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ON BASEBALL

He gave command performance

ST. LOUIS -- Not all of his teammates were happy with Pedro Martinez last night. Or maybe you didn't notice Derek Lowe, waiting at the top step of the visitors' dugout, after Martinez struck out looking to start the third inning.

"I shook his bat, to see if I could wake it up," Lowe said. "I've never seen a guy take four fastballs right down the middle without moving his bat."

Given the appalling baserunning error Cardinals pitcher Jeff Suppan made in the bottom of the inning -- when he somehow ran himself into a double play from third when the Sox all but offered him an escort to home -- it was just as well that Martinez kept his bat on his shoulder.

Besides, the way he pitched last night, setting down the last 14 Cardinal batters he faced, with only Jim Edmonds's harmless fly to center leaving the infield, there was no need to embellish another stirring stanza to the ballad of Pedro, a song that is likely to be sung for generations to come.

So, was this 98-pitch silencing of the most fearsome lineup in the National League (two infield hits, Edgar Renteria's third-inning double, and two walks in seven scoreless innings), spun by Martinez in his Series debut, the crowning achievement of a career whose greatest moments already are gathering dust?

"I don't know about that," said Sox ace Curt Schilling, who had told Martinez the day before he had chills just thinking about watching Martinez last night and didn't come away disappointed. "There's a lot of career left in him. I'm not surprised by anything I saw tonight.

"It was a phenomenal performance, phenomenal. He was unbelievable. They had one shot and they missed, and he ran with it after that."

Actually, the Cardinals had two shots at Martinez, and fanned both times, running themselves into oblivion. They loaded the bases in the first inning on a walk, an infield hit by Albert Pujols, and another walk to Scott Rolen, but escaped when the 38-year-old Walker foolishly attempted to tag on Edmonds's shallow fly to left and was doubled up on Manny Ramirez's perfect peg to the plate.

Then came the third, when Suppan reached on an infield chopper, Renteria doubled him to third, and Walker hit a bouncer to second with the infield playing back. Second baseman Mark Bellhorn, so certain that Suppan would stroll home, never even noticed that Suppan had stopped in no-man's land. Had he done so, the Sox might have gotten only one out on the play instead of the deuce they came up with. Bellhorn flipped to first baseman David Ortiz, who then fired across the diamond to nab Suppan as he attempted to dive back into third.

Shortstop Orlando Cabrera had spoken with Martinez before the game.

"He really believes whatever I say," Cabrera said, "especially when I tell him about the way he has to pitch Pujols, the way he gets desperate when his team is not bringing people in.

"I knew he was going to pitch a hell of a game. They haven't seen Pedro in a long time, and for him to throw strikes was the key. In the first inning, he was throwing too many pitches, but then he got command of his soft stuff when they were looking for fastballs."

Martinez threw 23 pitches in the first inning, and the count was up to 52 after three. But in the next three innings, he needed just 30 pitches to set down nine Cardinals, and in the meantime the Sox added three runs to give him the kind of cushion you knew he wouldn't give back.

"He was feeling for it early," Schilling said. "I don't think he threw his first changeup until the third inning. He threw mostly curveball, cutter, fastball to try to stay in there, and then he added the changeup to the mix."

Martinez struck out the last two batters he faced, Edmonds and Reggie Sanders, the man who once charged the mound when Martinez hit him with a pitch with a perfect game in progress. Then, in a scene we have seen so many times when he has left the mound with victory seemingly in hand -- including Oct. 16, 2003, when he was five outs away from a World Series that would not materialize for another year -- Martinez was engulfed with hugs in the dugout.

A farewell scene in a Red Sox uniform? Don't be so sure. As Roger Clemens showed, the twilight of the gods lasts longer than those of the rest of us.

"My heart is with Boston," said Martinez. "I consider Boston my house. I just hope everything works out OK."

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