Pedro Puts Red Sox on the Brink

You hear that? I didn't think so. It has become eerily quiet after Pedro Martinez silenced the doomsayers and mudslingers who questioned whether the once-dominant right-hander was on the declining stage of his career.

On Tuesday night at Busch Stadium, Martinez silenced even the hometown Cardinal fans as he answered his critics with a resounding, "I Live For This," when he shut down the powerful St. Louis offense, 4-1, drawing the Boston Red Sox one win closer to capturing their first World Series title since 1918.

"I'm able to pitch against anybody," Martinez said after the game. "I could be anybody's daddy any day."

For Game 3 of the World Series, he was definitely the Cardinals" daddy as he rocked them to sleep with seven shutout innings, while allowing just three hits in his first-ever WS start. Martinez mixed his pitches well, setting batters up with his devastating changeup and finished them off with a fastball that touched the mid-90's at times.

"As long as the game's been played," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said, "If the pitcher mixes things up and keeps the ball out of the middle, I don't care how good the hitters are, they have a tough time adjusting."

Manny Ramirez did not have a hard time adjusting off losing pitcher Jeff Suppan in the top of the first as he set the tone early by launching a mammoth homerun to deep left, giving the Red Sox a 1-0 lead.

In the Cardinals' half of the first inning, Ramirez made amends for his Game 1 defensive blunders by throwing out Larry Walker at the plate to end a bases-loaded threat by St. Louis.

With the score still 1-0 and within striking distance, the Cardinals launched another scoring threat in the third frame. Suppan led off with an infield single and advanced to third on a double by Edgar Renteria.

With Boston's infield defense playing back to concede a run, Larry Walker hit a grounder to second base in what was seemingly a run-scoring RBI. However, Suppan hesitated on the play, not knowing whether to make a break for home plate, and was caught retreating to the third base when first baseman David Ortiz threw from across the diamond to complete a double play.

After the game, La Russa explained the situation: "Jeff heard `No, no,' and [the third-base coach] was yelling, `Go, go.' So men are not machines, and it's a big miss."

It was a big miss indeed as Martinez took matters into his own hands by retiring the next 14 batters he faced to swing the momentum in Boston's favor.

"It was a break and we took advantage of it," the lanky right-hander said. "Once they didn't score in that inning, I said, "It's up to me now," and I got a couple of runs to work with."

He received three runs in the fourth and fifth innings to essentially shut the door on any ounce of fight the Cardinals had left in them. The baserunning blunder by Suppan literally took the steam out of Busch Stadium, which Martinez dazzled for the rest of the game, in what might have been his swan song as a member of the Red Sox.

His Tuesday start could mark the last time Martinez is seen in a Boston jersey as the impending free agent may very well be wearing another uniform next season.

"I hope it's not the last one," said an upbeat Martinez, "But if it is, I just want the fans and everybody to understand that I did whatever possible to represent well the city, the team, and that my heart will always be with them."

Red Sox Nation can appreciate it more if Boston can win one more to close out the series. They have four chances to do so and are well aware that any best-of-seven series is not over until a team captures that fourth win. The Red Sox know quite a bit about comebacks.

"We learned our lesson," said Ramirez, who hit safely in his 16th consecutive postseason game (record is 17). "Especially against the Cardinals, they're such a great team that anything can happen. You got to keep grinding it out until you win that last game."

The Red Sox will send up ALCS Game 7 winner Derek Lowe to the mound against St. Louis right-hander Jason Marquis, who is winless this postseason with a 6.48 ERA.

"The one thing I'm absolutely confident about is that we've come too far to give an effort that will embarrass anybody [on Wednesday]," La Russa said.

Speaking of confidence, Boston manager Terry Francona said jokingly after the game: "Has anyone ever seen me play as a player? You can understand why I would never want to be overconfident."

The jokes can turn into an all-out celebration on Wednesday if Boston can keep its winning streak going. After dropping three straight to the New York Yankees, they have won seven in a row and No. 8 would justify their historic postseason run with that elusive World Series championship.

The champagne is one ice. As it has been for 86 years now in Beantown.



Phil Delacruz was a transplanted Giants fan, buried in the Southland. After four strenuous years in College, studying (read: partying), he's back in the beautiful "City by the Bay" – San Francisco. Do you think he should move back to LALA land? Or do you like him where he is now and appreciate the good reads? Either way, send him an e-mail at phildelacruz@aol.com to air out your frustrations or, more likely, songs of praise.

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