Dennis Martinez tonight pitched the best game in his nine-year major-league career. He gave up only one hit -- Jerry Narron's line-drive single in the third inning -- to lead the Baltimore Orioles to a 4-0 victory over the California Angels at Memorial Stadium.

Martinez allowed only three base runners the entire game -- the others were a second-inning walk and a hit batsman in the fourth. But two double plays enabled Martinez (5-3) to face only 28 batters -- one more than the minimum -- in gaining his first one-hitter, his first shutout in two years and his 100th career victory.

After Narron's single, Martinez retired the final 16 batters. He ran up a three-ball, no-strike count on pinch hitter Daryl Sconiers with one out in the ninth, but two strikes later got him to ground out to second.

Most of the 18,404 stayed, stood and cheered wildly when Martinez got leadoff hitter Gary Pettis to ground out to shortstop Cal Ripken to end the game.

"I never paid any attention to how many hits they had," Martinez said. "I just kept thinking about those guys in the bullpen having to pitch so many innings the day before (in a 15-inning game), and I wanted them to get a complete rest."

Martinez began the game with tenderness in the elbow of his throwing arm, which limited him to five innings in his last outing, a 9-2 victory over Oakland Friday. Martinez said the tender elbow probably helped his performance tonight.

"I didn't want to force any pitches because of my elbow," he said. "I didn't overthrow once the entire game. Maybe I should have tenderness every time I go out there."

Martinez threw only 89 pitches, which included "six or seven fork balls" and "eight or nine change-ups," he said. But primarily, he relied on a sinking fast ball that got him 16 ground outs.

"He was throwing that sinking fast ball at 86-88 mph," said Ray Miller, Baltimore's pitching coach. "It's kinda tough to do anything with that but hit it on top and drive it into the ground."

Martinez got the only run he would need in the first inning when Ripken's infield single drove in Lee Lacy, who had singled, stolen second and advanced to third on Jim Dwyer's sacrifice bunt.

Baltimore made it 2-0 later in the first on Fred Lynn's run-scoring single; 3-0 in the second on a RBI single by Dwyer, who extended his hitting streak to 11 games, and 4-0 in the seventh when reliever Tommy John walked Larry Sheets with the bases loaded.

But Baltimore's hitting was only a sidelight tonight. Martinez was phenomenal, even if some of the Angels admitted so begrudgingly.

"We were bad," Reggie Jackson said. "Martinez was decent; I don't want to taint a guy's one-hitter. But we were as bad as he was good. I've seen him better. That's the flattest I've seen us all year."

Bobby Grich said, "I give him credit for beating us but we were just flat tonight."

The Angels would have been even flatter if Martinez had retired Narron, leading off the third.

But at least Martinez didn't have to agonize over a "cheap hit." Narron drove it cleanly to center. "Dennis is lucky that thing didn't get up in the air," Orioles Manager Joe Altobelli said.

Martinez said, "It was a fast ball, 3-2 count, with nobody on base."

Martinez' biggest bout of the night, which really wasn't very big at all, was with catcher Rick Dempsey.

Early in the game, Dempsey called for a pitch. Martinez threw it, then shook his head. Dempsey yelled at Martinez, something to the effect of, "If you don't want to throw a pitch, then don't throw it, but don't shake your head afterward."

Dempsey said, "We had a little tiff in the dugout. He was a little upset with me and I was a little upset with him. But after that we were great."

Miller said, "They had a little disagreement, then went out and cheered each other on the rest of the game for a one-hitter. Maybe they should yell at each other a little more often."

If ever the Orioles were in a situation where they absolutely needed a complete game, this was it. They had used five pitchers in a 15-inning loss to the Angels Tuesday.

"We really needed this badly," Altobelli said. "That's really giving your bullpen a rest when you don't even have to ask a single guy to warm up."

It looked for the longest time this afternoon that the game would be rained out, and that the Oriole pitching staff, including Martinez, would get all the rest it needed.

It didn't rain, and Martinez came one single from a historic evening. "The (pitching staff) was hurting tonight," Miller said. "Dennis knew that going out there. The whole club knew it. What he did for the club tonight has to make him feel real, real good."