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Getting even

Hudson's two-hitter gives Oakland share of wild-card lead

Posted: Tuesday August 12, 2003 12:38 AM
Updated: Tuesday August 12, 2003 1:53 AM
  Tim Hudson Tim Hudson faced one batter over the minimum and threw 93 pitches. AP

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Tim Hudson stared at the opposite wall, searching his memory for a better performance than the gem he tossed against the Boston Red Sox's fearsome lineup.

"I don't think there is one," he said. "It'd be hard to say that I have. Not against a team like that, and not against a guy like Pedro. This would have to be the best."

Anyone who saw it will have the same memory.

Hudson pitched a two-hitter, handing Pedro Martinez his first loss in three months as the Oakland Athletics pulled even with Boston atop the AL wild card race with a 4-0 victory Monday night.

Hudson (11-4) struck out seven and walked just one in a masterful display of control and ground-ball pitching. He retired 15 of 16 in the middle innings, and he finished his sixth career shutout by retiring the final seven hitters.

The A's right-hander allowed only a pair of infield singles while facing 28 batters and throwing 93 pitches -- including an untold number of his trademark sinkers that seem attached to a string tied to catcher Ramon Hernandez's feet.

It was Hudson's third complete game of the season, and the 13th of his career.

There's more: He allowed just three fly balls -- the only balls hit out of the infield all night. Almost none of his pitches was hit particularly hard by a Boston lineup with seven batters hitting .288 or better.

A large Coliseum crowd stood and cheered after each of Hudson's final three innings -- and the players and coaches in both dugouts were just as appreciative.

"That was about as good a performance by any pitcher against anybody as you're likely to see," Boston manager Grady Little said. "He was pinpoint perfect, and his stuff was good, and that's a deadly combination. That was certainly the first game we didn't get a hit out of the infield. He was on top of his game."

The AL's most explosive offense faced its most imposing pitching staff in the first of seven key meetings in 10 days between the top two clubs in the wild card race -- and in the opener, pitching ruled.

Chris Singleton and Jose Guillen had run-scoring hits against Martinez (8-3), who struck out seven but threw just five innings on an apparently strict pitch count. He hadn't lost since May 9 -- a span of 13 starts.

Terrence Long hit a two-run homer off reliever Casey Fossum as the A's matched Boston's 68-50 record with their 10th win in 12 games at the Coliseum.

"There was a lot of anticipation for this series," Hudson said. "We knew that whoever comes out on top is going to be in better position for the playoff stretch. Mentally, it's huge, because we knew we were going to have our hands full with Pedro."

Hudson and Martinez have two of the top three winning percentages in major league history among pitchers with at least 50 career victories. But this matchup was one-sided in favor of Hudson, who improved to 4-0 with a 1.35 ERA in his last five starts.

"He had every pitch working," said Boston's Johnny Damon, who went 0-for-4 and struck out to end the game. "It was almost like he was using a scuffed ball. He was that good. He pitched well enough to pitch a perfect game, almost. That was definitely the best game we've seen all year."

Hudson allowed an infield single to Manny Ramirez in the second, but the Boston slugger was erased on a double play. Hudson didn't allow another hit until Nomar Garciaparra's slow-rolling infield single in the seventh -- and the All-Star shortstop also got erased on a double play.

After a baffling season of hard-luck losses and no-decisions that had Hudson questioning his teammates' offensive abilities, he left little to chance in his biggest start of the season.

"We put up two runs against [Martinez] early in the game, and it felt like 10," Hudson said. "It was probably two more than I expected to get off him."

Martinez's pitch control was typically awesome, following 95-mph fastballs with 75-mph curves, but the three-time Cy Young winner had trouble keeping the ball down at key moments.

He retired seven straight before Mark Ellis' third-inning single, which Singleton followed with a double off the right-field wall. Guillen drove home Singleton with a single.

"It was so much fun to play behind [Hudson]," Ellis said. He got so many ground ball, it kept us busy. It was the most fun I've had all year."

Martinez, who had thrown 367 pitches in his last three starts, allowed five hits and two walks. He threw 101 pitches and was removed before the sixth -- and he refused to speak to reporters after the game.

Notes: Hudson improved to 75-30 (.714), and Martinez fell to 160-66 (.708). Spud Chandler, who had a .717 winning percentage with the Yankees from 1937-47, is the only pitcher in history with a better mark than the two. ... The A's expect to activate reliever Jim Mecir on Tuesday. Mecir, once the A's top setup man, experienced no pain in his balky knees during a rehabilitation start in Sacramento on Sunday. ... Boston OF Jeremy Giambi will see Dr. Lewis Yocum, the Anaheim Angels' team physician, on Tuesday for another opinion on his ailing shoulder.

 
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