrove. "There wasn't a lot we could do offensively."

In winning his fifth straight game, Hudson allowed only two balls out of the infield while striking out five. While Orioles starter Jason Johnson (0-3) was merely evasive, Hudson experienced few problems.

Hudson's dominance extended the Orioles' recent offensive malaise. While the league is averaging 5.37 runs per game, the Orioles have averaged only 3.92 over their past 12 games. Last night marked the 11th time in 16 games they have failed to score more than four runs.

Along with reliever Jeff Tam, Hudson held the Orioles without an extra-base hit for only the second game this season. The shutout was the Orioles' second and the first not thrown at them by Pedro Martinez.

Hudson entered the game sixth in the league in strikeouts, between Clemens and Orlando Hernandez. His appearance represented a contrast to the A's Friday starter, Mark Mulder, an off-speed left-hander whom the Orioles crushed for four home runs.

Hudson, a sixth-round draft pick in 1997 who last season became the first 10-game winner drafted and developed by the A's since Curt Young in 1988, raised his career record to 17-4 in 32 appearances, two of them against the Orioles.

Opponents entered last night hitting only .244 against Hudson but walks had tormented him. The Orioles tried patience but Hudson's ability to throw first-pitch strikes left them vulnerable to his disappearing split-fingered fastball later in counts. Hudson found no trouble working both sides of the plate against the Orioles and was so frustrating that Hargrove received his first ejection as Orioles manager for arguing about plate umpire Alfonso Marquez's strike zone.

"It was balls and strikes," Hargrove said. "I thought he was wrong and disagreed. He won. I was a little surprised he did it."

Regardless, Hudson pitched on another level. While the big-swinging A's helped him to a 5-2 start with the league's best run support (9.62 runs per nine innings), he earned his sixth win by dominating a fastball-craving lineup.

"He threw his split in fastball counts and got us swinging," said designated hitter Harold Baines, one of seven Orioles starters to take the collar.

"He has good stuff," Hargrove said. "He's a young pitcher. With the movement on his fastball, the big question is how many strikes will he throw."

Albert Belle and Baines managed to pull ground balls in the second inning before Hudson went on a tear of three consecutive strikeouts. Through three innings, the Orioles couldn't get a ball out of the infield as Hudson cruised on 40 pitches.

Hudson remained perfect through four innings after helping himself by deflecting Delino DeShields' line drive to second base for the second out.

Through three innings, Hudson went to three balls against only two hitters. One of them, DeShields, lined a 3-1 pitch back at him in the fourth.

History caught up with Hudson in the fifth inning as he went to three-ball counts against the first three hitters. Belle helped by popping out on a 3-1 count. Baines then walked to break Hudson's perfect run. Cal Ripken also walked. Clark then drilled an 0-1 pitch to center field. Long froze momentarily on a ball that started at him then tailed to his glove side. He charged, laid out and reached the ball only to have it deflect off his glove's webbing for a single.

"I thought I was going to make the catch," Long said. "I wanted to make the catch, but I knew I was going to have to dive and I didn't want it to get by me."

"That was a tough play," Hudson said. "He gave a good effort out there, and he's going to make that play a lot. He just didn't come up with it. Luckily, he was able to keep it in front of him and keep the guy from scoring."

Instead of protecting a no-hitter, Hudson suddenly found himself protecting a precarious lead with catcher Greg Myers approaching. This time Hudson got ahead of the hitter and was rewarded with a soft grounder to the mound, which he turned into a 1-2-3 double play. Only Mike Bordick's one-out single off Tam in the eighth inning would follow.

"He was outstanding," A's manager Art Howe said of Hudson. "He was throwing strikes with everything, staying ahead in counts."

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