- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 30, 2001


BALTIMORE The last thing an offensively sputtering team like the Baltimore Orioles needed to see last night was the game's best young pitcher standing on the mound in an opposing uniform.
In their previous four games, the Orioles had scored a total of three runs and batted a collective .160. Oakland's Tim Hudson, meanwhile, only owns the highest winning percentage in modern major league history among pitchers with at least 50 career decisions.
Was the outcome of last night's game at Camden Yards ever really in doubt?
Hudson battled through some uncharacteristic control problems but still surrendered just two hits in 6-1/3 innings as the Athletics handed the ice-cold Orioles their fifth straight loss last night, 4-1, before 31,628.
Baltimore, which must now win its final 14 games at home to avoid its first sub-.500 record since Camden Yards opened in 1992, is immersed in an offensive slump that seems destined to wind up in future years' media guides. Including last night's game, the Orioles have scored a total of four runs in their last five games and are batting a collective .151 (22-for-146) over that span.
"Obviously, the pitching that we've faced the last three or four days has been awfully good," Baltimore manager Mike Hargrove said. "There's been some tough pitching, but some of it is our own fault for not getting into good hitters' counts."
The anchor of Oakland's young and talented rotation, Hudson (15-7) is a 26-year-old right-hander who pitches like he's been in the big leagues five seasons, not two-plus. He burst onto the scene in 1999, finishing his rookie season 11-2 with a 3.23 ERA, then won 20 games in 2000 while leading the A's to the AL West crown.
In his third major-league season, Hudson has cemented himself as his generation's best arm a 6-foot, slender fireballer who possesses not only a mid-90's fastball but also a biting slider and a sinker that last night made Cal Ripken look silly. When his control does elude him, as it did at times yesterday (he matched his career-high with six walks), he compensates with an incredible knack for making the key pitch when he needs it most.
Thus, Baltimore's few threats during the course of the game quickly dissipated when Hudson coerced double-play grounders out of Larry Bigbie in the first and Cal Ripken in the second. When Brian Roberts walked and Bigbie doubled down the third-base line to lead off the sixth, Hudson simply struck out Chris Richard looking with a 94-mph high fastball, got Jeff Conine to bounce out (scoring Roberts from third) and Ripken to ground out to second for the third straight time.
"My sinker had a ton of life on it. It took a while for them to make an adjustment on it," Hudson said. "We got some big double plays on some hard-hit balls, so I was fortunate for that."
With last night's victory, he now owns a sparkling 46-15 career record and the best winning percentage (.754) in the majors since 1900.
Oakland manager Art Howe pulled Hudson (who threw 105 pitches) with one out in the seventh. Relievers Jeff Tam, Mike Magnante and Jason Isringhausen shut the door by retiring seven of the Orioles' last nine batters. With runners on first and second and two out in the ninth, Melvin Mora struck out and pinch-hitter Tony Batista flied out to right to end the game.
Baltimore right-hander Josh Towers (8-8), who pitched seven shutout innings June 2 in Oakland, didn't fare as well in his second go-around against the AL wild card leaders. The rookie allowed four runs and nine hits in seven innings, including home runs to Eric Chavez and Ramon Hernandez.
"I'm trying to make good pitches and get them out," Towers said. "They're good hitters. If I start thinking about how we're not scoring runs and I have to be perfect, it's going to be twice as hard on me and I'm not going to be as good as I probably could be."

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