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Pedro’s Wild History in Elimination Games

11.04.09 at 1:44 pm ET
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Pedro Martinez after throwing six no-hit innings of relief in an elimination game in 1999. AP.

Pedro Martinez after throwing six no-hit innings of relief in an elimination game in 1999. AP.

Will Pedro show up for Game 6 in Yankee Stadium? Literally — will he show up?

The question is ridiculous, of course. Pedro Martinez will take the mound with the eyes of the baseball world upon him on Wednesday night, in a game that will decide whether the Yankees win the World Series tonight or whether there might be a winner-take-all Game 7.

That said, while the question now seems absurd, it is worth remembering that it was once a genuine issue whether Martinez would, in fact, show up at the ballpark when his team faced elimination in a Game 6 in Yankee Stadium. After the pitcher navigated a tightrope for six innings while allowing four runs in Game 5 of the ALCS (more on that in a bit), Martinez declared that he would not accompany the Sox to New York for Game 6 against the Yankees. Instead, he stayed in Boston, feeling that doing so somehow helped him should he be needed in relief for a potential Game 7.

The line of thinking made little sense. What could Martinez do in Boston that he could not do to prepare in New York?

Some in the Red Sox organization were disgusted by the pitcher’s decision, feeling it was completely selfish, a borderline act of betrayal, for him to be apart from his team on a night when they faced elimination.

Though it was a story at the time, it became an afterthought in the rest of the Sox’ remarkable run to the 2004 title. And the incident is rightly relegated to the status of a footnote — if that — when considering the arc of Martinez’ incredible career, both in Boston and in the majors.

On Wednesday night, Martinez will show up in Yankee Stadium, and for the fifth time in his career, the game will be on his shoulders in a postseason elimination game, this one representing the most significant of his three career World Series starts.

In his prior four significant elimination games (not including his mop-up role in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS), he has a 2-1 record and 4.10 ERA. The Sox have a 3-1 record in those contests. But numbers do not tell the story.

If history is a guide, the combination of Pedro and a win-or-go-home scenario will lend itself to an unforgettable game. Here are the previous four times that those two elements have been combined:

Oct. 11, 1999: ALDS Game 5, at Indians

Martinez, sidelined for most of the American League Division Series by a back injury, enters as a reliever in the fourth inning of the winner-take-all Game 5 against the Indians. He fires six no-hit innings of relief, as the Sox take a 12-8 win and complete the first-ever comeback from a 2-0 deficit in a best-of-five ALDS.

Oct. 6, 2003: ALDS Game 5, at A’s

Once again, Martinez is the man on the mound for the Sox as they try to complete a comeback from a 2-0 hole in the ALDS. This time, the opponent is Oakland. Martinez carries a 4-2 lead into the eighth inning but allows a pair of hits for a run to start the eighth. With the Sox clinging to a 4-3 lead, the Boston bullpen comes up huge, punctuated by Derek Lowe’s infamous crotch chop after punching out Terrence Long with the bases loaded.

Oct. 16, 2003: ALCS Game 7, at Yankees

This one was rehashed once or twice in New England after the fact. Martinez was dominant through much of the game but started to fade in the middle innings. After he gave up a run in the seventh inning, it appeared that the Sox ace considered his work done. But he was sent back to the mound for the eighth inning, and the Yankees — who entered the inning trailing 5-2 — jumped on a gasping-for-air Martinez for three runs as his pitch count drifted up to 123.

Martinez left with a no-decision, and the game marched on. Aaron Boone’s leadoff homer in the bottom of the 11th inning served as the dagger in the Sox’ season.

Oct. 18, 2004: ALCS Game 5, vs. Yankees

By this point, the Yankees were beyond intimidation with Martinez. After the right-hander allowed a bases-clearing, three-run double to Derek Jeter in the top of the sixth inning, it appeared that the impending free agent would absorb the loss in his final game as a Red Sox, a contest he left with his team trailing, 4-2.

But the Sox came back against New York’s bullpen, setting the stage for an agonizingly exciting, 14-inning contest in which the Sox claimed a 5-4 win on David Ortiz’ walkoff single after 5 hours, 49 minutes of play. By that point, Martinez had been rendered an afterthought, but the game will not be forgotten in baseball lore anytime soon.

Read More: elimination game, pedro martinez, Phillies, world series
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