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Martinez suffers first loss in three months

8/12/2003

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.

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.