Martinez looks like his old self, blanks O's, 7-0

Red Sox ace allows just one hit in 7 innings, silences negative reports

O's tired of hearing he's lost it

Hargrove: `That's twice we've heard reports his stuff isn't what it was'

April 26, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

The Orioles are tired of hearing how Boston Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez just isn't his dominating self anymore. They have faced him twice in the past three weeks, and he's just fine, thank you.

Martinez carried a no-hit bid into the sixth inning yesterday, making several Orioles hitters look downright silly in the process.

Gary Matthews Jr., who entered the game having never faced Martinez, broke up the no-hitter with a two-out single in the sixth.

Still unsure about the strength in his right shoulder, Martinez came out after the seventh, and the Red Sox cruised to a 7-0 victory before 31,353 at Camden Yards.

"Every day is a new adventure," said Martinez, who was limited to 18 starts last season with pain in that shoulder. "I'm still learning and recognizing different things. I'm still in wonder land, if anybody wants to join me."

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

The Orioles don't buy it.

Martinez (3-0) posted this line: seven innings, one hit, one walk, 10 strikeouts.

Including last Friday's start at Kansas City, here are Martinez's numbers in his past two starts: 15 innings, two hits, no runs, one walk, 16 strikeouts.

Yet, all of the Orioles' reports said Martinez was slipping.

"I don't know about that report," said Orioles shortstop Mike Bordick, who froze looking at a strike three on a 3-2 curveball in the fifth inning. "There's no way a pitcher of that caliber can all of a sudden lose it.

"He has the capability of throwing all four of his pitches for strikes at any time. He did that today, and that's why he's such a dominant pitcher."

On Opening Day, Martinez gave up seven earned runs in three innings against Toronto. In his second start, April 7 at Camden Yards, he held the Orioles without an earned run on three hits for six innings in a 4-1 victory.

Yesterday, he threw six fastballs that reached 95 mph, including one that blew past Jay Gibbons for strike three in the seventh inning. Then, to close his day, Martinez threw a nifty little 81-mph changeup for strike three against Tony Batista.

That was his 103rd pitch, and with a seven-run lead, he saw no reason to push himself for a complete-game shutout.

"I'm trying to be patient, unless I want to risk my career," Martinez said. "And I don't think it's time to do that."

Whatever.

The Orioles will believe it when they see it.

"That's twice we've heard reports his stuff isn't what it was before," Hargrove said. "But I've yet to see that. He's had pretty good stuff both times out, especially today. He threw a lot of curveballs and sliders and changeups to go along with a 94-95 mph fastball."

After winning the first two games of the series, the Orioles knew they faced long odds of gaining a sweep with No. 5 starter Calvin Maduro pitching opposite Martinez.

Maduro (1-2) had made two quality starts in a row, but this time he gave up five runs in five innings. Brian Daubach scored Manny Ramirez with a second-inning sacrifice fly, for the only run the Red Sox would need.

Trot Nixon led off the third inning with a home run, and Ramirez finished 3-for-5 with a double and two RBIs.

By the time Josh Towers relieved Maduro in the sixth, the only drama was Martinez's bid for his first career no-hitter. Leadoff batter Jerry Hairston lined out to right field for the second out in the sixth, and at that point the Orioles had hit five balls hard with nothing to show for them.

But with a 2-2 count to Matthews, Martinez made his lone mistake, leaving a changeup high and over the plate. Matthews, who struck out his first two times up, lined this one to right field for a base hit.

"All I can do is check him out on video," Matthews said, explaining how he prepared himself to face Martinez. "It seems like every time you turn on SportsCenter, he's striking somebody out.

"I was just trying to look for something in my zone, just trying to look for something up."

Having allowed just one hit in each of his past two starts, Martinez can look forward to Tuesday, when he's scheduled to face these same Orioles.

In eight career starts against the Orioles, Martinez is 5-1 with a 1.72 ERA.

At Camden Yards, he is 3-1 with a 0.95 ERA.

"I'm an experienced guy, and I know the day a no-hitter comes, it'll just happen," Martinez said. "I'm not going to look for it."

Orioles tonight

Opponent:Kansas City Royals

Site:Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.

Time:8:05

TV/Radio:Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: O's Sean Douglass (first 2002 start) vs. Royals' Dan Reichert (0-3, 6.35)

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