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Martinez even better than his usual awesome outings

By MIKE READLING

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 30, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG -- Pedro Martinez doesn't believe in all those silly baseball superstitions.

He doesn't care that other players aren't supposed to talk to a pitcher in the midst of a no-hitter. He scoffed at a television report that pointed out the only hit he gave up Tuesday night came one pitch after he took off his necklace while on the mound.

What Pedro Martinez does believe in is himself, his ability on the pitcher's mound and his responsibility to his team. Tuesday night, those three things stood out more than his one-hit, 13-strikeout performance at Tropicana Field.

Martinez endured two bench-clearing brawls, one knockdown on the mound by an upset batter, the ejections of eight Rays players and coaches, and a game in which getting a rhythm was nearly impossible. He threw his third career one-hitter.

And he did it in typical Martinez style -- with composure and heavy-duty fastballs backed up by great off-speed pitches, and by ignoring the distractions that filled his 15th win of the season.

"I just went out and did what I had to do," Martinez said. "I felt good after the fourth inning of the Kansas City game (his last start, in which he retired 18 of 19 batters after the first inning), and I just wanted to keep doing what I was doing until the end of the game."

What he was doing was dazzling the Rays with fastballs clocked at 96 mph on the radar gun and off-speed pitches clocking batters out at the plate.

"He had as good as stuff as ever I've seen," said John Flaherty, who broke up Martinez's no-hit bid with a leadoff single in the ninth. "When he has marginal stuff, he's awesome. Tonight he had electric stuff. As a hitter, all you can do is battle. It was the best velocity I've ever seen from him. He threw sliders I just could not hit."

As good as he was, Martinez still seeks his first no-hitter. That seems hard to believe considering he is a 28-year-old Cy Young Award winner with 122 wins and 1,773 strikeouts.

"I've had enough excitement in my career. I don't need a no-hitter to dictate what kind of pitcher I am," Martinez said. "My career is more interesting than one game. I need to help this team down the stretch and do my work."

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