boston.com Sports Sportsin partnership with NESN your connection to The Boston Globe

Show-me state for Martinez

Page 2 of 2 -- Jason Varitek makes two. Don't bother citing the recent statistics to his catcher. Varitek believes he'll be catching a very good pitcher tonight.

"He has taken the ball for us every fifth day the entire season," Varitek pointed out. "And about 99 percent of the time he has given us a quality start that has given us a chance to win the ballgame."

Now, it's true that Pedro has not missed a start all season. It's also true that it was his least impressive full season while wearing a Red Sox uniform. He threw 217 innings, going 16-9 with a career-high 3.90 ERA. He struck out 227 and walked 61. It was a year that most pitchers would have been thrilled to have on their resumes.

In 2000, he also threw precisely 217 innings. But look what he did with them: An 18-6 record, a league-leading 1.74 ERA, a league-leading 284 strikeouts and a laughable 32 walks. He won his third Cy Young Award. That's when Pedro was Pedro. If that Pedro were taking the mound tonight, who among us would not expect this series to be 3-0 tomorrow morning?

On some occasions during this postseason, Pedro has looked like that Pedro. "You see spurts," said Gabe Kapler. "He'll do something, and you'll say, `Oh my God. How did he do that to that batter?' "

But on many other occasions during this postseason, he has labored while trying to hit the spots he once drilled in effortless fashion. Pitch counts have become an issue by the third or fourth inning. He has averaged 18 pitches per inning. That's a 162-pitch nine-inning projection, not that he ever would be allowed to go remotely near that figure. The numbers don't lie. Nowadays, Pedro has to do whatever it is he's going to do in approximately 100 pitches. He is, at best, a seven-inning pitcher.

When the season is over, we will see what the market is for a 100-pitch, 33-year-old pitcher. No one, except Pedro, of course, is worrying about that right now. The Red Sox are interested only in what he can do for them tonight.

One theory is that he will benefit by facing someone other than the Yankees, and the American League in general. "He's been going against teams he's made 20 or more starts against the last three years," pointed out Varitek. "And he still made quality starts."

Another juicier theory is that among the things he will be pitching for tonight is his self-esteem. After being The Mound King of Boston for seven years, he is now merely the Prince to the monarch that is Curt Schilling. Pedro very well could be in "anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better" mode. Tonight, the spotlight will be back on him.

"He has the opportunity now to propel himself back on the tip of everyone's tongue," reasoned Kapler. "All it takes is one game."

One game to out-Curt Curt. One game to say goodbye. One game to say, "Pay me." One game to show off for his countrymen watching on TV down in the Dominican. One game to have people back home chanting "Pe-dro!" in the living rooms and bars of New England. One game to remind everyone that he still can pitch as well as anyone in the world. One game to put the Boston Red Sox up, 3-0.

"I believe in the man," said Varitek. "I believe in the man that's taking the ball."

This is not just another World Series game. This is high athletic drama.

Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is ryan@globe.com. 

 Previous    1   2
In Today's Globe
The Buzz
Meeting set
The Red Sox have set up a meeting with free agent Carl Pavano.
Offseason extras
SEARCH GLOBE ARCHIVES
   
Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months