|Derek Lowe No-Hits the Devil Rays|
ON THIS DATE (April 27, 2002) ... Principal owner, John Henry, sat frozen to his seat, too nervous to join the 32,837 at Fenway Park today who stood in wild anticipation of one of the greatest wonders in the history of Boston baseball. Together, they witnessed Derek Lowe, once among the most reviled figures in the sports-crazy metropolis, recapture the region's adoration by unfurling the final act of a virtuoso pitching performance.
At 3:33 p.m., Lowe induced Jason Tyner of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays to ground out to second base for the last out of the first no- hitter at the historic ballpark in 37 years. Not since Boston's Dave Morehead no-hit Cleveland Sept. 16, 1965, had any pitcher achieved such brilliance.
Yet even after Lowe's teammate, Jose Offerman, presented him the ball on a silver platter in the clubhouse afterward, the pitcher struggled to absorb the magnitude of his feat. Lowe's outing in a 10- 0 victory over Tampa Bay marked only the 10th no-hitter by a Red Sox pitcher in Fenway's 90-year history.
Lowe allowed only one base runner, when he walked Brent Abernathy leading off the third inning. And the Devil Rays, who knew they were in trouble as early as the fourth, immediately began talking about the prospective no-hitter in a desperate effort to jinx Lowe.
So dominant was Lowe that the Devil Rays never came seriously close to mustering a hit. If the wind had been blowing out in the first, Lowe suggested, Randy Winn's fly ball that center fielder Rickey Henderson chased down on the warning track might have cleared the Green Monster for a home run, or caromed off it.
Otherwise, Tampa Bay had only two solid chances. With one out in the fourth, right fielder Trot Nixon gave chase when Steve Cox ripped a line drive toward the corner.
Lowe was perfect afterward. His control of his signature pitch, a sinking fastball, was so sharp, in fact, that he threw as many as three balls to only four Devil Rays as they flailed in vain. But the closer he approached the no-hitter, the more perilous the outing became. In the second game of the season, Lowe took a no-hitter into the eighth against the Orioles in Baltimore before Tony Batista's infield single ruined it.
But he had catcher Jason Varitek at his side. The two have played together since their unpolished minor league days in the Seattle organization in 1995. With Varitek calling the pitches, Lowe shook him off just once. Together, they stymied the Devil Rays into the ninth, when Lowe started the inning by getting Russ Johnson to hit a soft line drive to second baseman Rey Sanchez.
Then Felix Escalona drilled a line drive to the gap in left-center field. But Henderson raced toward the ball and ran it down. That brought up Tyner, who grounded a 2-and-2 pitch to Sanchez, who fired the ball to Offerman at first to cap the masterwork and ignite a jubilant celebration from the mound to the most distant corner of the creaky park.
In a rare moment in Fenway lore, Lowe surprised the thousands who lingered after his gem by grabbing a microphone and addressing the crowd. He said he understood why the fans lost confidence in him last year, then thanked them for their support.
Lowe is the first Sox pitcher to throw a no-hitter since Hideo Nomo last April. And it hardly seemed to matter that he knew nothing about Morehead, whose no-hitter before a tiny crowd late in a dreary season in '65 had gone unmatched at Fenway for nearly two generations. Even the great Martinez has not pitched a no-hitter in the 234 games he has started. And Lowe pitched his in only his 27th big league start.