Yet through the din of amplified music and 50,000-plus moving about a large ballpark, Martinez heard one voice—one lone heckler.
That was all he needed to hear.
According to Dubee, as soon as the Yankees’ fans began to needle Martinez, the pitching coach saw the veteran’s expression melt away and came to realize one thing…
It was on.
Five years since his one and only World Series appearance, future Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez returned to the grandest stage in the most hyped up ballpark. Moreover, for almost seven innings the soon-to-be 38-year-old righty teased and taunted his nemesis Yankees with an array of breaking pitches, changeups and surprise fastballs. Against three of the most fearsome hitters in the game—Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez—Martinez notched six of his eight strikeouts to nearly neutralize baseball’s most productive offense.
Nearly, but not quite.
A pair of solo homers from Teixeira and Hideki Matsui as well as a three-hit seventh inning provided the Yankees with enough offense to beat Martinez and the Phillies, 3-1.
Nevertheless, Martinez says if that’s the best the Yankees can do, they could be in trouble.
“I can’t see them beating us again if they only score three runs,” said Martinez, who pointed out that he pitched with a chest cold.
Manager Charlie Manuel said Martinez pitched well aside from a couple of poor pitches to two lefty sluggers.
“He wasn’t afraid to throw inside to some of their big hitters, and he pitched a good game,” Manuel said. “Pedro got hurt by the long ball off left-handed hitters, and that’s kind of it. It was a heckuva game. It was a very close game and we couldn’t pull it out.”
As a result, the Phillies and Yankees will shift the World Series from the South Brox to South Philadelphia on Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park all knotted up at a game apiece. For the Phillies, it’s the same exact position they found themselves in last October when they left Tampa Bay with the series all tied up at 1-1.
After three games in Philadelphia, there was no need for a return trip to Florida.
But if the series makes it back to the Bronx, Martinez began to sow the seeds for yet another comeback to the ballpark that he claims great influence. As he slowly walked off the field to the back of the visitors’ dugout on the third-base side of the diamond, Martinez paused to engage the Yankees fans sitting in the front rows before ducking away for the evening.
It was as if he was telling Yankee Stadium that he would, indeed, return.
“I know I played for the Mets and I know they really want to root for me,” Martinez said of the Yankee Stadium fans. “It’s just that I don’t play for the Yankees, that’s all. I’ve always been a good competitor and they love that. They love the fact that I compete. I’m a New Yorker, as well. If I was on the Yankees I’d probably be like a king over here.”
If Martinez pitched for the Yankees how much run support would he have needed in Game 2? Obviously, if three runs is all that the Majors’ most prolific offense needed to beat the National League’s top offense, then that points to some deficiency for the Phillies. Actually, it was a combination of some uncharacteristic hitting and great pitching by Yankees’ right-hander A.J. Burnett, who went seven innings before turning it over to Mariano Rivera for a two-inning save.
For a pitcher that has had a rough time in his 11 seasons against the Phillies, the victory in Game 2 was especially sweet for the hard-throwing righty. In fact, earlier this season the Phillies roughed up Burnett for five runs on three homers. This time, Burnett gave up just four hits, one of which was an RBI single by Matt Stairs that scooted under Rodriguez’s glove at third.
Regardless, Martinez says that lone run could have held up if he hadn’t made those mistakes to Teixeira or Matsui.
“To be honest, I don’t think they were as good as they could be,” Martinez said about the Yankees. “They are a lot more than that offensively. We pitched and we made pitches. Sometimes when you pitch the hitting is going to be slow.
“When I made a couple of mistakes, I paid for them. Teixeira’s home run to me seems like he hit a good pitch. I just have to tip my hat and let it go. With Matsui I was disappointed because maybe that pitch is one I probably wouldn’t have chosen if I was to think again. But I was just into a groove and pitching and throwing pitches, and just flipped a curveball there and I kind of paid for it.”
Then Burnett and Rivera made the Phillies’ hitters pay for some poor plate appearances. A game removed from going 2-for-5 with a pair of doubles and an RBI, cleanup hitter Ryan Howard went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts in Game 2.
If that wasn’t enough, Wednesday night’s hitting hero Chase Utley went 0-for-3 with a walk, but hit into a rally-killing double play with one out and two on against Rivera in the eighth. Though Manuel says Utley beat the throw at first, the Phillies’ best offense threat ended just like that.
Regardless, the loss and the hard-luck did nothing to deter their confidence.
“We can hit Rivera. We can hit any closer. We’ve proved that,” Manuel said. “He’s one of the best closers in baseball, if not the best. He’s very good. But I’ve seen our team handle good pitching and we’re definitely capable of scoring runs late in the game.”
That’s not the way it went this time, though. As a result, it looks like the Phillies and Yankees are digging in for a long series.