BOSTON -- Another chance for the Orioles to reach .500 was trumped last night by another start for Boston's Pedro Martinez. Talk about your impenetrable roadblocks.
No longer satisfied just to collect Cy Young awards, Martinez made his latest pitch for the American League's MVP trophy and moved the Red Sox within a game of clinching a playoff berth by dealing the Orioles a 5-3 loss before 33,477 at Fenway Park. In the process, he infuriated manager Ray Miller, whose expletive-filled comments were aimed at the slender right-hander and had as much velocity as one of Martinez's fastballs.
Martinez went eight innings, allowing six hits and striking out 12 to hand the Orioles only their third defeat in 19 games and deny them a chance to reach the break-even point for the first time since being 1-1. It marked the 19th time this season he's struck out at least 10, including the past eight starts.
He also got under Brady Anderson's skin, and on Miller's bad side. Anderson was drilled in the back by a fifth-inning fastball, and had a few words for Martinez after scoring on a passed ball in the eighth. Both dugouts and bullpens emptied as Anderson, who doubled twice, moved toward Martinez with his arms extended. No punches were thrown and order quickly was restored.
Aware of Martinez's impeccable control and reputation for throwing at hitters, Miller vented against a pitch he believed was delivered with purpose.
"Pedro hit my leadoff hitter right in the middle of the back when he's only walked 37 people all year," Miller said. "If he had enough [guts] to cover home plate, he'd have died right there. I've been watching this guy for 10 years. Every good game he pitches, he hits one good hitter in the middle of the back.
"He's jawing at Brady as Brady's walking away. The skinny little ----. I've been watching him do it for 10 years. He doesn't have the [guts] to walk up to anybody's face. All he does is run behind everybody. He might be a good pitcher but he's a [jerk]."
Asked if he thought the gathering of players would escalate into a brawl, Miller said, "I was hoping."
Anderson said he played despite a sore right quadriceps only because Martinez was on the mound. He had trouble raising his arm after being hit, but batted again in the eighth because Martinez remained in the game. Anderson also said he didn't expect to be in the lineup again "for a while."
Anderson downplayed the confrontation with Martinez, saying, "What happened took place on the field and that's where I leave it. I don't know what [the pitch] was intended for. You'd have to ask him."
Martinez bristled when told of Miller's comments. "What Ray has to say, he should say managing his own team. That's a pretty good team to manage and they didn't do ----. If he wants to take out his frustration, let him take it out on managing.
"Brady knew it was part of the game. Ray is just a frustrated man."
Until last night, the Orioles (77-79) had avoided Martinez this season in two series with the Red Sox. Their luck ran out. So did Scott Erickson's winning streak.
Erickson (15-12) had been victorious in his last five starts, twice going the distance. But Miller pulled him after the seventh last night with Boston ahead, 5-1, allowing Jim Corsi to face the team that had released him in June.
The Orioles tried to take him off the hook in the ninth when Jeff Conine delivered a pinch-hit single with two outs that scored Jeff Reboulet to close within two runs. But Derek Lowe secured his 15th save by getting Anderson to fly out.
"Scottie didn't have his A stuff," Miller said. "We battled as well as we could and gave them a pretty good finish at the end."
Boston jumped on Erickson for three hits in the first inning, including Jason Varitek's 19th home run on a 1-2 pitch that landed in the netting above the Green Monster. If not for an accurate running throw by left fielder B. J. Surhoff that cut down the previous batter, Damon Buford, trying for a double, the lead would have been larger than 1-0.
Then again, with Martinez (23-4) on the mound, it already seemed pretty imposing.
How good was he? A first-inning snapshot told the story.
Martinez snapped off a curveball in the first inning that Surhoff assumed was a third strike. Surhoff flipped the bat in the air and caught it as he took a step toward the Orioles' dugout, then realized plate umpire Gary Cederstrom had given him the call. After sheepishly running his foot across the dirt in the batter's box, Surhoff barely missed lining an extra-base hit down the left-field line before grounding to first.
Anderson, who had doubled off the left-field wall leading off the inning, moved to third on Surhoff's out. Albert Belle, named the league's Player of the Week after batting .407 with three homers and nine RBIs, struck out swinging.
Already, Martinez was showing the form that had made him 7-1 with a 1.29 ERA in his past nine starts. He retired the next seven batters, striking out four, until allowing a single to rookie Eugene Kingsale in the third.
The Orioles already had lost to Pedro's older brother, Ramon, on Saturday. Now, they were being introduced to the nastiest member of the pitching family.
Martinez's fifth-inning strikeout of Ryan Minor was his career-best 306th this season. His previous high was 305 in 1997 while with Montreal. That same inning, the Orioles pushed across a run that reduced their deficit to 3-1 on grounded singles by Charles Johnson and Jerry Hairston and a bouncer to first by Kingsale that drew a chorus of boos from fans wanting Mike Stanley to go for the out at home.
Opponent: New York Yankees
Site: Camden Yards
Time: 7: 05
TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Yankees' Ed Yarnall (1-0, 1.42) vs. Orioles' Sidney Ponson (12-11, 4.54)
Tickets: About 5,000 remain.