10/17/2003 3:24 AM ET
Pedro cruises until late trouble
Sox ace easily outduels Clemens in marquee matchup
NEW YORK -- The final showdown between two right-handed pitchers who some day will be teammates in the Hall of Fame lasted less than four innings Thursday night at Yankee Stadium.
By Jim Street / MLB.com
Pedro Martinez won the latest "Battle of the Century" against Roger Clemens hands down.
Clemens, the Red Sox ace during the first 13 years of his MLB career, departed with one out in the fourth inning and trailing, 4-0. Martinez lasted much longer.
But the determination the current Red Sox ace demonstrated for 7 1/3 innings wasn't enough to prevent the perennial bridesmaids from Boston from having a chance to advance to the World Series.
After receiving a "nice job" from club president Larry Lucchino, Pedro talked about his final game of the season and how disappointing an entire team -- and (Red Sox) Nation was feeling.
"Our fans have to be sad like we are, heartbroken like we are, but proud of us," said Martinez after the Red Sox dropped an 11-inning, 6-5 decision to the rival Yankees in the seventh and deciding game of the terrific American League Championship Series. "Even the Yankees know they had a battle on their hands with us."
The battle lasted past midnight and into Friday morning.
Martinez and the Sox could leave Yankee Stadium with their heads held high. They put on a great show during the postseason, eliminating the Oakland Athletics in five games after being down 2-0, and taking the Yankees to the limit in the ALCS.
They won three games, but Martinez didn't win either of his two starts, losing one and getting a no-decision in Game 7. By his own high standards, his final start of the 2003 season was only so-so -- five runs and 10 hits. It was only the second time this season an opposing team reached double digits in hits against him.
Martinez worked out of a jam in the first inning, leaving two runners on base, and then sailed through the fourth inning, retiring 10 of 11 batters during one stretch. Yankees designated hitter Jason Giambi, dropped to seventh in the lineup because of a postseason slump, hit a first-pitch solo home run to right-center in the fifth, cutting into a three-run lead.
But Martinez barely blinked an eye. He retired the next eight batters before Giambi hit another home run -- this one to center field that Johnny Damon almost caught over the fence.
Consecutive singles put runners on first and second in the seventh inning, but Martinez ended the threat by striking out Alfonso Soriano for the fourth time. And when David Ortiz delivered a pinch-hit home run off left-hander David Wells in the top of the eighth inning -- a record 13th home run hit by the club in the ALCS -- it looked like the Red Sox would be returning to Boston with their 11th AL Championship.
As he walked off the field following the Soriano strikeout, Martinez looked skyward and pointed his hand to the sky, "thanking the Lord".
Pedro came back for the eighth inning, but didn't finish it.
The Yankees rallied for three runs to tie the game and won it three innings later.
After requesting that all New York-based media stand to the back of a pack of reporters surrounding him in the visiting clubhouse, Martinez said he couldn't really describe the kind of feeling he had.
"You have to live with this team and spend a whole season to understand how hurt we are after a loss like this," he said. "We knew we were competing against a very good team, a very professional team and we never underestimated them.
"They have great players and they did what they had to do to win a ballgame. I respect them, respect the way the play and all I can do is wish them luck," he added. "I did everything I could to win that game, but it was the other team doing what it had to do and that was it.
"I am really proud of my team. My team battled hard. (The Yankees) can't say they were a better team than we are. They beat us and we have to tip our hat to them and wish them well."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League baseball or its clubs.