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Martinez freezes the Rays

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times
published April 18, 2003


BOSTON -- The best thing about Thursday's game for the Devil Rays was it ended and they got to go back inside.

Facing a motivated Pedro Martinez is usually bad enough. Doing so on a night that wasn't suitable for baseball or football -- a 33-degree first-pitch temperature, a 23-degree wind chill and a biting 15 mph wind -- was, to use the word several Rays did, miserable.

"We got a bad draw tonight, cold weather and Pedro," first baseman Aubrey Huff said. "It wasn't a very good mix."

The Rays not only lost the game 6-0 and any chance to come home next week with a .500 record, dropping to 5-10, but Rocco Baldelli lost his career-starting hitting streak, which had reached 13 games.

"A tough night to play baseball," manager Lou Piniella said.

It was the coldest game in Rays history, undercutting two 41-degree days in New York last year, and the players looked the part, wearing athletic tights under their pants, extra shirts, mask-type headgear beneath their caps and carrying handwarmers in the field.

Some prepared further, trying old tricks like rubbing baby oil on their arms or petroleum jelly on their feet to retain what body heat they had.

Starter Joe Kennedy, the Southern Californian who doesn't like it when temperatures dip below 50, said at times "the ball felt like an ice cube and I had to warm it back up."

Huff, whose first-inning single stood as the only Tampa Bay hit until Marlon Anderson delivered in the seventh, said that after hitting the ball off the end of the bat "my hands rang for like three innings."

Veteran Al Martin said he'd never been colder on the field -- "I've been on the field when it's snowed and tonight was colder" -- admitted he pulled off almost every pitch because "I was so afraid to get jammed, and if he gets you in that frame of mind you really have no chance against him."

Baldelli, who played in snow during his high school days in Rhode Island, went through a handful of handwarmers in centerfield, but said it was still impossible to feel the ball when he tried to make a throw.

"It affects the game," Baldelli said. "Once it gets to about this point I don't think it really matters if it gets colder." Martinez, the Boston ace, wasn't very bothered. Coming off the worst start of his career, having allowed a career-high 10 runs in 41/3 innings Saturday against Baltimore, he apparently was intent on silencing the ridiculously ample critics across Red Sox Nation.

And after allowing the Rays just the two singles over seven sterling innings, he left without saying a word.

"If Pete's upset," Boston pitching coach Tony Cloninger said, "he takes it out on the hitters."

Kennedy was sharp enough to keep it 1-0 through five innings, but couldn't survive the sixth. Three consecutive Boston hitters pulled balls down the leftfield line, helped by a questionable call on a fan interference issue that gave Manny Ramirez an extra base, to make it 3-0 and, after a double play, three more hits made it 5-0.

As cold as it was, most of the paid crowd of 30,909 hearty New Englanders sat through it as the temperature dropped to 31. One benefit: They played in a, um, brisk 2 hours, 25 minutes.

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