Facing a team he has dominated like no other, Pedro Martinez was not his usual dominant self. No one expected him to be anything but rusty since he hadn't pitched in 12 days.
Martinez has pitched better and worse than he did Thursday night. The most important aspect of his abbreviated performance is that he pitched without discomfort in his right shoulder.
So the extra rest seemed to benefit Martinez, who pitched five solid innings. Then he watched a dramatic ninth-inning rally capped by Manny Ramirez's three-run double, which gave the Boston Red Sox a 7-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at Tropicana Field.
"I felt fine," Martinez said. "I felt like I want to feel every time I go out there. But it's not the same when you don't have the touch with your pitches."
The velocity of his fastball was consistently 93-94 mph -- about 4-5 mph faster than June 9 against the Philadelphia Phillies -- and he hit 95 mph five times.
Martinez gave up one run and four hits, striking out six and walking one. There's no reason to think he won't make his next start.
"I was just looking forward to feeling a little bit better, to see if the inflammation came down," said Martinez, who missed one start because of a sore shoulder. "I wanted to get some work in and not feel as bad as I did the last outing. It was exactly the way I wanted it."
He baffled several Tampa Bay hitters with a good curve.
"I didn't really have the feeling for it," Martinez said. "I threw it, and since I'm stronger, I'm going to get a little bit better. But I wasn't feeling really like I could really spot it well, the fastball or
the changeup. I threw them well because I'm getting older and wiser, but it's not like I have really good command of it yet."
The Red Sox will likely keep Martinez on a pitch count between 90-100 in his next two starts.
"After the All-Star break, I should be fine to just go back to normal," he said.
In the ninth inning the Red Sox were staring at defeat. Two outs. Nobody on. The Devil Rays ahead by a run. The Rays' closer, albeit a seldom called-upon role for this woeful team, throwing gas.
A wild pitch by Esteban Yan while pitching to pinch-hitter Mike Lansing permitted the tying run to score, and Ramirez, who had been 0 for 4 with three strikeouts previously, ripped a three-run double inside the third-base bag for the game-winning hit.
The victory boosted Boston's American League East lead to four games over the Yankees, who were rained out Thursday night. It's the Red Sox' largest lead since they won the division by seven games in 1995.
"We're resilient," said Trot Nixon, who worked a walk that filled the bases in the ninth. "We're going to battle you right to the end."
"You're not supposed to win games like that," said Dante Bichette, the Sox' designated hitter Thursday night. "But we have the confidence to get it done. To pull this off is just great. Guys just kept coming through with tough at-bats."
"It doesn't really surprise me," said Rod Beck, who got the win despite surrendering the run that put the Rays ahead, 4-3, in the bottom of the eighth. "With two outs and nobody on, and their closer on the mound, obviously it's a tough situation. But the guys here persevere. Everyone here is a professional. They know how to play. Everyone here knows what it takes to win."
The only down note was a sore right knee suffered on a futile eighth-inning dive by center fielder Carl Everett. He was limping noticeably as he walked to the dugout, and he also was favoring the knee in the clubhouse after the game. He was not in an expansive mood.
"I'm not talking. Skip already told you what I wanted you to know," said Everett, referring to manager Jimy Williams.
"He banged it on the (artificial) turf," said Williams. "We won't have anything until (today)."