Another no-no for Nomo

In 1st start as Red Sox, he baffles Orioles, 3-0, with his 2nd no-hitter

11 K's part of dominance

Right-hander is fourth in majors' history with no-hitter in NL and AL

April 05, 2001|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

By the fourth inning, a line was forming about 20 yards from the Orioles' dugout just outside the clubhouse video room. The visitors were frantic to uncover the mystery of Hideo Nomo.

They never learned.

In his debut for a Boston Red Sox team torn asunder by injuries and intrigue since spring training, Nomo turned the first no-hitter in Camden Yards history and the first in 36 years for his angst-ridden franchise. The Japanese contortionist and his disappearing forkball beat the Orioles, 3-0, before a crowd of 35,602 that by night's end cheered his every trick. The no-hitter was the fifth thrown against the Orioles and the first since the Chicago White Sox's Wilson Alvarez victimized them in his second major-league appearance on Aug. 11, 1991 at Memorial Stadium.

Only four days into a season defined by a larger strike zone, the game witnessed its first no-hitter since University of Maryland alum Eric Milton performed the feat for the Minnesota Twins against the Anaheim Angels on Sept. 11, 1999.

For the Red Sox, Nomo's gem was the first since Dave Morehead no-hit the Cleveland Indians on Sept. 16, 1965, and the 15th in franchise history.

"It was a nightmare," said Orioles second baseman Jerry Hairston, victimized for three of Nomo's 11 strikeouts. "I had some great swings at pitches I thought I couldn't miss. But it wasn't there. I felt even better at the plate today than Monday" when he went 3-for-4, "but I never got it."

Nomo signed a one-year, $4.5 million contract last winter. The pitching-thin Orioles, uncertain about Nomo's durability, were among the clubs that passed on him. Nomo then emerged from a winless spring to throw the second no-hitter of his career at a lineup that never adjusted to his vanishing split-finger pitch or less-than-overpowering fastball.

"Guys were coming up here [to the video] room to see what was happening," said manager Mike Hargrove. "Everybody was swinging ahead of his fastball."

Nomo walked three and was hurt by one error. He benefited in the ninth inning from second baseman Mike Lansing's run-and-roll catch of Mike Bordick's pop fly into shallow center field.

"As soon as I saw it, I put my head down," Lansing said. "I knew I had to go all out and get there. ... He had worked so hard to get that far. I didn't want him to lose it at that point." Nomo then retired Delino DeShields on a routine fly to left field, his teammates swarmed him and Camden Yards stood in appreciation.

"I felt pretty good throughout the game as I was going into the ninth inning," Nomo said through interpreter Chang Lee. "I wasn't really nervous but I had the same thought throughout the game. I wasn't thinking too much. I trusted the catcher to follow his lead."

"I didn't second-guess anything we did," said catcher Jason Varitek. "We had a good mix. We kept hitters off-balance. We got ahead. We got a few high strikes called but it's an ongoing adjustment for everyone." The fourth pitcher to throw no-hitters in both leagues, Nomo no-hit the Colorado Rockies while with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sept. 17, 1996, after a two-hour delay because of cold. Last night's game was delayed 43 minutes by a power outage that darkened the ballpark and the B&O warehouse.

After his first no-hitter, Nomo bounced to the New York Mets, Milwaukee Brewers and Detroit Tigers while briefly being mentioned as a trade possibility for the Orioles in between. Last night, his career came full circle at the expense of Orioles starting pitcher Sidney Ponson, whose early dominance overshadowed Nomo for four innings. Red Sox first baseman Brian Daubach beat Ponson with a pair of home runs, an opposite-field, two-run shot in the third and a bases-empty homer wrapped around the right-field foul pole in the eighth inning.

The Orioles who had hurt Nomo in the past are now gone. Last night's starting lineup was a collective 8-for-51 (.157) against Nomo before the game.

Minus David Segui, who had reached Nomo for two home runs in 13 previous at-bats, the remaining lineup was 3-for-38 (.079).

Ponson emerged in overpowering form. He struck out two in the first inning, including Red Sox center fielder Carl Everett on the front end of an inning-ending double play. Chasing his career-high 11 strikeouts, Ponson then struck out the side in the second, including a devastating 3-2 curveball that chased designated hitter Manny Ramirez for the first out.

After blowing away five of his first six hitters faced, Ponson was reached for a scorching grounder by Sean Hillenbrand that went through third baseman Cal Ripken's legs. Ripken absorbed the error when the grounder failed to come up.

Daubach wasted no time jumping Ponson's first pitch - a thigh-high fastball that tailed toward the outside corner - and driving it the opposite way two rows deep into the left-field seats.

Even at his most dominant, Ponson has been vulnerable to the home run, particularly at home. He surrendered 21 of last season's 30 home runs at home.

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