Pedro Martinez's older brother, Ramon, took the call about 15 minutes before Tuesday night's Boston Red Sox-Toronto Blue Jays game at Fenway Park.
The news was bad. Their Aunt Maria, 54, had passed away suddenly, stricken with a heart attack.
"We were very close. I can't tell you how close," Pedro said.
But Martinez, subdued after the game, did not let his personal tragedy affect his performance.
Martinez fanned 12, running his season total to 300 and in the process breaking Roger Clemens's team record of 291, in pitching the red-hot Red Sox to a complete-game, three-hit, 3-0 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays.
He did it with a heavy heart, leading Boston to its 21st victory in the last 26 games and keeping the Sox three games behind the New York Yankees in the American League East.
"It's hard to take it out of your mind. I felt really sad, even after I got the last out," said Martinez, backed by a two-run splurge off Pat Hentgen in the third and a sacrifice fly by Mike Stanley in the fifth.
"When I got that last out, it was like the job was over for the day. All I have is my aunt on my mind," said Martinez, whose cap bore the words "Tia (aunt in Spanish) Maria."
He became only the second pitcher to reach 300 strikeouts in each league; the first was Randy Johnson. He did it with Seattle in 1993 with 308 and this season has 342 with Arizona. Martinez fanned 305 with Montreal in 1997.
Second base umpire Rocky Roe helped the shutout by saying David Segui's blast in-and-out of the center-field bleachers hit the wall and had not gone over it, turning it into a double in the seventh.
Pettitte stymies White Sox
NEW YORK -- After nearly pitching himself off the team, Andy Pettitte is putting the New York Yankees in fine position for the playoffs.
Pettitte left to a big ovation after 7 1/3 innings, and the Yankees beat the Chicago White Sox, 3-1, to keep a three-game edge over Boston in the AL East.
On a cool night that felt more like October, Pettitte improved to 7-3 since July 31. That was the date of the trading deadline, and the left-hander, hit hard by the White Sox only three days earlier, was in danger of being dealt to Philadelphia.
"We never wanted to do that," said manager Joe Torre, one of Pettitte's most prominent backers.
Paul O'Neill reached 100 RBIs for the third straight season and Chuck Knoblauch had three hits as the Yankees cut their magic number for clinching a playoff spot to five over Oakland.
Rodriguez sets new standard
SEATTLE -- Ken Griffey Jr. hit his AL-leading 47th home run and Alex Rodriguez homered twice, leading the Seattle Mariners over the Kansas City Royals, 13-3.
Rodriguez became the first AL shortstop to hit 40 home runs twice. He hit his 40th home run off the facade of the second deck in left field in the sixth inning, a drive off Daniel Murray, then connected off Brad Rigby in the eighth.
Ernie Banks, who set the major league mark for shortstops with 47 homers in 1958, reached 40 in 1955 and from 1957-60. The only other shortstop to hit 40 home runs was Rico Petrocelli, who had 40 in 1969.
Rodriguez has hit all 41 homers since returning from the disabled list on May 15.
Ripken, O's stay hot
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Baltimore Orioles further exposed themselves as advocates of a split season, trading on a four-run third inning for a 4-2 victory over the AL West-leading Texas Rangers and another notch on what is now a 12-game winning streak. Just as importantly, there were more good moments from starting pitcher Jason Johnson (7-7) and a double by Cal Ripken Jr.
The victory lifted the Orioles to 73-76, their closest approach to .500 since a 3-6 start. They also pulled within three games of the third-place Toronto Blue Jays in the American League East and are 37-25 since the All-Star break.
Undefeated since Sept. 6 and 15-3 in September, the Orioles' winning streak is the third-longest in club history, two shy of the all-time record and longest since a 13-game rush from May 31-June 14, 1978.
Ripken doubled off the glove of second baseman Mark McLemore for his 45th extra-base hit in his 329th at-bat. Ripken managed only 42 extra-base hits in 601 at-bats last season and 47 in 615 at-bats in 1997.
He is nine hits short of 3,000.
"He's done some remarkable things, and he's been on a tear," said manager Ray Miller, who added he's thinking of giving Ripken some rest because of a sore back. "He didn't look quite as quick tonight, but he's been whistling that bat. I don't think all the plane flights are agreeing with him."
Center fielder Eugene Kingsale twice robbed Rangers catcher Ivan Rodriguez with dazzling defensive plays. He made a lunging catch to end the fifth inning and banged into the center-field wall to steal extra bases from Rodriguez with a man on in the seventh.
Around the horn
Harold Baines and Manny Ramirez each drove in three runs and Dave Burba (15-8) pitched eight strong innings to lead the Indians over the Tigers, 6-1. . . . John Jaha hit a two-run homer to tie it and Ramon Hernandez followed an inning later with a go-ahead, two-run double as the Athletics beat the Twins, 5-3. The A's remained five games back of Boston, the AL wild-card leader, and closed within 5 1/2 games of first-place Texas in the AL West. . . . Gary DiSarcina hit his first home run of the season as the Angels held off the Devil Rays, 7-5.