04/27/2002 6:40 pm ET
Sweet-n-Lowe: No-hitter at Fenway
Derek Lowe faces just 28 Devil Rays batters on the day
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
BOSTON -- If the deafening roar building up around Fenway Park didn't give Derek Lowe a hint of what he was on the verge of accomplishing, the pit in his stomach gave it away.
"I felt it physically in the eighth inning, just by the jitters," said the Boston righty after firing a no-hitter against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays Saturday afternoon in a 10-0 victory. "I was nervous, pretty much, the whole way (in the ninth inning)."
Never more nervous than when Felix Escalona, Tampa Bay's second batter of that final frame, hit a line drive to center that looked like it was going to sink too fast. But before Lowe's heart could sink, ageless Rickey Henderson -- making a rare start in center field -- came racing in to make the catch.
One out left, but lots more nerves swirling around Lowe.
But wait a minute. It was only 22 days ago Lowe took a no-no into the eighth inning against the Orioles at Camden Yards, only to see that bid foiled. Didn't that experience help him shake off the overpowering gamut of emotions that flooded in his direction on this sun-splashed afternoon at Fenway?
Well, actually, it doesn't work that way.
"How do you prepare for this? You really can't, unless you're there and feel the emotion of what it's like to be that close," said Lowe.
So he chose not to fully grasp how close he was until he had 26 outs in the books.
It was then that he tried convincing himself that it was actually a baseball version of Tiger Woods standing on that mound.
"I'm such a huge golf guy," said Lowe, "so I take what Tiger Woods said at the Masters, 'finish the deal'. You have to finish it. That's what I kept telling myself. 'You have to finish the race. You have 8 2/3, that's good, but no one remembers 8 2/3, you have to be able to finish it'."
Next thing you know, it was finished. Jason Tyner hit a grounder to Rey Sanchez at second, who fired to Jose Offerman to complete the first Fenway Park no-hitter since Boston's Dave Morehead fired one against the Indians Sept. 16, 1965.
From there, Lowe's teammates mobbed him on the infield dirt between first and second base, and the majority of the 32,837 spectators in attendance stuck around to applaud the moment.
Never has Lowe heard a sweeter sound. Just think of last year, and the contrast. Lowe had a miserable season as Boston's closer, suffering 10 losses and more late-inning meltdowns then he'd care to remember.
By the end of the season, the Sox converted him back to the starting role that he was groomed for earlier in his career, a role he never wanted to leave.
Said Lowe: "I got booed off the field every time I went out there (last year), I'm happy to change that."
He changed that not merely by changing his role, but by changing his mentality, his physique and his repertoire of pitches.
Call it a complete makeover. Lowe -- always a lanky sort -- added 25 pounds of muscle. He refined his changeup and developed confidence in his cutter. And his sinker, which has always been his out pitch, looks tougher now with everything else he has to set it up.
"October 15th last year I started working out and I've worked out ever since," said Lowe. "I knew this was a big year for me. I wanted to go out and prove that I deserved to start."
In other words, this career performance -- in which he walked one and struck out six -- didn't come out of nowhere.
He had the gem against the Orioles his first start of the year. He was overpowering (7 innings, 2 hits, 9 K's) against the Yankees April 15. And Saturday was basically a perfect mix of pitch selection and location.
"He had everything going for him and he threw strikes," said Red Sox manager Grady Little. "I've been getting that kind of feeling each time Derek takes the mound. There is not a whole lot of offense generated off of him, usually."
Following Saturday's masterpiece Lowe was 4-1 with a 2.04 ERA.
At least one observer thinks the 28-year-old Lowe can still get better.
"I think he is capable of pitching many more (no-hitters)," said Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez. "I don't think we've seen the best yet of Derek Lowe. I told (John) Burkett in the eighth that he was going to throw one. The way his sinker was down, their batters had no idea."
And to show you just how daunting a challenge throwing a no-no is, consider that Martinez -- who has achieved just about everything possible for a pitcher -- has never had one. As an Expo, Martinez, did, however, throw nine perfect innings against the Padres, before Bip Roberts got him for a double in the 10th inning.
Which only further proves that a no-hitter isn't all about how you pitch. You need some luck too.
Lowe admitted he had some on his side in this one. He talked about a drive Randy Winn hit to left-center in the first that was flagged down by Henderson. Had the wind been blowing out instead of in, that's off the wall. There was a nice full-speed ahead catch by Trot Nixon down the right-field line in the fourth. And there was Henderson's dramatic play in the ninth.
"I really thought the (Escalona liner) was going to be a hit," said Lowe. "It came off the bat, he hit it good. Then I'm one pitch away. I've seen so many guys get to the last pitch, or the last hitter. You don't really know how to react. I've never really stepped through this path before."
But he has now, and it will take a while before it sinks in.
Lowe was asked how he was going to spend Saturday night -- an evening which certainly merited some kind of celebration.
"To be honest with you, I have no idea," said Lowe. "I didn't have plans before. It might be nice to have a quiet night. I think anywhere you (go), it's going to be a little hectic. It will be nice to kind of go away and hopefully watch some basketball. You don't want to change your routine after one game."
But there was nothing routine about a day Lowe -- or anyone else in attendance -- will never forget.
Ian Browne covers the Red Sox for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
April no-hittersThe list below shows that since 1900, 31 no-hitters were thrown in the Major Leagues during the month of April.
* Lost the game
|Red Ames, Giants |
Addie Joss, Indians
Rube Marquard, Giants
Fred Allen, Pirates
Eddie Cicotte, Cubs
George Mogridge, Giants
Charlie Robertson, White Sox
Wes Ferrell, Indians
Bob Feller, Indians
Tex Charleton, Dodgers
Jim Tobin, Braves
Ed Head, Dodgers
Bob Feller, Indians
Warren Spann, Braves
Ken Johnson, Astros
Steve Barber & Stu Miller, Orioles
Tom Phoebus, Orioles
Bill Stoneman, Expos
Jim Maloney, Reds
Burt Hooten, Cubs
Steve Busby, Royals
Bob Forsch, Cardinals
Ken Forsch, Astros
Jack Morris, Tigers
Juan Nieves, Brewers
Mark Langston & Mike Witt, Angels
Matt Young, Red Sox
Kent Mercker, Braves
Scott Erickson, Twins
Hideo Nomo, Red Sox
Derek Lowe, Red Sox
** Perfect game
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