- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 5, 2001


BALTIMORE More than a few people probably figured a Boston Red Sox pitcher was capable of no-hitting the Baltimore Orioles during their season-opening, three-game series.
But who in his right mind thought it would be Hideo Nomo?
Pedro Martinez? Sure. The ace right-hander is so dominating that his four-hit, one-run performance against the Orioles on Opening Day was considered something of a letdown.
But Nomo? A man who was out of baseball as recently as two years ago? In his Red Sox debut? Not on your life.
Believe it.
On a chilly April night, the 32-year-old Japanese hurler completed his return from baseball's scrap heap to penthouse, shutting down Baltimore without a single hit in Boston's 3-0 victory.
"Today was the first time I've thrown for the Boston Red Sox," the nonchalant Nomo said through his interpreter. "I'm very happy with the performance."
When the Red Sox signed him as a free agent this winter and named him their No. 2 starter, few noticed. But he won't be forgotten after last night's performance.
With little flair or fanfare, Nomo slowly but surely cruised through the Orioles' lineup. Mixing fastballs, splitters and breaking balls, the right-hander kept Baltimore's batters off-balance all night.
Forced to wait out a 43-minute delay at the start of the game due to a power outage in the ballpark, Nomo remained cool and collected. He threw 110 pitches, 69 strikes, with a fastball that maxed out at 90 mph.
He allowed only four men to reach base: Delino DeShields on a walk in the first inning, Cal Ripken on third baseman Shea Hillenbrand's error in the second, DeShields again on a walk in the fourth and Chris Richard on a walk in the seventh.
Nomo seemed to get stronger as the game wore on. After striking out just two batters in the first five innings, he fanned the side in the sixth and seventh.
"I didn't realize it until the last inning," Orioles catcher Brook Fordyce said of the no-hit bid. "I thought we were going to get him eventually."
The crowd of 35,602 at Camden Yards began supporting Nomo in the eighth inning, standing and cheering as each out was recorded. He got Ripken to ground out to second on a checked swing, then struck out Fordyce and Jerry Hairston his 10th and 11th of the game to end the inning and draw a huge ovation.
"In this game, it's not how hard you throw, it's deception," said Hairston, who struck out in all three of his at-bats. "He mixes his pitches very well. That's the best-pitched game I've ever seen."
As with most no-hitters, this one would not have been possible if not for a stellar defensive play. The hero this time turned out to be Red Sox second baseman Mike Lansing, who replaced starter Chris Stynes as a pinch runner in the top of the eighth after Stynes injured his right hamstring.
After Nomo got Brady Anderson on an easy comebacker to lead off the ninth, Mike Bordick lifted a blooper to shallow center field that looked destined to fall for a base hit. But Lansing, sprinting with his back to the play, made a running, over-the-shoulder catch on the third-base side of second, falling to the ground as he recorded the out.
"I looked at the location of the ball, and also the location of the Lansing," Nomo said. "I thought he could get the ball."
Said Brian Daubach, whose two home runs provided all of Boston's offense: "There's always one big play, and to that point, we never really had one."
With two out and the crowd cheering Nomo's every move, Delino DeShields roped a hard foul ball down the first-base line on the first pitch he saw before popping a lazy fly ball to left field that was easily snagged by Troy O'Leary. Nomo was mobbed by his teammates in the middle of the infield.
"He's probably exhausted," Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek said. "I don't think he threw nine innings all spring. He's probably a little relieved that it's all over."
The feat was nothing new for Nomo, who tossed a no-hitter five years ago as a hot-shot second-year man with the Los Angeles Dodgers. On that day, Sept. 17, 1996, he shut down the Rockies in Colorado.
But Nomo's career spiraled steadily downward from that point on. Suffering from an injured elbow, Nomo was traded by the Dodgers to the New York Mets in 1998. He was released that offseason, then signed a minor-league contract with the Chicago Cubs in 1999.
Almost instantly released again, Nomo was signed to pitch in Milwaukee, where he made 28 unspectacular starts. He signed as a free agent with Detroit last year, finishing 8-12 with aand 4.74 ERA.
Now he becomes only the fourth pitcher in major league history to toss no-hitters in both leagues, joining Nolan Ryan, Cy Young and Jim Bunning.
Overshadowed by Nomo's brilliance, Sidney Ponson pitched a gem of his own. The 24-year-old struck out five of the first six batters he faced but ran into trouble in the third, when Hillenbrand's hard groundball went through Ripken's legs at third base for an error. Daubach made Ponson pay by sending the next pitch over the left-field fence, just beyond the reach of the leaping Brady Anderson, to put the Red Sox ahead 2-0.
With the attention now shifting to Nomo's no-hitter, Ponson gave up another homer to Daubach, a solo shot down the right-field line, to lead off the top of the eighth. After giving up a double to Stynes two batters later, Ponson was lifted. He finished having given up three runs (two earned) on four hits, with one walk and 10 strikeouts, one shy of his career high.
Not that anyone will remember Ponson on this night.
"It's no fun being no-hit," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. "It's no fun as a player, it wasn't fun as a coach and it's no fun [as a manager.]"

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