Pedro Martinez and the Red Sox blitzed New York
The Red Sox are one tough audience. Last Friday, after their
slightly built ace, Pedro Martinez, completed a 17-strikeout,
one-hit victory at Yankee Stadium--retiring the last 22 New York
batters in the 3-1 win--he was greeted with little more than the
usual handshakes and high fives. "I guess that's because they're
used to seeing it," said Martinez, who fanned 12 of the last 15
Yankees and became the first pitcher to strike out 15 or more
batters six times in a season since Nolan Ryan did it in 1974.
Chili Davis's second-inning home run, off a 95-mph fastball,
saved New York the embarrassment of being on the wrong end of a
no-hitter for the first time since 1958.
"It may have been the best performance I've ever seen," said
Yankees righthander David Cone, taking into account his own
perfect game on July 18 against the lowly Expos. "He had three
dominating pitches--an overpowering fastball, a knee-buckling
curve and a parachute changeup. I don't think I've ever seen
anyone with all three."
Through Sunday, Martinez (21-4) was 17 games over .500; the
other 25 pitchers trotted out by Boston were 61-57. But the Red
Sox--who came out on top of the Yankees in an 11-10 barn burner
on Saturday and completed the sweep on Sunday with a 4-1
victory--had closed to within 3 1/2 games of the world champions
in the East and held a three-game lead over Oakland in the
wild-card race despite the absence of a power hitter the caliber
of Mo Vaughn, who left for the Angels in the off-season. Boston
also had been without closer Tom Gordon since June 11, when he
tore a ligament in his elbow, and it had gone weeks at a time
without shortstop Nomar Garciaparra (strained left hamstring,
strained groin) and No. 2 starter Bret Saberhagen (right
shoulder injuries, lacerated left foot). Even Martinez had gone
on the 15-day DL for the first time in his seven-year career,
with a sore right shoulder.
Still, the Red Sox won the season series against the Yankees
8-4, and Boston manager Jimy Williams credits Martinez with
setting a high standard for his overachievers. "They see him,
and they want to help the team win just like he does," Williams
Martinez is on the verge of a greater season than Roger Clemens
had in 1986, when the Rocket won the MVP and Cy Young awards and
led the Red Sox to the World Series. That year Clemens was 24-4
with a 2.48 ERA and 238 strikeouts in 254 innings. Through
Sunday, with 65 2/3 fewer innings, Martinez had 274 strikeouts.
His 2.20 ERA was .90 of a run better than that of Cone, the
American League runner-up.
"He deserves consideration for both awards," says Cone. "Pedro's
got a chance to go down as having one of the great alltime power
Martinez admitted after last Friday's game that his shoulder was
bothering him. "I still feel a little tingly, but it's not
anything I haven't felt before," he said. His injury may turn
out to be a blessing. He returned to action on Aug. 3, and
through Sunday he had won his last four starts, permitting just
two runs while striking out 58 in 31 innings.
But when it comes to the postseason, Martinez's injury may still
be a lingering concern to the Red Sox. "I don't think they'll
pitch him three times in a seven-game series," says one of
Martinez's teammates. "He's too valuable to the future of the
club to take that risk." --Ian Thomsen
Nevin Tempered by Success
PADRES GET PHIL, NOT BILL
Before he made his major league debut in 1995, the Padres' Phil
Nevin was already well-known because of his accomplishments
three years earlier: Baseball America college player of the
year, College World Series MVP, first pick in the draft (by the
Astros) and third baseman for the U.S. Olympic team. He even
started his pro career, in 1993, at Triple A Tucson. Once in the
big leagues Nevin became infamous for not living up to the
expectations born of that lofty resume--before this season he
had a career average of .230 with 27 homers in 253 games with
the Astros, Tigers and Angels--and for throwing
bat-rack-rattling tantrums on those frequent occasions when
things weren't going well.
This season his new teammates took to calling this dark side of
him Bill. "Wally Joyner was the first to do it," says Nevin,
whom San Diego acquired to provide catching depth after Carlos
Hernandez suffered a season-ending left Achilles tendon injury
in March. "Now they all do it."
For the most part Bill has been out of sight this season (though
he did trash the visitors' dugout commode in Philadelphia after
a bad at bat in May), especially in the past six weeks after
Phil became San Diego's regular third baseman. Through Sunday,
Nevin was hitting .314 with 12 home runs and 41 RBIs in 42 games
since taking over for the struggling George Arias. For the
season he had 24 homers and 79 RBIs, career highs in both
To give Nevin his due, this is his first extended gig as an
every-day major leaguer. He played only 18 games with the Astros
before being dealt to the Tigers in August 1995. He spent the
next two years yo-yoing between Detroit and the minors, trying
to reinvent himself as a catcher. Before the '98 season he was
sent to Anaheim, where he hit .228 in 75 games and solidified
his reputation for being more dangerous to clubhouse furniture
than to opposing pitchers. "Part of it was my fault," he says.
"I had to learn to be a big leaguer on and off the field."
In July, with the Padres searching for a replacement for Arias,
Nevin appealed to manager Bruce Bochy for the chance to return
to the hot corner, where he last played regularly in 1996. Since
July 31 Nevin had made only three errors through Sunday and had
given the power-starved Padres much-needed pop. "I don't know if
I'd hit 40 homers and drive in 130 runs over a full year," he
says, "but I'd sure like to find out."
Good Players on Bad Teams
SEASONS OF DISTINCTION
By Sunday 19 teams either had been eliminated from postseason
contention or were only mathematically alive--meaning that more
than half the major leaguers were just playing out the schedule.
Here are six players who, despite their teams' also-ran
performance, have had MVP-caliber years that will go virtually
unrecognized in balloting for 1999 awards. (Listed in order of
most surprising season.)
Brian Giles, Pirates. After four years of part-time duty with
the Indians, the 28-year-old Giles became yet another young
hitter to flourish upon leaving Cleveland, along with the
Marlins' Bruce Aven and the Reds' Sean Casey. Through Sunday,
Giles had hit .312 with career highs in homers (36) and RBIs
(108)--the best season in those categories by a Pirates
outfielder since Barry Bonds in 1992. Giles was also a surprise
in the field, gracefully making a midseason switch from
rightfield to center. "If we were still in contention, Brian
would have to get serious consideration for the MVP award," says
Pittsburgh manager Gene Lamont.
Magglio Ordonez, White Sox. Ordonez, Chicago's 25-year-old
rightfielder, continued his ascent toward stardom, a climb that
began last year when he tied for fifth in Rookie of the Year
voting. After a slow start this season, he took off when he was
moved from the number-five hole to the cleanup spot on April 15;
through Sunday he was hitting .302 and led Chicago in homers
(28) and RBIs (109). He was also the team's lone representative
at the All-Star Game. "For him to come together this quickly,"
says Ken Williams, Chicago's vice president of player
development, "I don't think any of us can say with a straight
face that we expected it."
Mike Sweeney, Royals. Talk about a breakout. In his four major
league seasons before this one Sweeney, a catcher turned
DH-first baseman, had a total of 36 doubles, 19 homers and 90
RBIs. This season, through Sunday he had 38 doubles, 21 homers
and 96 RBIs, in addition to having hit a career-high .314.
Bobby Abreu, Phillies. Philadelphia's annual second-half
collapse has been no fault of Abreu's. Through August the
25-year-old rightfielder had improved his hits total each month,
and his .344 batting average ranked second in the National
League. What's more, his strikeouts were down from one every 3.7
at bats in 1998 to one every 5.1 this year, and his walks (90)
were up six in eight fewer plate appearances than he had all of
Kent Bottenfield, Cardinals. The portly righthander's
performance thinned after a blazing 14-3 start--he had won just
three of 10 starts since the All-Star break--but Bottenfield was
still fourth in the National League with 17 wins. Not bad for a
30-year-old who began the season with 18 career victories.
B.J. Surhoff, Orioles. On a team racked by poor pitching,
injuries and lousy chemistry, Surhoff, Baltimore's 35-year-old
leftfielder, still motivated himself to have the best year of
his career. In addition to hitting .317, he had career highs in
homers (27) and RBIs (101), was second in the American League in
hits (190) and was seventh in total bases (306).
ANY TAKERS FOR CORDOVA?
Early in June, when it became obvious that he was no longer
wanted by the Twins, DH Marty Cordova asked manager Tom Kelly
for a favor: Would Kelly please give him an occasional start in
the outfield? Kelly complied, not because he thought that
Cordova, the 1995 American League Rookie of the Year, had a
particularly good glove. No, Cordova and Kelly had the same
idea: Maybe if Cordova performed well, some other team would
Unfortunately for both parties, it didn't work. Cordova made 20
outfield starts and put up decent overall numbers--.289 average,
14 home runs, 68 RBIs, 12 stolen bases in 113 games through
Sunday--but the Twins still couldn't give him away. Cordova, 30,
whose four-year, $6.3 million contract ends this season, was put
on waivers in May and again in August. For the $20,000 fee, a
team could have had a career .275 hitter with some pop. Nobody
One source on the team says that the main knock against Cordova
is a history of injuries. (Plantar fascitis in his left foot,
diagnosed two years ago, has lingered.) This irritates Cordova.
"I'm as healthy as I've ever been," he says. "A team that needs
me to play full time will get a full-time outfielder." Cordova
acknowledges that he will probably have to try the free-agent
market in the off-season or possibly attend spring training as a
nonroster invitee. "Everyone has opinions," he says, "but I know
I can still play."
For complete scores and stats, plus Tom Verducci's mailbag, go to
The end of this season will also mark the closing of the
Astrodome, 3Com Park and Tiger Stadium, victims of baseball's
capital-improvement drive. With the passing of those parks,
these stadiums will rank as the 10 oldest in the majors.
BALLPARK, FIRST BIG LEAGUE GAME
1. Fenway Park, April 20, 1912
Will be granddaddy of them all at least until 2003, when
proposed new ballpark is expected to open across the street
2. Wrigley Field, April 20, 1916
Afternoon games here are major league baseball in its purest
form; there's been no serious talk of replacing this shrine
3. Yankee Stadium, April 18, 1923
Like true New Yorker, won't go without a fight, but quest for
additional luxury suites may yet give rise to The House That
4. County Stadium, April 14, 1953
Crane accident postponed Miller Park opening, probably until
2001, so former home of Braves will house Brewers one more year
5. Dodger Stadium, April 10, 1962
Proposed new stadium next to Los Angeles Coliseum could help Fox
lure an NFL franchise to the city
6. Shea Stadium, April 17, 1964
New park reminiscent of Ebbets Field--with roof--possible by
2002; will fans still hear LaGuardia Airport jets roar overhead?
7. Edison Field, April 19, 1966
A nice park for baseball again since Disney dismantled enclosed
outfield seating built for Rams 20 years ago
8. Busch Stadium, May 12, 1966
Transformed from speedway to power house with installation of
grass in 1996 and addition of Mark McGwire in '97
9. Network Associates Coliseum, April 17, 1968
Once known as the Mausoleum, has been renovated for Raiders and
rejuvenated by Athletics' wild-card run
10. Qualcomm Stadium, April 8, 1969
Padres' trip to 1998 World Series propelled Proposition C, which
provided funding for new downtown ballpark in 2002
in the BOX
Sept. 11, 1999
Twins 7, Angels 0
Pitching a no-hitter is never easy, even when, like Twins lefty
Eric Milton, you're spotting your fastball with precision and
you're striking out 13. But the task is less daunting against
the sort of lineup the Angels trotted out last Saturday. With
most regulars sitting out the 11 a.m. start, Anaheim went with
five players who began the year in the minors. Only one Angel,
centerfielder Orlando Palmeiro, had played more than 300 big
league games; three (second baseman Trent Durrington,
rightfielder Jeff DaVanon and catcher Bret Hemphill) had played
fewer than 30.
Not that Milton, 24, is a seasoned veteran: The no-hitter came
in his 62nd career start. Plus, he didn't have the luxury of
detailed scouting reports on the no-name lineup. "We went over
the scouting report, and there was nothing," said catcher Terry
the Hot corner
Blue Jays assistant general manager Dave Stewart, a candidate
for the Brewers' vacant general managership, has stopped talking
to the media. Stewart, one of baseball's more loquacious
executives, says that too much of what he's uttered of late has
"made me look pretty bad." In addition to openly campaigning for
a general manager's spot, Stewart recently criticized Toronto
players for lacking heart....
Phillies catcher Mike Lieberthal had gone 100 games without an
error--until he made two against the Astros on Sept. 7....
When the Royals were shopping righthander Kevin Appier before
the season, Kansas City general manager Herk Robinson, hoping to
work a trade with the Indians, said he considered third baseman
Russ Branyan a better prospect than outfielder-first baseman
Richie Sexson among the prospects in the Cleveland organization.
The Royals and the Indians never struck a deal, and Appier
eventually wound up with the A's. At Triple A Buffalo, Branyan
struck out 190 times, while through Sunday, Sexson had 29 homers
and 104 RBIs for the Indians....
Reds first base coach Dave Collins on Cincinnati's recent home
run frenzy (21 in five games): "I've had to shake so many hands
the last few days, I had to ice down my arm after every game."....
When Cubs rookie Brian McNichol entered the second game of a
doubleheader against the Reds on Sept. 7, he became the 25th
pitcher and 10th lefty Chicago had used this season--both club
Cal Ripken Jr. had hit into 324 career double plays, four short
of Hank Aaron's alltime record....
Braves hitting coach Don Baylor has expressed interest in the
Angels' managerial vacancy but had not yet spoken with Anaheim.
"Living out there and being part of the community since 1976,"
says Baylor, "there are just too many positives."...
The Tigers had a stake in the Sept. 6 game between the Twins and
the Devil Rays. When Minnesota won, Detroit was guaranteed the
title of losingest team of the 1990s; through Sunday the Tigers
were 691-844, and even were the Twins to lose every one of their
remaining games, they would have only 839 losses....
Because he needed 12 days of major league service to get a
10-year pension, outfielder John Cangelosi was called up from
Triple A Colorado Springs by the Rockies on Sept. 10. Cangelosi,
36, was out of baseball until Colorado signed him as a roving
baserunning and outfield instructor in June. He joined the
injury-depleted Sky Sox roster as a player on Aug. 1.