BALTIMORE — The Boston Red Sox scored three times before Pedro Martinez stepped to the mound yesterday afternoon. That proved to be more than enough against the Baltimore Orioles.
Martinez allowed three hits in eight innings as the Red Sox defeated the Orioles 5-0 before 25,143 at Camden Yards.
“When Pedro’s throwing the way he was throwing today, it makes things awfully difficult for everybody,” said Baltimore manager Mike Hargrove, whose team was shut out for the 12th time this year. “You give up three in the first, it’s doubly tough.”
Martinez (12-4) struck out nine and lowered his American League-best ERA to 2.36. He departed to a standing ovation after striking out Jerry Hairston on a fastball to end the eighth. Left-hander Alan Embree pitched a perfect ninth.
Baltimore’s Jason Johnson (10-7) allowed four runs in 6⅔ innings to remain winless since Aug.10. Johnson lost for the first time in four starts against Boston this season.
Martinez, who improved to 5-1 with a 1.03 ERA in nine career games at Camden Yards, made his mastery of the Orioles appear effortless. He didn’t allow a man to reach third base, setting down 11 in a row during one stretch, and threw 79 of his 117 pitches for strikes. Reserve catcher Geronimo Gil, who had two hits, was the only Oriole to reach base twice.
Martinez also did it with his usual guile and style.
The three-time Cy Young Award winner mixed the pitches from his deep repertoire to baffle the Orioles all afternoon and finished off each of his last four innings with swinging strikeouts.
“He’s just a very special pitcher that has a fastball, slider, curveball, change-up and with his fastball he has a two-seamer and a four-seamer,” Hargrove said. “He has above-average command of all of those pitches, and they’re all major league out pitches.”
It helped Martinez to be staked an early lead. The first three runners reached against Johnson before Johnny Damon was forced at the plate on a fielder’s choice. Designated hitter David Ortiz then worked a walk to drive in a run before Kevin Millar belted a two-run single to center.
Johnson settled in after the shaky start and allowed only one more runner to reach second in the next five innings. But in the seventh, Damon poked a one-out single to center and stole second on a pitchout. He moved to third on a grounder and scored on Nomar Garciaparra’s single.
Johnson departed after walking Manny Ramirez, ending the latest in a string of solid outings for the right-hander. In his last six starts, Johnson has a 3.86 ERA but an 0-2 record.
The loss dropped the Orioles, who begin a three-game set at Toronto tomorrow before returning to Camden Yards next week, to 5-4 on the homestand against playoff contenders Boston, Oakland and Seattle.
Notes — The Orioles activated pitcher Omar Daal from the disabled list. The left-hander hasn’t pitched since June28 because of rotator cuff tendinitis. Daal will be used primarily as a long reliever, but Hargrove said he might start a game or two later this month. …
Reliever B.J. Ryan appeared in his club-high 67th game, matching his career high set last year. Ryan has a 1.14 ERA since June24, a span of 35 outings. … Second baseman Brian Roberts missed his second straight game with a sprained right ankle. … Ramirez extended his hitting streak to 15 games.