10/07/2004 11:42 AM ET
Press Row: Pundits praise Pedro
Strong start propels Boston to 2-0 series lead
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
Pedro Martinez was the focal point of press coverage after pitching the Red Sox into a two-up position over the Angels in the American League Division Series.
|Pedro Martinez points to the sky after striking out Chone Figgins in the seventh. (Kevork Djansezian/AP)
"It wasn't vintage Pedro Martinez, but it was close enough," columnist Steve Bisheff writes in the Orange County Register.
"It wasn't Pedro throwing 98 mph lasers and backbreaking changeups and striking out 14. It wasn't the three-time Cy Young Award winner at the top of his dazzling game.
"The thing is, Boston's lean, right-handed pitching machine doesn't have to be at his best. He is so talented, so resourceful and, yes, so competitive, he can still win the way he did against the Angels on Wednesday night, navigating his way through seven less-than-spectacular innings."
Before the Red Sox won the second game, 8-3, there was the implication that Martinez was hurt because Curt Schilling started the series opener.
Tony Massarotti notes in the Boston Herald that Martinez's final 20 fastballs of the night all registered between 90 and 95 mph and writes:
"It was as if he decided right then and there that he could not lose, that he would not lose, that he would show the world that, yes, the fire is still burning.
"Game 2 starter, No. 1 stuff."
Then Massarotti quotes Martinez as saying: "I was a No. 1 today. That's all that matters to me. I don't care what the experts out there have to say. I just do my job. I let go of my ego. I swallowed it because, to me, anytime they give me the ball I'll pitch. I'm special. I'm a No. 1. I don't care how many games I have to wait."
Massarotti makes this observation:
"We should have known better, of course. We have made this mistake before. We spend so much time worrying and whining in Boston that sometimes we forget the simplest things, that the great ones are great for a reason. Martinez last night was pitching in his 212th game as a Red Sox, including postseason, and have we not learned our lesson? The man likes to pitch. He likes to compete. He loves to prove people wrong."
Dan Shaughnessy, columnist for The Boston Globe, adds that Martinez dismissed the "trash" that he and Schilling don't get along.
"Martinez's performance was a relief for the Nation," Shaughnessy writes. "Pedro's supposed to be the other bookend holding up the Red Sox rotation. He's supposed to be the second barrel in the Sox' shotgun staff. No team still playing has two starters as good as Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez, and that's why the Sox think they are going to the 2004 World Series."
Catcher Jason Varitek's two-run homer that pulled the Red Sox into a 3-3 tie against Bartolo Colon prompted this commentary from Steve Buckley in the Boston Herald:
"Though not known as one of the game's great power hitters, Varitek is something of a backstop Mr. October. His home run off Colon was his seventh postseason four-bagger. He has hit home runs in five of the six postseason series in which he has appeared, including this year. The only postseason series in which he did not hit a home run was the 1998 Division Series against the Cleveland Indians, when he had one hit in just four at-bats."
Buckley adds: "Home runs aside, Varitek was also entrusted with handling Martinez, making his first postseason start since Game 7 of last year's American League Championship Series -- the fateful game in which he gave up three runs to the Yankees in the eighth inning to tie the score and set the stage for Aaron Boone's game-winning homer.
"'A lot of people doubt the man,' Varitek said. 'I don't doubt the man.'"
With two victories in Anaheim, the prevailing thought is the Red Sox will quickly close out this series back at Fenway Park. Mike DiGiovanna of The Los Angeles Times writes:
"Do you believe in miracles? Game 5 would be Sunday back in Anaheim.
"It's daunting enough knowing that of the 43 teams that have taken a 2-0 lead in a best-of-five series, 36 have gone on to win. Making the task even more difficult for the Angels: The Red Sox are 55-26 at home and scored 26 runs on 44 hits in a three-game Fenway sweep of the Angels Aug. 31-Sept. 2.
However, Boston Globe columnist Jackie MacMullan has Varitek in a wary mood, quoting him: "It's not over. We've got to go out there and be ready to play baseball."
MacMullan writes: "You have to realize your local nine speaks from experience. About this time last season, they limped home from Oakland with a 2-0 deficit in tow. Local pundits lamented the impending demise of the team while the Red Sox caught fire, took care of business at home, then put themselves in a position to have a Game 5 decide their fate.
"Whenever that happens, anything can happen, and it did. Boston advanced to the ALCS with an improbable stunning extra-innings victory over Oakland and its ace closer, Keith Foulke.
"Funny how things work. Foulke now wears the uniform of the Red Sox and knocked down the Angels last night in the ninth. He, more than anyone, understands how important it is to close the deal.
"'I've been there before, on this side,' Foulke said. 'You can't rest on that. It's no walk in the park. You just have to go out there and go hard.'"
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.