Orioles get 2004 off to a flying start

Posted: Monday, April 05, 2004

BALTIMORE One bad inning did in Pedro Martinez, just like last October.

Javy Lopez homered and drove in three runs, and fellow newcomers Rafael Palmeiro and Miguel Tejada both had two hits to lead the Orioles over the Boston Red Sox 7-2 Sunday night in Lee Mazzilli's first game as Baltimore's manager.

Martinez experienced an uncharacteristic lapse in control while yielding three second-inning runs. The Red Sox, who began their season a half-game ahead of the New York Yankees, wasted an AL East lead for the first time this season by virtue of the opening-night loss.

Signed as free agents during a busy winter for the Orioles, Lopez, Palmeiro and Tejada combined to go 7-for-11 with three runs and four RBIs. Tejada was also perfect on 12 chances at shortstop.

Martinez was the loser, giving up three runs, two earned, and seven hits in six innings. He struck out five, walked one and hit a batter.

It was his first appearance in a game that counted since Oct. 16, when the three-time Cy Young Award winner blew a 5-2 against the Yankees in Game 7 of the AL championship series, and New York went on to win 6-5 in 11 innings.

Boston ultimately fired manager Grady Little for, among other things, leaving a tiring Martinez in too long.

Little's successor, Terry Francona, watched the Red Sox strand 14 runners against Sidney Ponson and three relievers in temperatures that dipped into the 30s.

Ponson, the winner, allowed one run, seven hits and three walks in 5 2-3 innings. His fine effort backed his stature as the new staff ace and belied his career numbers against Boston coming in: 1-9 and a 6.56 ERA in 12 games.

B.J. Ryan got five outs for the save.

There was some concern among Boston fans this spring that Martinez lost some velocity on his fastball, but on this night the pitch was clocked frequently at 91 mph.

It was his wildness, not his fastball, that got him in trouble.

After wasting two hits in the first inning, Baltimore went up 3-0 in the second. Lopez homered on the first pitch he saw with the Orioles, driving an 89 mph fastball into the left-field seats against Martinez, who gave up only seven homers last season.

Jay Gibbons followed with a single and David Segui was plunked in the back with a pitch before Larry Bigbie hit a tapper in front of the plate that Martinez fielded and threw wildly to first, allowing Gibbons to score. Luis Matos then hit an RBI single.

Manny Ramirez singled in a run to make it 3-1 in the third. The Red Sox put runners on second and third with two outs in the fourth before newcomer Pokey Reese inexplicably bunted and was easily thrown out.

With two on and two outs in the Boston fifth, Ponson struck out Kevin Millar on three pitches.

Baltimore reliever Rodrigo Lopez snuffed a two-on, two-out threat in the sixth, and the Orioles pulled away with a three-run seventh against Mike Timlin. After Melvin Mora walked and Tejada singled with two outs, Palmeiro hit an RBI single and Javy Lopez doubled in two runs.

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