- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 6, 2002

BALTIMORE The opponent was the same. The venue was the same. The weather was nearly the same. Heck, the date on the calendar was only off by one.
And for more than seven innings last night, Derek Lowe sure looked a lot like Hideo Nomo.
Was this really happening? Could another unheralded Boston Red Sox pitcher no-hit the Baltimore Orioles, one year and one day after Nomo did the same at Camden Yards?
Not quite, but Lowe tried his best.
"I know it's only one start," the 28-year-old right-hander said after leading the Red Sox to a 3-0 victory at Camden Yards, "but it's the best one I've ever had."
Lowe entered the eighth inning without having given up a hit only to lose his place in the record book on an infield single by Tony Batista. Chris Singleton added a ninth-inning double off closer Ugueth Urbina for good measure.
However, the Orioles couldn't avoid their third straight loss, this one coming before 31,261 who gave the visiting team's pitcher a standing ovation when he left the game.
"It was just one of those nights where you end up having to tip your cap to the opposing pitcher because he did an outstanding job," said Baltimore manager Mike Hargrove, whose team fell to 1-3 and has scored one run in its last 27 innings.
"I guess you can probably call that a funk," Hargrove added.
A former closer who saved 42 games in 2000, Lowe doesn't dazzle you much upon first glance; his fastball tops out at 88 or 89 mph. But he has a devastating sinker, which gave the Red Sox reason to convert him to a starter last season.
Lowe had that sinker working to perfection last night as 11 of Baltimore's first 15 outs were recorded on the ground. Only Singleton, Batista and Jeff Conine managed to get the ball out of the infield, all with flyballs to left.
"I saw nothing but sinkers all night long," Conine said.
Lowe, who once took a no-hitter into the ninth inning in the minor leagues, had a perfect game through four innings, but Conine reached on an error by third baseman Shea Hillenbrand in the fifth, and Melvin Mora and Brook Fordyce drew back-to-back walks in the sixth.
There were two close calls early on, with outstanding defensive plays both times keeping the no-hitter intact. With two out in the third, Mike Bordick hit a sharp grounder to the left-side hole. Shortstop Nomar Garciaparra made a backhanded stop and fired a throw wide of first base, but Tony Clark caught the ball and tagged Bordick on the back just before he stepped on the base.
One inning later, Singleton hit a grounder back up the middle that seemed destined for center field until second baseman Rey Sanchez scooped it up and made a perfect throw across his body to get Singleton by a step.
At that point, thoughts of Nomo's no-hitter last April 4 (which ended with the same 3-0 final score) were unavoidable.
"Sanchez made the play on it, and all of a sudden I thought, 'You know, there have been three or four of these already,'" Hargrove said. "That's usually what you need to throw a no-hitter."
Said Conine: "All I knew was we didn't have any hits, and I wasn't happy about it."
The no-hitter wasn't meant to be this time, though. Lowe walked Jay Gibbons to lead off the eighth, bringing Batista to the plate. The slow power hitter nubbed a roller just inside the third-base line. Hillenbrand made a running, bare-handed scoop, but his throw to first was off-line and late.
"From my perspective, I thought it was going to be fair the whole way," Hillenbrand said. "It was a split-second decision you have to make as a player, and I didn't want to let it go. I'd rather try to make a play and try to get him out."
With the no-hitter thwarted, Red Sox manager Grady Little pulled Lowe from the game instantly and turned things over to his bullpen. Lowe's final pitching line: seven innings, one hit, three walks, one strikeout.
"Tonight I tried to work on staying in the moment, not trying to do too much," he said.
Last night's game bore a striking resemblance to Nomo's no-hitter in other ways. In the game last year, Orioles starter Sidney Ponson pitched well but gave up a pair of home runs, both by Brian Daubach.
Josh Towers was the opposing pitcher this time, and the results were eerily similar, though the big hits came right at the start. New Boston leadoff hitter Johnny Damon opened the game by launching a home run over the right-field scoreboard. Two pitches and one out later, Garciaparra made it 2-0 by clubbing a solo shot to left.
Towers, making his first start since breaking his ring finger on a Toronto dugout phone Sept.20, settled down and pitched effectively through the sixth inning (he allowed one more run on a fifth-inning single by Garciaparra), but the damage had been done by then.

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