You know what sucks? Now.
You know what didn’t suck, not even a little bit? Pedro Martinez.
I’m writing this on Thursday, March 26th, 2020. It’s supposed to be Opening Day.
I am not going to talk about what that means with what’s going on, because I can’t do that any better than our EIC Justin did.
What I can and will do is share my top 10 memories of Pedro Martinez.
To be clear, these are not Pedro’s best games, but the games I will always most remember from when I had the honor of watching the best pitcher I have ever seen on my favorite team (and one when he wasn’t).
REGULAR SEASON GAMES
5. May 18th, 2002 vs. Seattle Mariners (Red Sox W, 4-1)
Stat line – 8 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 9 K
I wouldn’t be surprised if I am one of the few people who remember this game. Honestly, if you look at the history of “Pedro games” this one might not make a lot of top 25 lists. But I will never forget the first inning of this game.
Something crazy about Pedro’s career, considering his talent and mastery, is he never threw a No Hitter or a Perfect Game, and never struck out 20 guys or more. Now what makes that shocking is every time Pedro picked up a ball for the Red Sox, all of that seemed possible. That’s not normal. In context, it’d be like thinking Patrick Mahomes was going to throw 6 TDs every game. (And yeah, if a certain QB hadn’t relocated recently, he would have been in that last sentence.)
Let me put it this way, from 1998-2000 if you had missed a Pedro start and later heard Pedro struck out 22 and had a perfect game, your reaction wouldn’t have been, “There’s no chance that happened!” It would have been, “I can’t believe I missed this for my wife’s sister’s wedding. I hope she gets divorced.”
Pedro made every start feel like it was going to be special. Which is why I will never forget sitting in my living room on a Saturday afternoon and watching him strike out Ichiro (swinging), Mark McLemore (looking) and Ruben Sierra (swinging) on 9 pitches in the first inning. All three Strike 3’s are in the GIF above.
Red Sox fans came out of that first inning thinking there was a non-zero % chance Pedro would throw a 27 K perfect game on 81 pitches. It felt in play because Pedro’s greatness was like a football game at recess, it had no boundaries.
And Pedro doing this 7 starts after the next game we’ll talk about makes it all more impressive.
4. April 1st, 2002 vs. Toronto Blue Jays (Red Sox L, 11-12)
Stat line – 3 IP, 9 H, 7 ER, 2 BB, 4 K
I never said they were all happy memories.
As I said, Pedro’s apex was 1998-2000. In 2001, he started to deal with injuries and only made 18 starts. Remember this was before the Sox won the World Series in 2004 so it’s not hyperbole to say Pedro’s shoulder was the most important body part in New England at the beginning of the 21st century.
Pedro was shut down for nearly two months after a June 26th start in 2001, then had three mediocre starts at the end of August/early September. But the feeling was, “Hey, we’re ready to go for 2002, kid. We’re prime!”
Then this happened. And what was one of the scarier things is he didn’t even give up a home run.
I watched this in the same living room after my friends and I left school early so we could see the beginning of the game. I’m still in awe both my parents and high school educators let this happen like it was a perfectly plausible reason to miss 7th period English.
This game also was the subject of one of my favorite Bill Simmons’ columns ever, and when I became a lifelong fan of his.
3. August 29th, 2000 (Red Sox W, 8-0)
Stat line – 9 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 13 K
The necklace/chain game.
This is what happened.
Here are my notes for this part:
“Hits Gerald Williams, huge brawl, retires next 24 in a row, breaks his chain, Roberto Hernandez is a piece of shit”
You can watch the full video for why I feel that way about Roberto Hernandez, but suffice to say if you mess with Brian Daubach, I haven’t forgiven you 20 years later.
I’ll admit, I did not see the first inning live. I’m not proud of that, but I was watching as it continued and, even considering the Chili Davis game (noticed it’s not listed anywhere here, I just have no recollection of that game), I think this was the closest Pedro came to a No-Hitter.
And the fact it was broken up by a former Red Sox, John Flaherty, is really unfair.
2. May 7th, 1999 (Red Sox W, 6-0)
Stat line – 8 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 15 K
I won’t say it’s a necessity to see him live to really appreciate Pedro but being at Fenway when he has a signature game like this takes it up another level. For me, it was this game.
A Friday night. Mo Vaughn’s first game back in Boston (you know, when it wasn’t a normal thing that our superstars left town), and Pedro was just dealing.
This was my in-person Pedro moment and it was glorious. And it didn’t hurt that Mo went 0-4 against Pedro and K’ed twice.
1. May 28th, 2000 (Red Sox W, 2-0)
Stat line – 9 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 1 B, 9 K
This was it.
Not only was it a game where Pedro vanquished Yankees Roger Clemens when they both couldn’t be doing better (Clemens’ line – 9 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 0 B, 13 K). But it was also the game that started a multi-year run of Trot Nixon being my favorite player.
Did you know his first name is Christopher? Did you know in 2003 he hit 25 HR in 404 Plate Appearances against RHP w/ a .330/.423/.635 slash line?
I do! And it’s because on this Sunday night in 2000, Trot Nixon hit a two-run home run off Roger Clemens in Yankee Stadium in the top of the ninth inning and the Red Sox won.
5. Game 2 of 2009 World Series (Phillies L, 1-3)
Stat line – 6 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 8 K
This might seem like an odd choice especially because there aren’t two sports cities I dislike more than New York and Philadelphia, but here we are.
Due to my aforementioned disdain of these cities I was not watching this game until I got a text from my friend (not even a Sox fan) that said something like, “Are you watching this? Vintage Pedro!”
I turned it on, and for a few innings, it really seemed like it was. Now, I didn’t expect 20 K’s or anything like that, but seeing Pedro deal to the Yankees at 38 years old was almost too beautiful to believe.
Through the first three innings, he was: 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K
And for a bit, anything seemed possible again.
Pedro went on to give up a HR to Mark Teixeira in the 4th inning and one to Hideki Matsui in the 6th inning, and the Phillies never scored again.
But it was still memorable to have one more Pedro moment vs. the Yankees.
4. Game 3 of 2004 World Series (Red Sox W, 4-1)
Stat line – 7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 K
This is the last game Pedro Martinez pitched for the Red Sox.
It wasn’t a “masterpiece,” but it was what the Red Sox needed.
This let the Sox turn a 2-0 series lead into an insurmountable (for non-Red Sox teams) 3-0 lead, which was really solidified when Pedro only faced the minimum 12 batters from the 4th through the 7th inning.
3. Game 7 of 2003 ALCS (Red Sox L, 5-6) & 2. Game 7 of 2004 ALCS (Red Sox W, 10-3)
Stat line 2003 – 7 1/3 IP, 10 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 8 K
Stat line 2004 – 1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
You cannot talk about one of these appearances without the other.
In 2003, Pedro led the Red Sox through Game 7 vs. the Yankees and had gone 7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 8 K and then he was infamously left in for the 8th inning. The Yankees mounted a comeback and tied the game, later winning in extra innings with that Aaron Boone HR off Tim Wakefield.
In 2004, the Red Sox were completing the greatest comeback in sports history. After being down 0-3 to the Yankees, they had tied the series and were leading 8-1 in the 7th inning when Pedro entered in relief.
Now sports fans specialize in these moments with managers/coaches, but this was an all-time “What the fuck are you doing?” from Sox fans to Francona. Sure, we were up seven runs and yeah, Pedro giving up 2 runs in an inning didn’t ruin the game but come on. Read the room, Terry! I had never felt/will never feel more nervous about a seven-run lead.
1. Game 5 of 1999 ALDS (Red Sox W, 12-8)
Stat line – 6 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 8 K
Loving sports is typically thought of as a group experience. You’re a fan of a team along with thousands of people. You have countless conversations with friends and co-workers and strangers in bars about sports. You watch games surrounded by people.
But there are also big moments as a sports fan that you experience all by yourself. When it’s just you, your team and the game. And that’s what this was for me.
15 years old in my bedroom watching a once-promising Sox season slip away as Brett Saberhagen and Derek Lowe allow a combined eight runs in three innings. Then Pedro, who was too hurt to start and presumably too hurt to even pitch in this game, comes in for relief in the 4th inning.
He went on to no-hit Cleveland for 6 innings and the Red Sox won the first playoff series I remembered seeing as a fan. It was as amazing in real-time as it is to recount it now. And even though the Sox lost 4-1 in the ALCS to the Yankees in the next round, this series will always feel special.
This was my favorite moment as a Red Sox fan for the first 20 years of my life and when I think of Pedro Martinez, and how much fun it was to have him on my team, this is what I think about.
And there you have it. The 10 games that pop into my head whenever I think about my favorite pitcher. There were way more good times than bad, although the bad sometimes felt just as momentous. There was no no-hitter, no perfect game and no 20+ k game, but there were still times when anything felt possible. And while there was a postseason disaster, there was also a World Series ring. The Pedro Martinez fan experience had it all and it was a hell of a ride.
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