Um, er, Yankees, I’m not sure how to tell you this, but, ah, we, you people just were embarrassed by a hospital case.
``In the first inning I had exactly what I had the whole game,’’ explained Pedro Martinez. ``Nothing.’’
``Nothing. All I could do was spot. I had no fastball, no curve, and no changeup.’’
All that nothing produced a seven-inning, two-hit, 12-strikeout line in his team’s 13-1 destruction of the defending world champions.
Maybe we should try again. Maybe instead of ``nothing’’ Pedro meant to say ``something,’’ or ``a little,’’ or ``not as much as usual,’’ or ``maybe not as much as I had when I struck out 17 of these chumps last month, but enough to get by.’’
``Nothing,’’ he insisted. ``I’m telling you how I felt. I doubt if I threw any fastball better than 88 [miles per hour]. I’m hurting. Every pitch. I got by because I could spot the ball, I had a whole bunch of grinders out there behind me, and because of God.’’
Now some may argue that when it comes to this business of pitching baseballs, Pedro is God. Joe Torre is certainly impressed.
``He probably didn’t have the fastball he had the other night in Cleveland,’’ analyzed the Yankee skipper. ``But his selection was probably the same. He can reach into his bag for any one of three pitches and throw them for strikes, which is why he is so hard to hit. And he seems to sense what he needs to throw at any given time.’’
``He may be hurting, but he still knows how to pitch,’’ saluted Nomar Garciaparra, one of those ``grinders’’ Pedro was alluding to. ``He thinks out there. He knows what he’s doing every pitch, every hitter.’’
So how exactly did Mr. ``I Got Plenty Of Nuthin’’ manage to stifle the Yankees? How did he get Derek Jeter on strikes twice, Paul O’Neill on strikes twice, Tino Martinez on strikes twice, and Chili Davis on strikes twice, and never mind getting Ricky Ledee on strikes twice since he is just a lad?
``I mixed my pitches,’’ explained the World’s Greatest Pitcher. ``When they were looking for a change, I’d throw a little cutter. When they were looking for a breaking ball, I threw a sinker.’’
If we can take Pedro at his word -- and can anyone think of a reason why we shouldn’t? -- this was the greatest case of making Something out of Nothing we’ve ever seen in a Red Sox uniform. The previous standard bearer was Luis Tiant’s performance in Game 4 of the 1975 World Series, when he and his sweat-laden Fu Manchu needed 162 pitches, his brain, and an iron will to hold off the Big Red Machine. But Looie still gave up hits and runs that night. The final score was 5-4. Pedro gave up a one-out Jeter single in the first and a two-out Tino single in the fourth. He also walked two. No one went anywhere, except back to the dugout.
What Pedro Martinez definitely laid out to his postgame inquisitors, and therefore what all folks interested in the welfare of the Boston Red Sox must accept, is that this new, impaired Pedro is the only Pedro we’re going to see in however many days and games remain in the season. He is hurting, and he is not going to get any better. There will be no more 97 mile per hour heaters, no more falling-off-the-cliff curves, and no more what David Cone calls his ``parachute changeups.’’ What the Yankees saw yesterday is what they could expect to see in any Game 7.
``It hurts, and it hurts every pitch I make,’’ he shrugged. ``It’s not going to get any better from one day or the other. I have a strained muscle in the back, and there isn’t time to heal it.’’
He is neither whining nor soliciting sympathy. He is an honest man giving honest answers to straight questions. In his previous state, he was a pitcher for the ages. In this current state, he is a craftsman relying on his wisdom and guile.
``He is an artist out there,’’ declared Torre. ``It’s just that he uses a baseball instead of a paintbrush. There is no question that he carves up that plate pretty good.’’
OK, so he can’t throw 97, or even 90. (``I bet I can’t throw any harder now than 89,’’ Pedro said.) That’s OK, according to manager Jimy Williams.
``Location, change of speeds, movement, and then velocity make for a good pitcher,’’ Williams pointed out. ``He used different pitches starting out hitters, and maybe then to finish.’’
It is a story that just keeps getting better and better. He is having a better year than even Roger Clemens had in 1986, and we might have to go back to Smoky Joe Wood in 1912 (34-5) to find a better Red Sox pitcher. If this was the last time we see him in ‘99, it was a suitable farewell.
Just don’t automatically assume the series has to go seven in order to see him again. ``I’m gonna keep doing it again and again,’’ he vowed. ``If the team needs me tomorrow night to get one out, I will do it. That’s what I’m here for.’’
So that’s what he’s here for. The Yankees thought he was here for one reason -- to make them look ridiculous.