The Rays (1-5) total 17 strikeouts against two Boston pitchers, tying team record.
By MARC TOPKIN
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 9, 2001
BOSTON -- Pedro Martinez was doing it to them again. Five innings into Sunday's game, Boston's ace had struck out 10 Rays and not allowed a ball to leave the infield, much less given up any hits.
First-base coach Jose Cardenal was among those getting worried. "I didn't want this guy to throw a no-hitter against us," he said. Cardenal told third-base coach Billy Hatcher that if someone was going to get a hit, it probably would be Felix Martinez, figuring the slap-hitting shortstop might have a better chance for success than the free-swingers that fill the Rays lineup.
On his way to first, Cardenal told Martinez as much, instructing him to "look for a ball to punch right back through the middle."
Felix Martinez did just that, singling to center to open the sixth, and the Rays even managed two more singles -- a hard grounder by Fred McGriff off first baseman Brian Daubach's glove and a bunt by Martinez -- but it wasn't nearly enough to offset Pedro Martinez's mastery during his eight innings on the mound.
Martinez struck out 16 Rays -- one shy of his career high -- in leading the Red Sox to a 3-0 victory.
As if it wasn't bad enough to lose their fifth straight and extend their worst start to 1-5, and as if it wasn't bad enough to be playing on another raw New England day with a game-time temperature of 42 degrees and steady drizzle, the Rays had to deal with the frustration that comes with facing Martinez.
"If he makes a mistake, you have to hit it," Steve Cox said. "If you don't hit his mistake, you're probably not going to get another pitch to hit."
Martinez was brilliant, close to or as good as he was when he struck out 17 Rays and lost to Steve Trachsel in May, perhaps sharper than when he carried a no-hitter into the ninth in the brawl- and ejection-marred game Aug. 29 at Tropicana Field.
He threw consistently in the 92-94 mph range, hitting 96 once during a seventh-inning strikeout of Bobby Smith. He used as many as 18 pitches in only one inning, and that was the first. Despite three walks, he didn't allow a runner to second base until the eighth.
"Just another phenomenal performance," Boston manager Jimy Williams said. "It was a cold, nasty day out there and he was on the plate with a lot of his pitches. Just relish the moment, the times you have to watch the man pitch."
While the Rays players were shaking their heads over the quality of Martinez's stuff, manager Larry Rothschild was even more impressed with how Martinez did it.
"Pedro's ability to dissect a hitter is as good as anybody's I've ever seen. It's almost uncanny," Rothschild said. "You can talk about the three pitches and everything, but he's got a great ability when a hitter steps in there of going in with a game plan and then adjusting before anything happens. He has a great knack for it.
"You put that together with the three pitches and that's what you get. I've been around a lot of good pitchers, but his ability to know when to throw a high fastball, when to throw a curveball, when to throw back-to-back changeups, whatever it is, it's something to watch."
Relatively speaking, Rays starter Albie Lopez wasn't bad either, allowing six hits over seven innings. "I was just trying to outlast him and hope we'd get into their bullpen because he was on," Lopez said. "But it seems like he's always on."
The Rays, again, were not, helping the Sox in each scoring sequence.
In the first, Jose Offerman's drive skipped down the rightfield line for a double as McGriff tried to dive, and Offerman scored when Manny Ramirez bounced a single past Smith.
In the fifth, Lopez walked Offerman with two out, and Cox slipped while chasing down Carl Everett's double and overthrew the cutoff man, allowing Offerman to score.
In the seventh, Everett doubled and Lopez gave up a run-scoring single to Ramirez on an 0-and-2 count.
When Boston closer Derek Lowe struck out Ben Grieve for the second out of the ninth, the Rays matched their team record of 17 strikeouts, the 17 that Martinez hung on them in May.
"There's not many guys doing what he's doing out there," catcher Mike DiFelice said.