10/15/2003 10:21 PM ET
Pedro not nervous about Game 7
The Contrarians: Pedro vs. Clemens
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
Clemens faces Sox one more time
NEW YORK -- Pedro Martinez was trapped. It was a scene New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg would have loved, although he would have been truly pleased if the human barricade had consisted of folks wearing blue uniforms instead of carrying notepads.
But Martinez insisted he wasn't nervous.
He's not afraid of reporters, or even a charging Don Zimmer. At little less than 24 hours before he had any real cause to be nervous, he insisted that he wasn't quivering over the prospect of starting Game 7 of the American League Championship Series against Roger Clemens and the New York Yankees.
He clearly wanted to get out of the Red Sox's clubhouse. He kept taking forward jab steps, but reporters stood their ground and blurted out questions before he could say, "Excuse me." But that was only because he had little to say, especially when asked if the butterflies were fluttering.
"I've got to wait for the game tomorrow to show up," Martinez said. "Maybe I'll feel nervous then."
There's plenty to talk about up to then, such as:
Martinez's performance in Game 5 of the AL Division Series against Oakland --- good enough to give the Sox a chance to win and complete the comeback from the 2-0 deficit.
Martinez's not-so-shining Game 3 of the ALCS at Fenway, when he gave up four runs and six hits in seven innings. That was overshadowed by what folks have been talking about since then.
In that game, there was Martinez's pitch behind Karim Garcia's head, his ominous pointing to his head to warn Yankees catcher Jorge Posada and of course his encounter with the 72-year-old Zimmer, who charged from the Yankee bench during a bench-clearing scrum. That one had Bloomberg saying Martinez would have been jailed in New York.
But John Burkett, who started Game 6 and witnessed his Sox win a wild comeback, understood that Martinez would rather let others talk.
"I know how he feels right now," Burkett said as Martinez was surrounded and ordered to give up the quotes. "You want to go home and get locked in, think about the next game and not really talk about it too much.
"I was required to do it last night. It's a weird situation."
Even stranger is the fact that the numbers aren't totally calming for Red Sox fans.
Counting Game 3, Martinez is 1-2 and his team is 1-3 in his four starts against the Yankees this season. The lone win was a 9-3 Boston victory on Sept. 5 that saw Martinez coast (four hits, one run in six innings) after the Red Sox scored eight runs on 10 hits in the first three innings. Martinez pitched decently in two no-decision Sox losses (four runs in 13 innings), and badly in the two losses he was credited with, counting Game 3 (nine runs in 11 innings).
But the Red Sox are nonetheless sleeping as easily as possible before such a showdown.
"We have the guy we want to have the ball," Sox reliever Alan Embree said. "He's our ace. He's done it and you guys know what kind of pitcher he is. If the offense does its job, we're going to win that game.
"To get to Game 7 is a good feeling."
Despite what happened in Game 3 and during the season against the Yankees, and despite the injuries Martinez pitched through during the regular season while going 14-4, he is their comfort pitcher. Martinez finished the regular season with wins in his last four decisions and pitched well against Oakland.
"You've got a dream pitcher's matchup," Sox reliever Todd Jones said. "You'e going to see why Pedro makes $16 million and Roger's a Hall of Famer."
Sox pitching coach Dave Wallace is looking for Martinez to pitch like the Hall of Famer he likely will become.
"We're very comfortable with him going out there, and we'll see what happens," Wallace said. "Pedro is pretty much under control. How can you not be excited about what is going to happen here tomorrow night? These two teams with these two pitchers in this park. Goodness gracious. It can't get any better."
Yankees manager Joe Torre is certain the events of Game 3 will be forgotten.
"Zimmer is not going to hit tomorrow," Torre said. "Game 7, there's more important things than stuff that shouldn't be on the sports page. We know we have our work cut out for us, and I'm sure they do, too."
One reason the Red Sox love the fact they're handing the ball to Martinez is when the talking is done, he'll be pitching the same game he threw in his backyard in the Dominican Republic, when he was pretending to be his pressure-pitching idols -- Nolan Ryan, Bret Saberhagen and Mario Soto.
The idea that a youngster somewhere in the world is pretending to be Martinez, dreaming of his own Game 7, brought a slight smile.
"I hope they do," he said. "Maybe they'll become players."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.