May 18th: Pedro’s Immaculate Inning
Red Sox 4 – Mariners 1
There were many questions surrounding Pedro Martinez entering the 2002 season. After back-to-back Cy Young seasons in 1999 and 2000, Martinez was off to an equally great start in 2001 before tearing his rotator cuff in June.
He returned in late August but was shut down for the remainder of the season after three very un-Pedro-like starts (13 IP, 3.46 ERA). As he entered his age 30 season, there was doubt over whether Martinez would ever be the same dominant pitcher again.
2002 put all those questions to bed. Martinez again led the league in both ERA (2.26) and strikeouts (239), all while making his most starts since 1998. He was rewarded with his sixth All-Star appearance and finished runner-up in the AL Cy Young voting.
He had many memorable performances during this campaign, one of which being his May 18 outing against the Mariners, when he threw the first immaculate inning in Red Sox history.
An immaculate inning is when a pitcher strikes out the side on the minimum nine pitches. It is one of the most challenging tasks a pitcher can accomplish, as he needs both the control to throw nine straight strikes and the power not to allow any of them to be put in play.
There have been 105 immaculate innings in baseball history, less than one per season. On this day, Martinez would be the first to do so in a Red Sox uniform. While we’ve seen more from Boston’s arms since then, nothing beats that first time.
Martinez’s perfect inning came in the first when he struck out Ichiro Suzuki, Mark Macklemore, and Ruben Sierra. The fact that Ichiro, one of the best contact hitters of his generation, was one of the victims only makes the feat more impressive. Martinez would go on to strike out nine batters in eight innings of one-run ball, and the Red Sox cruised to a 4-1 win.