On the night the Red Sox clinched at least a tie for a playoff spot, there was a wide divergence of opinion on Pedro Martinez, the man who brought the Sox to that point with a 5-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles.
Basically, the difference came down to this:
From the sellout crowd of 33,477 attending the Sox’ final regular-season home game and treated to Martinez’s 23d win and 12 more strikeouts in eight innings: Pedro is MVP.
From the office of visiting manager Ray Miller of the Orioles: Pedro is a ``skinny little [potty-mouth synonym for punk].’’
Miller was steamed because Martinez, who didn’t walk a batter, plunked Brady Anderson between the numbers with a fastball in the fifth inning.
``Pedro my ass,’’ Miller said. ``Pedro hit my leadoff hitter right in the middle of the [indecorous adjective] back, when he’s only walked 37 batters all [same indecorous adjective] year.
``I’ve been watching this guy for 10 years and every good game he pitches he hits some good hitter right in the middle of the back.’’
Those comments were relayed to Martinez, who had exchanged words with Anderson in the eighth inning, when Anderson nudged him with an elbow while crossing the plate on a passed ball. That emptied the benches and bullpens for some milling around, a scene spiked by Martinez flexing his right biceps for plate umpire Gary Cederstrom.
Said Miller of Martinez, ``If he had enough [vulgar anatomical description] to cover home plate, he would have died right there.’’
Martinez wondered whether Miller was aware of his whereabouts as Anderson was crossing the plate and catcher Jason Varitek’s throw went past the pitcher.
``I covered it,’’ he said. ``I covered the plate. I didn’t even see [Anderson]. If he wanted to start something, he could have right there. But Brady knows it’s part of the game. The ball just hit him. That’s it. Brady stands right on top of the plate. He’s been hit all year.
``Ray Miller is just a frustrated man.’’
Then Martinez threw a doozy of a counterpunch.
``What Ray Miller has to say, he should say managing his team,’’ Martinez said. ``That’s a pretty damn good team to manage, and it didn’t do [pungent barnyard epithet].
``If he wants to take out his frustrations, let him take it out managing, not at me.’’
Boston hasn’t had an outbreak of manners this bad since . . . well, the weekend Ryder Cup hoo-ha. Portions of the Fenway crowd, in fact, acted at times as though they had been imported direct from The Country Club in Brookline. Bleacherites gave the Colin Montgomerie treatment to Albert Belle, serenading the Orioles’ designated villain on a night when Belle whiffed three times and rolled out once, making him 0 for 11 lifetime against Martinez.
There also were two incidents of idiots running onto the field, one of whom nearly caused Orioles rookie Jerry Hairston, who was at the plate at the time, to jump out of his skin. Perhaps a prudent response, given what happened last week in Milwaukee, where Houston’s Bill Spiers suffered whiplash at the hands of a ballfield trespasser.
By the time he heard of Miller’s comments, Red Sox manager Jimy Williams was already freshly showered and dressed for the team’s trip to Chicago, where it can clinch the wild-card spot outright with a win tonight over the White Sox, or an Oakland loss at home against the Angels -- which offers the scenario of a Mo Vaughn home run putting the Sox in the playoffs.
``Just another manager’s comments,’’ Williams said. ``Whatever.
``We just try to take care of our own, that’s it.’’
Williams flipped through some stat sheets on his desk.
``What’s that, his eighth?’’ Williams asked, alluding to the number of batters hit by Martinez pitches this season.
Then he scanned the Orioles’ stats. ``He’s got a guy with 11. [Scott] Erickson.’’
Erickson, in fact, was the loser last night, giving up a home run and two-run double to catcher Jason Varitek, a home run to Brian Daubach, and three hits to Damon Buford, including an RBI double.
He didn’t hit anyone in a Sox uniform, although Nomar Garciaparra and Trot Nixon were both hit Saturday, and Garciaparra sat out last night’s game with a sore right wrist. There also was this: Anderson, in the view of the Red Sox, had leaned into a fastball from Tim Wakefield on Sunday, just before Mike Bordick’s two-run double in a five-run Orioles uprising.
``You said that, not me,’’ Martinez said sternly. ``I knew nothing about that. This wasn’t a good night for me. I threw a couple of pitches away from the plate.’’
Pitching coach Joe Kerrigan, who used to defend Martinez against head-hunting accusations in Montreal, kept his comments to a minimum when informed of Miller’s.
``Our shortstop couldn’t play, that’s my only response,’’ Kerrigan said. ``Selective memory.’’
Martinez, who lowered his major league-leading ERA to 2.08 with a yield of two runs (only one earned), threw 121 pitches before being dismissed in favor of Derek Lowe, who gave up a run in the ninth but came out with his team-leading 15th save.
The win was the Sox’ 90th of the season, traditionally a benchmark of excellence.
``With Toronto, we won 96 games one year and went home,’’ Williams said. ``The benchmark is to go to the playoffs. That’s the benchmark.’’
So, does it happen tonight in Comiskey Park?
``I will never make predictions,’’ Varitek said. ``But we’ll go out swinging.’’