RED SOX 4, BLUE JAYS 2
Jays can't beat ace
With Martinez on top of game, Sox cruise
If Jason Varitek has said it once, he's said it, well, almost as often as anyone will listen: Don't even think about writing off Pedro Martinez. From the first time Martinez struggled in spring training to his subpar outing last week against the Orioles, Varitek has insisted it would be folly to forsake the Red Sox ace.
Take it from the catcher, whose moral support, game-calling prowess, and sizzling bat played no small role last night in helping put Martinez back on the road to glory.
"I believe in the man," Varitek said. "We're still in April, and I believe the man is going to be just fine."
Even if Martinez has yet to complete his journey back to the pinnacle of his profession, he proved himself better last night than the American League's reigning Cy Young Award winner, Roy Halladay, as he harnessed the Blue Jays over seven innings to lead the Sox to a 4-2 victory before 26,010 at SkyDome.
"He was outstanding," manager Terry Francona said, "and when you face a guy like Halladay, you have to be."
By reclaiming the command he has made one of his trademarks, Martinez improved to 2-1 and lowered his ERA to 3.86 from 4.82 by surrendering two runs (one earned) on five hits and a pair of walks in his last start before he faces the Yankees Sunday in the Bronx. He held the Jays scoreless until the seventh, when his control began to falter even though he continued to periodically hit 92 (his season high) on the radar gun.
"From what I know about him, he knows how to pitch a little bit," said Keith Foulke, who closed out the Jays in the ninth for his fourth save in as many tries. "It's just one of those things that if he's not the Pedro of three or four years ago with his velocity or whatever, the guy knows how to pitch, flat-out. That will carry you a long ways."
Martinez, who remains in a cone of public silence, said through team spokesman Glenn Geffner that he physically felt more comfortable than he did in his last outing, when the Orioles clipped him in a Fenway chill for seven runs on eight hits and four walks over five innings. The climate-controlled temperature in SkyDome was 68 degrees.
"I felt a lot better inside than I did last time [at Fenway]," Martinez said. "I felt looser. I didn't have a hard time warming up. I had my breaking ball back. I had my normal routine back. That was the difference."
It made sense to Manny Ramirez, who reflected on Martinez after cooling down from a ninth-inning incident in which he took exception to a pitch near his head from reliever Terry Adams. Ramirez headed for the mound, prompting the benches and bullpens to empty, though peace quickly was restored.
"Maybe the weather messed him up a little bit," Ramirez said of Martinez's last outing. "But Pedro's the man. He's the best pitcher out there. He doesn't need to throw 95 or 96 to compete. He's still going to go out there and win 16 or 17 games." Ramirez aided the cause by ripping a 92-mile-an-hour sinker from Halladay up the middle to knock in David Ortiz in the first inning. Ortiz had lined a two-out double to left.
"That was very important," Varitek said. "[Halladay] has tremendous stuff, the kind of stuff where we were lucky to get one run across, to be honest with you."
Thanks in large part to Varitek, the Sox struck again, helping to seal their fourth win in five games. Varitek, who is in the midst of a .526 tear (10 for 19), reached base four times, doubling twice, scoring once, and knocking in a run. He also singled and drew an intentional walk as he improved his on-base percentage to .490.
"I'm just being aggressive when I need to be aggressive and seeing the ball better," he said. "I saw a lot of pitches early and it's helping me right now."
Halladay himself helped the Sox after Varitek and Gabe Kapler singled in the fourth inning and moved into scoring position, with Kapler scooting to second on a throw to third. With two out, Halladay worked the count to 3-and-2 against the light-hitting Pokey Reese but then balked, allowing Varitek to score and make it 2-0.
With the Jays stymied by Martinez, the Sox extended the lead in the fifth inning after Bill Mueller and Ortiz singled. Kevin Millar did the honors, ripping a two-out double down the line to knock in Mueller and stake Martinez to a 3-0 edge. The Sox picked up their final run, charged to reliever Valerio De Los Santos, in the seventh on doubles by Mueller and Varitek. Ah, Varitek.
"I heard so many good things about him before I got here," Francona said. "But, if anything, he's exceeded my expectations. That's kind of what you want. He shows up to win."
As does Martinez, who threw 104 pitches. Martinez gave way to Scott Williamson, who silenced the Jays in the eighth before Foulke finished it off in the ninth. The way Foulke put it, he may have felt a little like Martinez.
"I'm basically going out and doing my job," Foulke said. "I'm not 100 percent right now as far as my pitching style, but the bottom line is, I'm getting outs and that's all that matters."
© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.