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Orioles impressed by Buchholz's gem

Orioles impressed by Buchholz's gem

BOSTON -- The Orioles had a hard time hitting Clay Buchholz on Saturday and a harder time talking about him after the game. Boston's rookie starter threw a no-hitter in just his second career outing, forcing the Orioles to talk about how he carved them up with a steady diet of changeups, curveballs and change-of-speed fastballs.

"He really didn't get into a pattern," said center fielder Corey Patterson. "It seemed like some innings, he would start throwing his fastball -- speed you up, slow you down. Then he'd switch around the next inning. He'd start you out slow, then speed you up. From what I saw, he had a good changeup working and he mixed his patterns up pretty good."

"You have guys that have pitched 10 and 15 years in the big leagues that have never gotten close to it," added Nick Markakis. "To do that in his second outing, that's definitely something special for him. They've got a great pitcher."

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Buchholz became the third pitcher all-time to throw a no-hitter in his first or second start. Bobo Hollomon did it in his first start on May 6, 1953, for the St. Louis Browns at home against the Philadelphia Athletics, and Wilson Alvarez did it in his second start on Aug. 11, 1991, for the Chicago White Sox at Baltimore.

Buchholz had everything working Saturday night, but the most important thing he did was get ahead and stay ahead. The right-hander threw first-pitch strikes to 15 of the 30 batters he faced and only allowed four baserunners all game. The Orioles could count their close calls on one hand, and manager Dave Trembley was impressed by the youngster's poise.

"He'll probably have a tough time dealing with reality when he realizes you're not going to do it every time," Trembley said.

Nothing seemed out of the ordinary in the first inning, when Buchholz got one out on a fly ball to the warning track and another on a hot line drive by Miguel Tejada. Baltimore had just one baserunner in the first four innings and didn't really challenge until the fifth, when Kevin Millar and Aubrey Huff drew back-to-back walks to lead off the inning.

Undaunted, Buchholz got a strikeout, a fielder's choice and a fly ball to escape the threat unscathed.

"I nicked a ball tonight. I nicked one ball," said Millar. "Tonight, this guy threw a great game. ... He had his stuff, man. He had a great changeup and his fastball was in some nice locations. His curveball was able to do what he needed to do with it. It was just one of those nights. We got no-hit. You tip your hat to Clay Buchholz and you move forward."

"He just threw a great game. He was in the zone today," Tejada added. "Him and [catcher Jason] Varitek had a real great combination. Today, the key was he was in the zone. Everything, he threw for a strike. That's why he got a no-hitter."

Baltimore got another chance in the sixth inning, but center fielder Coco Crisp made a long run to catch a fly ball by Patterson. The ball seemed to hang up forever, but Patterson -- a fellow speedster -- never thought it would drop.

"At first, it's hard to tell," Patterson said. "I thought he had it all the way, especially with me playing center, [too]. ... He caught some breaks, but I guess when a guy throws a no-hitter, that's what happens."

Buchholz relied on his defense again in the seventh, when Tejada led off and made his final plate appearance. The four-time All-Star shortstop drilled a ball that seemed destined to get through the infield, but second baseman Dustin Pedroia made a diving stop to save it. A split second later, he was on his feet and throwing to first base in time to edge Tejada.

Tejada, who dove head-first into first base, said he was almost certain that the ball would get through.

"I thought that was going to get past him. He just made a great play," he said. "That's the key to throwing a no-hitter. To me, that was the best play they made the whole night. It's hard, you know."

From there, Buchholz just kept marching closer and closer to destiny. He caught a hard one-hopper back through the box in the eighth inning and struck out three of the final five batters he faced. Patterson and Markakis made the last two outs of the game, but they both said they believed right down to the final moment that they'd be able to end the no-hit bid.

"Even going into that last inning, I thought we had a real good chance of coming up with a hit," said Markakis, who struck out looking on a backdoor curveball to end the game. "Corey was hitting the ball good all game."

"I don't really think it's a pressure, but the competitive nature [takes over]," said Patterson. "As the game goes on, as a hitter, you want to be the guy to break up the no-hitter. ... I thought it was fun, in a sense.

"Not because we were losing, because I didn't like that. I also didn't like the fact that we were getting no-hit, but I think as an individual in that situation, you have to look at it as a challenge."

When did the Orioles think the no-hitter was a distinct possibility? That depends on who you asked, but almost everybody on the field sensed that something special could be happening from very early in the evening.

"Every inning, when you don't get a hit," Trembley said. "When you don't get a hit in the first inning, you say, 'Hey, we'd better get a hit in the second.' After the second, you make it the third. Every inning, you look up there and you don't have a hit."

"Pedroia made a tremendous play [on Tejada]. Patterson hit two rifles to Coco Crisp," Millar said. "When you start seeing balls that aren't falling that should fall, you sense something is going on. Then you start realizing that the guy's got command of three great pitches. He just didn't have command of one. He had command of all three. It makes it tough."

Baltimore allowed a league-record 30 runs against Texas on its last homestand and came to Boston having allowed the most runs in any 10-game span in team history. Still, the Orioles won't allow the latest indignity to crush their spirits.

"We're character building," said Millar. "I know one thing, we can sell character in this clubhouse. We have enough character built up that it's going to explode in September and we're going to go 24-3. That's my prediction: 24-3."

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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