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THE INSIDE TRACK | PAGE TWO / RANDY HARVEY

Near-Gem By Martinez Ends a Flawed First Trip

April 06, 1998|RANDY HARVEY

While watching Ramon Martinez flirt with a perfect game Sunday, I was reminded of the famous story involving Don Drysdale when he was with a weak-hitting Dodger team in the early '60s.

Upon arriving at the Dodgers' next destination ahead of his teammates because he wanted to rest for his start the next day, he was informed that Sandy Koufax had pitched a no-hitter.

"Did he win?" Drysdale asked.

Martinez won Sunday, but only because he allowed a mere two baserunners--none until the seventh inning--and one hit--none until the eighth inning--of a 1-0 victory over Cincinnati.

If his pitching was not quite perfect, his timing was.

He enabled the Dodgers to avoid the embarrassment of entering Tuesday's home opener with a zero in the win column and provided some relief for News Corp.'s Rupert Murdoch, who must have wondered if he'd bought the Bad News Dodgers.

As if Eric Karros' knee surgery and Mike Piazza's contract negotiations weren't causing enough angst, the Dodgers were playing as if they forgot to go to spring training.

Second baseman Eric Young committed three errors in one game; closer Antonio Osuna couldn't close in the only chance he has had; center fielder Thomas Howard's failure to hit a cutoff man Saturday led to a run; the team batting average is .171.

Manager Bill Russell also has made a couple of questionable decisions.

With runners on first and second and two out in the 12th inning Thursday, he could have taken the bat out of Mark McGwire's hands by intentionally walking him.

Maybe the book says a manager shouldn't put the winning run on third base, but the book doesn't apply when McGwire is hitting.

He won the game with a three-run home run.

On Saturday, with two out in the sixth inning of a 1-1 game and a man on second, Russell could have walked eighth hitter Pokey Reese to get to pitcher Brett Tomko. Instead, Reese singled home the winning run.

But Martinez made sure Sunday there would be no second-guessing.

"We're going to be OK," he said. "We started off today and we're going to keep going."

*

I had a hunch the Angels would lose Sunday. . . .

The day after Indian Charlie won the Santa Anita Derby, Indian Charlie Nagy was the starting pitcher against the Angels in Anaheim. . . .

I have a hunch the Angels will lose again tonight. . . .

They face Ramon's little brother, Pedro Martinez. . . .

Red Sox General Manager Dan Duquette might not have removed the curse of Babe Ruth by acquiring Martinez, but he did appease some Red Sox fans after the loss of Roger Clemens. . . .

On opening night last Wednesday in Oakland, Duquette said he wouldn't leave the ballpark to catch his red-eye flight to Boston until Martinez gave up a hit. . . .

Duquette almost missed the flight after Martinez retired the first 11 batters. . . .

As dominant as Martinez promises to be, the Red Sox's chances in the AL East probably depend on their pitching depth. . . .

There was cause for optimism Sunday after Bret Saberhagen won for the first time since 1995. . . .

With Masato Yoshii's seven shutout innings for the Mets on Sunday, Hideki Irabu has become the other Japanese pitcher in New York. . . .

The Dodgers weren't particularly interested when Yoshii talked to them during the winter about rejoining his former Kinetsu Buffalo teammate, Hideo Nomo. . . .

Must read: John Schulian's GQ cover story on "The Athlete of the Century.". . . .

It's about--who else?--Muhammad Ali. . . .

Schulian identifies four other contenders--Ruth, Joe Louis, Jackie Robinson and Michael Jordan. . . .

It's hard to argue with that starting five. . . .

My sixth and seventh men would be Pele and Jesse Owens. . . .

NBC's Peter Vecsey said at halftime of the Lakers' victory over Detroit that Del Harris' job is in jeopardy if he doesn't take his team to the finals. . . .

He added that Phil Jackson is the No. 1 candidate to replace him. . . .

Vecsey's studio partners, Hannah Storm and John Salley, rushed to Harris' defense, wondering how it's possible he's not loved by Laker management amid a potential 60-win season. . . .

Wake up. Pat Riley wasn't loved by Laker management after winning four championships.

*

While wondering if Riley's number, or at least his name, shouldn't be on the Great Western Forum's Wall of Fame, I was thinking: I guess Joe Torre can keep his job for another day, Lee Westwood was my dark-horse choice for the Masters until he blew his cover Sunday, the Clippers can't even foul right.

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