Pedro returns from injury to lead Boston to ALCS
Posted: Tuesday October 12, 1999 08:36 AM
Sore no more: Pedro Martinez came on in the fourth inning to carry the Red Sox to victory. AP
CLEVELAND (AP) -- Pedro Martinez took on an unfamiliar role to rescue the Boston Red Sox from an all-too-familiar situation.
The injured ace came in from the bullpen to help Boston avoid elimination on Monday night, striking out eight in six hitless innings as the Red Sox beat Cleveland 12-8 to earn a chance to play the New York Yankees for the American League pennant.
"Once I got in. That's all I needed. I wouldn't come out," Martinez said after breaking free from the celebration that surrounded him on the Jacobs Field mound. "I wasn't going to let go. I wasn't going to."
With Game 5 of their first-round AL playoff series against Cleveland tied at 8 and looking a lot like the previous night's slugfest, Martinez started the fourth inning and shut the Indians down from there.
He threw a 91 mph fastball to Sandy Alomar on his first pitch and retired Cleveland in order in the fourth -- the first 1-2-3 inning of the game for the Indians batters.
He fanned two each in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings. Jim Thome, who homered twice before Martinez entered the game, struck out looking leading off the eighth, becoming Martinez' seventh victim.
"Pedro was hot today," Indians shortstop Omar Vizquel said. "It didn't matter if he had a bad shoulder or a bad whatever. He showed you what he has: a great heart."
Martinez was the best pitcher in baseball this season, leading the major leagues with a 23-4 record and 2.07 ERA while striking out a career-high 313. But when he strained a muscle in his right shoulder in Game 1, it seemed to doom Boston's chances of surviving the first round of the AL playoffs.
After two consecutive Red Sox victories, though, including Sunday night's 23-7 beating, the teams returned to Cleveland for a decisive fifth game. And that gave Martinez just enough time to recover.
"I thought that he had no chance," said pitching coach Joe Kerrigan, who played catch with Martinez before Saturday's game, when the pitcher could barely pick up a ball.
But they gave it another try on Sunday, and Martinez felt better. On Monday, he threw a dozen warmup pitches before the game; by the third, he removed any doubt that he would be available.
"Ouch!" Kerrigan said as the ball popped into his catcher's mitt.
With that, the Red Sox ace was declared ready for action. But, just to be sure, Kerrigan called over to the bullpen three times during the game to make sure Martinez was still healthy.
"It's one of the most heroic, gutsy performances I've ever seen," Kerrigan said. "Here's a guy that wasn't supposed to pitch tonight except for an inning or two. And here he is throwing 100 pitches."
Because of the questions surrounding Martinez' health, the Red Sox started Bret Saberhagen in Game 5. Saberhagen is a two-time Cy Young Award winner -- as Martinez will almost be when the awards are announced next month.
"He couldn't even pick up a ball two days ago, and was almost in tears," Saberhagen said. "He's just the most unbelievable pitcher I've ever seen."
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