That's the Pedro Martinez I remember.
That's the Pedro who won three Cy Young awards, that's the Pedro that shut down the Cleveland Indians in the 1999 divisional series with six innings of shutout relief. The Pedro we saw Tuesday night was the guy who is able to throw three pitches over the plate and have control of the strike zone. Forget about the ALCS. Sometimes when you face a club 11 billion times over the course of your career like Pedro has faced the Yankees, teams get a read and find ways to take you out of your rhythm. That was New York. St. Louis is not New York. We all knew Pedro was better than the one-inning, 20-pitch performance in the ALCS in which he gave up two runs and looked terribly vulnerable. The question heading into the World Series was, which Pedro would we get?
We got the Pedro who dazzled us upon his arrival to Boston in 1998, combining the low 90's fastball (not the same as it once was, but effective) with that devastating curve and rolling change-up. Pedro was masterful, running all of his pitches in and out of the zone, forcing Cardinals hitters into defensive swings that resulted in several broken bats. What Pedro did Tuesday night was no less significant than what Schilling did two nights before, with just as much at stake. Suppose Pedro lost. Now the Cardinals go into Game 4 down only one game with two to play on their turf. Add to that the real possibility they may have seen the last of Curt Schilling, and the momentum would have swung to the Cardinals. But Pedro didn't choke. He didn't fail. The Cardinals, unlike the Yankees, are not his daddy. Tuesday nights game might be the last time we see number 45 step to the mound in a Red Sox uniform. I can't think of any better way to remember him.
Kudos to Terry Francona for not putting himself in a Grady Little situation. No one could have blamed him if he had sent Pedro out to start the eighth. Martinez had just thrown a 1-2-3 seventh, striking out the last batter he faced, with a fastball that was clocked in the 90s. But with the pitch count (96) creeping near the dreaded 100 mark, Francona let his bullpen do what his bullpen has done all year. Mike Timlin, who aside from the two-game brain cramp he had earlier in the postseason has been his usual phenomenal self, closed the door in the eighth and Keith Foulke, after serving up a home run to Larry Walker to show everyone that he is human , closed the door in the ninth. Not many managers would have had the intestinal fortitude to pull Pedro on a night like that.
So where do the Cardinals go from here? Tonight they trot out Jason Marquis, someone who's batting average (.292) is talked about more than his ERA (3.71), against Derek Lowe, who is coming off the biggest start of his life and has a chance to cement his spot in Red Sox lore by closing out the two biggest playoff series in the teams history. Good luck Jason.
No matter how well David Ortiz handled himself at first base last night, there wasn't one member of Red Sox Nation who wasn't holding his or her breath waiting for the seventh inning arrival of Doug Mientkiewicz. Sometimes I think Francona needs to fill out two lineup cards, one for the first seven innings, and one for the last two when he has the opportunity to remove the bronzed gloves of Ortiz, Kevin Millar, Manny Ramirez and Mark Bellhorn.
With police in the Boston area gathering its riot gear for what may be the biggest (and perhaps bloodiest) celebration in Boston sports history, I feel like I have to weigh in on the tragedy that took place last week.
Celebrating a championship, any championship, is a rite of passage for a sports fan, something that few of us can do. I was too young to grasp the '86 pennant, to feel the joy that goes with a trip to the World Series, but if I was in Boston last Thursday night, I would have been one of the thousands of fans on the streets celebrating. I would not have been one of the few dozen morons who ruined the fun for everyone by lighting fires in trash cans and throwing bricks through windows.
However, I could have been 21-year old Victoria Snelgrove, an Emerson College student killed by a pepper spray can fired by police into an unruly crowd. It's a scary thought really, to know that if you are simply soaking in a moment that you might never experience again, you could be the victim of tragedy. I don't blame the Boston police. These men and women face more danger daily than many of us face in a lifetime. I also don't blame the local student population. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino calling the students hoodlums is off base, because if you look at the pictures taken during the celebration, most, if not all, of the photographs depicting violence are of middle-aged men, townees, who fill the bars of Dorchester and South Boston. What I don't understand is why the Boston police doesn't walk into The Boston Globe or the Boston Herald and request copies of the pictures taken that night and find all those associated with the criminal activities and arrest them. What these people have done is more than disturbing the peace, they're accessories to a manslaughter, to the senseless death of a 21-year old girl who just wanted to be part of the crowd.
I don't get UMass-Amherst. Three years ago during the Patriots' Super Bowl celebration, students celebrated by tossing furniture out their windows and burning it. After Game 7 last week there was a similar reaction there and on the Dartmouth campus. This time, however, the university stepped to the plate, immediately suspending the 68 students arrested. Good for them. Out of control celebrations shouldn't be tolerated, but when it happens at a school 100 miles from the action it becomes that much more contemptible.
As expected most of the anti-Pedro sentiment has come from Yankees fans (who undoubtedly will do a 180 if Pedro dons pinstripes next season). The following is from a reader who has taken exception to my calling for Pedro to take the ball on short rest last week:
Why do you give guys like Pedro stupid ideas that they can pitch relief on short rest? The guy got tagged for two doubles and could have woke the ghosts up. In the future leave the Nation blogless as opposed to making a stupid suggestion. --Brandon, Columbus
I was not insinuating that Pedro would be near his best pitching on short rest. Far from it. And, yes, Pedro got lit up coming into a game that he had no business being involved in. My point was this: if the Red Sox season was to be decided by one game, and you had to pick one pitcher not named Schilling to be on the mound for that one game, who would you want that to be? Who would you rather go to war with -- a weary Martinez, or a rested Curtis Leskanic? Pitching on short rest is almost always a recipe for disaster, yet as a Red Sox fan I'd sleep easier knowing I lost that battle with my ace on the hill.
Until next time. Happy Halloween.