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5 Outs Away
TOM VERDUCCI
October 11, 2004
A year ago the Cubs and Red Sox each came that close to the World Series, only to see it all blow up in eerily similar--and all-too-familiar--fashion
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October 11, 2004

5 Outs Away

A year ago the Cubs and Red Sox each came that close to the World Series, only to see it all blow up in eerily similar--and all-too-familiar--fashion

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Says Martinez, "At that point, I thought I was batter by batter"--that he would be removed if a runner reached base.

David Ortiz gave Boston another run to spare with a homer off David Wells in the top of the eighth. Martinez, the game more secure, marched back to the mound with a 5-2 lead.

"I was a little fatigued," he says. "But I did not believe I was giving up that lead. That had never happened to me. You might as well be up 10 runs instead of three--that's what it seemed like to me. We had enough to win."

Little, then 53, slightly plump, twinkle-eyed and gray-haired, speaks slowly in a soft voice with a lilting Southern accent. He was Central Casting's version of a big league manager, known to be popular with his players. Indeed, when Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino had introduced Little, a former Boston coach, as manager during a hastily called team meeting in spring training 19 months before, a happy Martinez had celebrated in front of Little with a raunchy jig in the nude.

As Martinez tossed his eighth-inning warmup pitches, Embree threw in the bullpen. Mike Timlin and Scott Williamson were available too. The three relievers had dominated New York throughout the series, allowing only one run in 111/3 innings and just five hits in 36 at bats. Little would later tell club officials that, as well as the trio had pitched, he did not trust them to keep their nerves under control in such a pressurized spot. He trusted no one more than Martinez.

Little preferred a fatigued Martinez to any of the fresh relievers, and not just to start the inning. The manager would make the same decision a second, third and fourth time when trouble arose in the eighth. "It's the way we've always done it," Little says. "Ninety percent of the time when we send Pedro back out there he completes the inning. He gets out of his own jams. I'd rather have a tired Pedro Martinez out there than anybody else. He's my best."

Until Game 5 of the AL Division Series against Oakland, Martinez had been removed eight times mid-inning in his 60 starts for Little--four of them against the Yankees--and only once after the seventh. But in a subtle bit of foreshadowing, Martinez had not been able to get through the eighth inning of that game in Oakland. Little had pulled him after two hits and used four relievers to secure the final six outs to make possible the New York-- Boston steel cage match.

Ten days later, with a World Series berth on the line, the manager had more confidence in Martinez. Little was unaware that the quiet life he knew was about to end.

Like pierre, who doubled on 2 and 2, Luis Castillo made Prior exert himself. He worked the count to 3 and 2. No one was throwing in the Cubs bullpen. New York Mets lefthander Al Leiter, working as an analyst for Fox, remarked, "[Prior] hasn't shown any reason to have any [bullpen] activity. His stuff's the same."

When Castillo fouled off the sixth pitch of the at bat, however, Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild stood up from his seat in the dugout, picked up the phone and ordered reliever Kyle Farnsworth to starting getting loose.

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