- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 3, 2001


BALTIMORE It wasn't supposed to happen this way, not with the best pitcher in the game taking the mound on Opening Day. Not with a 32-year-old right-hander playing for his third team in three seasons on the opposing side. Not with a perennial playoff contender facing a team pegged by some to be the worst in baseball.
But it did happen, and the Baltimore Orioles have Pat Hentgen to thank for it.
Matched against three-time Cy Young Award winner Pedro Martinez, a man who is expected to win every game he starts, Hentgen managed to steal the show and in the process help lead the Orioles to an unlikely 2-1, 11-inning victory over the Boston Red Sox in yesterday's season opener at Camden Yards.
That the Orioles won on Opening Day was surprising enough for some. That they did it against Martinez, in extra innings, with some aggressive baserunning and timely hitting, was all the more stunning.
"I think realistically 99.9 percent of the people in America saw the matchup with Pedro today and wrote us off," said Baltimore manager Mike Hargrove, whose team was picked by more than one publication as the worst in baseball. "To be able to do what Pat did, it takes a very mentally tough individual. That's been Pat since the first day I met him. I'm certainly glad he's on our side."
Hentgen, who signed with the Orioles this winter after a nine-year career in Toronto and St. Louis, matched Martinez pitch-for-pitch. Both gave up one run on four hits. Both walked one and struck out six.
Baltimore's new staff ace, though, proved his mettle by lasting 8 2/3 innings on a blustery, 49-degree day at Camden Yards, when Martinez who did not surpass the 80-pitch mark once this spring could muster only seven innings.
"I just have to tip my hat to him," said Martinez, whose only real mistakes were a leadoff double to Jerry Hairston in the bottom of the sixth and a single to Mike Bordick that brought Hairston who stole third base home. "I know what Pat is capable of. He can pitch with you in every single moment of the game. He out-threw me today."
Despite his dominant performance, Hentgen had to wait until the 11th inning for his teammates to seal the win.
Shut down without a hit for three innings by Boston relievers Rod Beck and Derek Lowe, the Orioles finally broke through in the bottom of the 11th. Hairston, the No. 9 hitter, rapped his second double (and third hit) of the game to left field off Lowe.
With the winning run on second base, Brady Anderson squared around to bunt once, but took ball one from Lowe (0-1). He swung away on the next pitch, though, and poked it past second baseman Chris Stynes, who may have been inching toward first base thinking Anderson would bunt again.
Hairston rounded third and scored without drawing a throw. He was mobbed by his Baltimore teammates as the sellout crowd of 46,547 rose to cheer.
Anderson, in his 14th season with the Orioles, decided on his own to square around on the first pitch. He also decided on his own to swing away after that.
"Maybe it was the count or the fact that I had seen a pitch," he said. "I thought about [bunting] for a minute, but all of a sudden I got a good feeling, that I could hit it. I'm much more pleased this way."
Anderson never would have had a shot at a game-winning hit if not for some key pitches and defensive plays by the Orioles in the late innings.
Hentgen breezed through the first three innings, retiring 10 straight batters to open the game before serving up a solo home run to Trot Nixon in the top of the fourth. He continued unscathed for four more innings, then got into a dicey situation in the ninth.
Stynes led off the inning with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Nixon. Hargrove emerged from the dugout to talk with Hentgen and the Orioles' infield though the manager never once considered pulling his starter. He had Hentgen intentionally walk Jason Varitek (his only base on balls of the game), then watched as the runners moved to second and third on a wild pitch.
With the infield drawn in, Hentgen coaxed Darren Lewis in for the injured Manny Ramirez into a hard grounder to Bordick, who threw home to get Stynes out. Hentgen was then pulled in favor of left-hander Buddy Groom, who gave up a hard grounder to Carl Everett that Cal Ripken stopped on a dive before forcing Lewis out at second to end the inning.
Groom pitched a perfect 10th before giving way to closer Ryan Kohlmeier (1-0), who gave up a walk and a single but struck out Lewis in the 11th to earn the victory.
"I can't stress enough about the defense and the game [catcher] Brook [Fordyce] called," Hentgen said. "It was just a great game."

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