Pedro rebounds, halts personal slide
Veteran righty goes 5 1/3, allows two runs, strikes out six
PHILADELPHIA -- Nowadays, it isn't necessarily Pedro Martinez's dominance as a pitcher that earns him distinction among his teammates.
The numbers in Monday's start -- 5 1/3 innings, two earned runs and six strikeouts -- don't shout supremacy. But Mets manager Jerry Manuel still beholds Martinez's majesty when he tries to give players an off-day on the date the 36-year-old veteran is about to dig into the mound.
He once asked Moises Alou if he'd want a day off, and Manuel got the reply, "No, Pedro's pitching."
He once asked Carlos Beltran if he'd take a rest, and Manuel heard him say, "No, Pedro's pitching."
"When you play behind a guy such as that," Manuel said before Monday's game, "they want to do something special."
It almost wasn't enough, but the Mets put up 10 runs in support of Martinez and held off the Phillies, 10-9, in the series finale. A God-fearing individual, Martinez said he felt like his faith was being tested as his teammates struggled to hold on in the ninth inning.
For a man who is revered by his peers, Martinez's confidence as a pitcher has been under more attack than any amount of runs the Phillies could have produced in that final inning. His breaking pitches have not obeyed him through much of this season, his fastball has just started to again register in the 90-mph range, and after Monday's start, he could at least say his changeup was "a little better." Confidence, Martinez said, is still something he still wrestles with.
"I'll throw a good one, and I'll throw maybe two," Martinez said, "but then there are three bad ones."
Manuel can tell that his pitcher isn't quite back to where he'd like to be. His pitch count was high (105 pitches), meaning Martinez was making good pitches, but they weren't quite good enough.
"He had a high pitch count, but he made some pitches when he had to," Manuel said. "I recollect he gave up two home runs, but other than that, I thought he pitched well."
Much of Martinez's self-doubt can be traced back to his three previous starts, because he had surrendered 17 runs in 15 innings. After giving up five runs to the Cardinals on Wednesday, Martinez said he decided to "leave it all out there" in this start, and forget any other lingering thoughts.
He had to have a short memory in Monday's start, as All-Star Chase Utley drove a 1-2 pitch over the fence in the fourth. In the next meeting, though, Martinez would get Utley to strike out looking on a 3-2 breaking pitch on the outside edge of the plate.
It bent perfectly, as if it was something Martinez would have thrown when he favored himself unhittable. Right now, though, Martinez would rather say it was all he had left to give.
"I had no way out," Martinez said. "I threw Utley the only pitch I had up my sleeve."
Jon Blau is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.