05/24/2002 00:43 am ET
Martinez scoffs at Bambino's curse
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
BOSTON -- Pedro Martinez wants to curse every time he hears mention of the mythical "Curse of the Bambino." The topic seems to come up whenever he pitches against the Yankees, and it tends to bring an extra edge to his normally light-hearted voice.
Martinez loves to compete against the Yankees, because he loves challenges. Most of the great ones do.
So after he pitched masterfully in beating the Yanks, 3-1, Thursday night, it was hardly shocking that Martinez -- now 7-0 with a 2.63 ERA -- was asked about his least favorite subject yet again.
He shot it down as fiercely as he put down Yankee hitters on a night he struck out 10 and allowed four hits and one earned run over seven impressive innings.
"A curse is not even baseball. Curse, curse, curse," said Martinez. "It's baseball. If they beat me, they beat me, but not because of the curse. Maybe the Bambino was looking out for me today. Would you believe that?"
Stranger things have happened. Last May, following a similarly sparkling victory against the Yankees, Martinez was so agitated at the curse talk that he asked if someone could wake the Babe up so Martinez could drill him in the, well, backside.
This time, he was more philosophical.
"I like history, but stuff like that, curses and stuff, I think the Bambino, Babe Ruth, was one of the greatest men for the community," said Martinez. "I don't think he would want to curse -- not even his worst enemy. I don't believe in that. I believe in doing my job, respecting the other players, respecting what they mean to the game and respecting the game and playing it hard."
And blinding opposing hitters. Martinez's postgame comments made for good humor, but it was his performance which created such a good mood in the Red Sox clubhouse.
The victory opened up just a wee bit more space between the 31-13 Red Sox and their archenemies, bumping the lead over the Yankees to two games in the AL East.
There are three more games to go over the weekend, and Martinez's opening salvo meant that the Yankees would have to take all of them to regain first place.
Though Martinez insists he holds no personal vendetta against the Yankees, he acknowledges that they -- more than any other team -- are the ones who can block the path to where the Red Sox want to go.
Someone asked Martinez how important it was to keep the Yankees in second place. Then, he allowed himself to fantasize just for a second.
"I hope we keep them in last," said Martinez. "But I know it's going to be rough with those guys; they're too good. It's really important to get away from them and set a standard for ourselves at this point in the season."
Make no mistake about it though, the Yankees have set the recent standard of championship baseball, winning four world titles and five pennants in the last six years.
Beating them, whether it is April, October or anywhere in between, always feels significant.
This is why Martinez showed a rare burst of emotion, pumping his fist after key strikeouts to Jorge Posada and Rondell White in the seventh.
"It's really important because the more we get away from those guys, the better it is for us," said Martinez. "The Yankees have been better than anybody the last 10 years, and we respect that. We just have to continue to play good baseball and stay away from the Yankees as much as we can because they are going to battle back. Getting a win against the Yankees is always emotional."
Still, Martinez insisted he didn't feel much more revved up Thursday as he did in his last two starts, both gems against the Mariners.
The reason Martinez pitches as well in the big games as he does in the others is because of how he can channel his intensity. He has almost an eerie calmness on the mound, trusting his stuff and his pitching smarts.
"I don't think when he's on, you go out there and beat him," said Yankees slugger Jason Giambi, who struck out twice in three at-bats against Martinez. "He's one of those guys [you hope] beats himself. When's he's on, he doesn't miss."
This is how it is for Martinez when he is healthy, as he is right now.
"I'm feeling better every time out," said Martinez. "You have to be on top of your game with your concentration and be right on the edge of your game if you're going to beat the Yankees."
Ian Browne covers the Red Sox for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or any of its clubs.