The Best of Red Sox legend Pedro Martinez series airing on NESN.
Charles Dickens once wrote, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” This is clearly the worst of times for Major League Baseball as a labor dispute threatens to cancel the pandemic-delayed season. A winter of despair turned into a spring without hope but we still have seasons of light that we can reflect on from the storied history of the Boston Red Sox to fill the baseball void.
That’s what NESN aims to provide by airing a “Best of Pedro Martinez” series featuring classic performances from the former Red Sox ace. The six-part series will air daily at 6:00 p.m. ET from June 8 – June 13.
The majority of these classics come from Pedro’s best season in 1999. The right-hander went 23-4 with a 2.07 ERA, 0.923 WHIP, and 13.2 K/9 to capture the Cy Young award and finish as the runner-up on the MVP ballot. Martinez set the single-season franchise record with 313 strikeouts that season.
We also get a performance from his almost equally as impressive 2000 season when Martinez posted a career-best 1.74 ERA and set a major league record with a 0.737 WHIP.
The series wraps up with a game from 2004, Pedro’s last season in Boston when the Red Sox were on a path toward vanquishing an 86-year title drought.
Here’s the schedule for the games NESN will air next week along with a bit about what makes the performance a classic.
June 8: Red Sox at New York Yankees (Sept. 10, 1999)
Martinez allowed a solo home run to Chili Davis in the second inning… and that was it. Pedro was infuriated that a Yankees hitter took him deep and he took it out on the rest of their lineup. The homer would be the only hit that Martinez allowed in a complete game victory.
The 17 strikeouts set a career-high for Martinez and also set a single-game record for strikeouts against the Yankees.
June 9: Red Sox vs. Toronto Blue Jays (Sept. 21, 1999)
This was the only complete game shutout during Pedro’s remarkable ’99 campaign. Martinez limited the Blue Jays to three hits and a pair of walks without a run over nine innings in a 3-0 victory.
Martinez surpassed Roger Clemens (291) for the single-season franchise record for strikeouts by the third inning of this game. He tallied his 300th strikeout in the ninth inning and would end up finishing the season with 313, a franchise record that still stands to this day.
June 10: Red Sox vs. Baltimore Orioles (Sept. 27, 1999)
In his final start of the 1999 regular season, Martinez limited the Orioles to two runs (one earned) on six hits without a walk. That performance earned him his career-high 23rd win of the season. Houston’s Mike Hampton won 22 games that year so Martinez needed that final victory to secure the major league lead.
June 11: ALCS Game 3: Red Sox vs. New York Yankees, ALCS Game 3 (Oct. 16, 1999)
The new ace meets the old ace. Pedro’s first game in a Red Sox uniform against Roger Clemens came on the playoff stage. While the Rocket got rocked for five runs in only two innings, Martinez delivered seven shutout innings with a dozen strikeouts. The Red Sox went on to win in a 13-1 shellacking at Fenway Park but unfortunately, this would be Boston’s only victory in the ALCS that year.
While this was an impressive performance against the arch-rival Yankees, when we look back at the 1999 postseason run it’s hard to overlook Pedro’s heroic six shutout innings of relief to win the decisive Game 5 of the ALDS against the Cleveland Indians.
June 12: Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles (May 12, 2000)
Martinez led the majors while equaling his career-high with four complete game shutouts in 2000 and the first of them came in May against the Orioles. Pedro allowed only two hits without a walk and struck out 15.
It was the second consecutive complete game for Martinez, following a nine-inning, one-run effort against Tampa Bay. The Red Sox somehow lost that pitcher’s duel 1-0 but Martinez tied his career-high with 17 strikeouts. The outing against the Rays was more memorable and certainly more exciting than the 9-0 beat down in Baltimore but you can’t blame NESN for choosing the game that the Red Sox walked away with the victory for this series.
June 13: Red Sox vs. Tampa Bay Devil Rays (Aug. 12, 2004)
Martinez tossed 17 complete game shutouts in his career, including eight with the Red Sox, but this one against the Rays was his first since 2000. After recording at least one shutout in his first seven major league seasons as a starter, Pedro went over three years without one.
The drought ended during his final season in Boston as Martinez blanked the Rays over nine innings, allowing only six hits without a walk and striking out 10.
It’s notable that each of these classic performances came against AL East opponents. The schedule obviously dictates that the Red Sox see divisional opponents more than any other club but it goes to show how dominant Martinez was against this division, which at the time was considered among the toughest in the majors.
We can argue about whether these six classics are worthy of being considered the “Best of Pedro Martinez” but that’s a debate for another time. For now, we can sit back and revisit vintage performances from the greatest pitcher in franchise history every day next week.