Originally created 06/05/99

Martinez dominates Braves



BOSTON -- This is what it must have been like when the Braves played second fiddle to the Red Sox in this town about five decades ago.

A packed house at Fenway Park and catcalls for the team from the other league.

The difference Friday night was that it wasn't Warren Spahn on the mound for the Braves. On the other hand, Pedro Martinez did a pretty good imitation of any number of classic Boston pitchers of the past, from Cy Young to Smokey Joe Wood to Luis Tiant.

Martinez didn't simply beat the Braves. He dominated them like no other pitcher has in recent memory. The slight Dominican sent a career-high 16 Atlanta hitters back to the dugout with their bats trailing behind them as the Red Sox opened interleague play with a convincing 5-1 victory before a sellout crowd of 33,411 boisterous fans.

"He's the best pitcher in the game," said right fielder Brian Jordan, who struck out four times. "It's not fair, man."

In a matchup of Cy Young Award winners, Martinez outpitched Tom Glavine with surprising ease. Martinez reeled off a ninth straight win and upped his record to a major league-leading 11-1, while Glavine took a third straight loss and fell to 3-7.

It was this simple: Martinez struck out every Atlanta hitter at least once, got Randall Simon and Chipper Jones twice and whiffed Gerald Williams three times. It all added up to a three-hit complete game, the fewest hits the Braves have managed in 54 games this season and a tip of the cap from the visitors' clubhouse.

"He was about as good as I've ever seen him," manager Bobby Cox said.

Said Ryan Klesko, who supplied Atlanta's only run with a 310-foot homer just inside the right field foul pole in the seventh, "He was on top of his game. He definitely didn't throw anything over the middle of the plate. He was pitching on the corners all night."

Not since the Dodgers' Ramon Martinez, Pedro's older brother, struck out 18 Braves on June 4, 1990 -- exactly nine years ago -- has a starting pitcher so overwhelmed Atlanta's lineup. The losing pitcher that night? Glavine.

The current version of the Martinez strikeout machine walked only two and lowered his earned run average to a major league-leading 1.91. He looked like the best pitcher on the planet, and with a six-year, $75 million contract, also the richest.

"He's worth every penny of it," Cox said.

Back up a few years, and first-inning troubles were the norm for Glavine. Those times were far behind him until the Red Sox sent eight hitters to the plate in the first and took a 2-0 lead on RBI singles by Troy O'Leary and Damon Buford.

What aggravated Glavine the most, besides a 36-pitch inning, was his inability to put either hitter away when he got ahead. He had O'Leary down 0-2 and Buford in a 1-2 hole before both hitters sent base hits into left field.

Buford's two-out double in the third and Jeff Frye's single made it 3-0, then Frye created another run in the sixth. He doubled, moved to third on Jason Varitek's grounder, then broke for home with Darren Lewis at the plate. Glavine's pitch was high and wide, thudding against the backstop, allowing Frye to record Boston's first steal of home since 1996.

"Most nights you hold a team to four runs, you've given your team a chance to win, but not tonight against Pedro," Glavine said. "There's nothing you can do but tip your hat to the guy who pitched against you."

There was more than hat-tipping going on in the packed stands. Each of Martinez's strikeouts wound the fans a little tighter until his final whiff of Jordan in the ninth caused a great bellow of joy from the Boston faithful, who haven't celebrated a pitcher like this since Tiant 25 years ago.

"It's amazing you can throw that hard and have that good a control," Frye said. "He made a lot of good hitters look bad tonight. That's one of the best-pitched games I've ever been involved in."

All Cox could do afterward was shake his head in wonder and reach for another lineup card.

"I remember the first time I saw Pedro," he said. "He was pitching for the Dodgers in relief and I said, `My God, he looks like he's throwing 130 miles per hour and he weighs 140 pounds.' "

It doesn't appear that much has changed for Martinez or the Braves.



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