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Boston's Martinez has poor first outing

4/5/2004

BALTIMORE -- Pedro Martinez quickly learned that these aren't the same old punchless Baltimore Orioles.

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 fell behind the New
York Yankees (1-1) in the AL East for the first time this season by
virtue of the opening-night loss.

"We would prefer to start the season with a win, but you can't
get caught up in one game," Boston right fielder Gabe Kapler said.
"It's a long season."

And quite a different one for the Orioles, who last year
finished 12th in the 14-team AL in runs scored.

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 RBI. Tejada was also perfect on 12 chances at shortstop.

"It's just amazing what a difference a year makes," No. 6
hitter Jay Gibbons said. "You see 3-4-5 all come through tonight --
and in the clutch, too. It's just so different."

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.

"The first couple innings he wasn't as strong as he normally
is, but after the third inning he became the pitcher that he always
is," Lopez said.

It was Martinez's 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.

"I'm happy with the outcome and happy to get the win, but I
made some mistakes and got in trouble," Ponson said.

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

Asked if he could have written a better script for his first
game as a big league manager, Mazzilli said, "I didn't want to
face Pedro. But if you hold that team to two runs, you're doing
something."

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.

"After that, man, I tell you what, he buckled down," Francona
said. "When it looked like they were going to put up more than
three, he gave us a chance to stay in the game."

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.

Notes: Temperature at the start of the game was 43 degrees, the
coldest at an Orioles' home opener since 1987. ... Mark Bellhorn
was the 11th different 2B to start on opening day for Boston in the
last 11 years. ... Ramirez had two hits, the first his 500th for
the Red Sox. ... Javy Lopez is 9-for-25 (.360) against Martinez.