He is the Jekyll and Hyde of the Boston Red Sox. Four days out of every five, he is the Clown Prince of the dugout. He will dance, point, gesture, make faces and swing his silly red bat at you. But when Pedro Martinez takes the hill on that fifth day, he is all business. He will strike you out, humiliate you, drill you, or even throw you to the ground if you challenge him. Especially this time of year.
It is true, every game is worth exactly one game in the standings. But as the season winds down, the margin for error shrinks and the time a team has to make up ground begins to slip away. These games seem to mean so much more than the chilly April games or the dog-day games of July. And these are the games Pedro puts on his baddest do-not-even-think-about-scoring-on-me game face. Quite simply, these are the games he wins.
In 2002 Pedro was 9-2 with a 1.61 ERA after the break. Last year; 8-2, 2.04 and since the trading deadline (a.k.a. the beginning of The Streak); 5-1, 1.77, with 71 strikeouts in 56 innings. He is a big-game pitcher and he proved it once again last night going 6 innings and giving up just two hits while extending his personal scoreless streak to 16 innings. Who would you rather have on the mound in October?
As for the game last night, an 8-3 win completing the sweep and ending the much-discussed critical stretch of games with an 8-1 record. Oakland ace Tim Hudson was sent packing early, lasting just 3 innings and giving up 7 earned runs. Every starter either reached base or had an RBI, and the defense was once again flawless. Just another day at the office.
Since trading he-who-will-not-be-named, this team has ripped through opponents in every manner conceivable. One night it is with surgical pitching precision, the next night a total dismantling with the bats and the next night they will stonewall their opponents with impenetrable defense. The big three; pitching, hitting and defense, complement each other perfectly. When one slips even slightly, the other two pick it up a notch. In other words, they are a team. They have cut their deficit in the division to a mere two games and they are not done.
Tonight, it is Tim Wakefield’s turn on the mound. He has been shaky lately but he is a veteran. He has perhaps the best infield in baseball around him, a very good defensive outfield, and a devastating offense to help him. And, he is a Red Sox.