RED SOX 1, PADRES 0
Stylish victory for Sox
In spectacular fashion, Martinez masters Padres
Maybe it's a hair thing. They are the superstars of baseball hairstyles, Pedro Martinez, whose Jheri-curled look recently was likened to Samuel L. Jackson's in "Pulp Fiction," and Johnny Damon, whose tumbling mane alternately has drawn comparisons to Jesus of Nazareth and the original caveman.
They are not alone on the Red Sox, of course.
"We have different hairstyles here," Damon said. "We have Manny [Ramirez] with the lion look. We also have Pokey [Reese], who came on the plane the other day with the Buckwheat look going."
But it was the crazy-haired Martinez and Damon, with some nice defensive help from Ramirez and Reese, who combined to propel the Sox last night past the San Diego Padres in a 1-0 nail-biter before 35,205 at Fenway Park.
"The league definitely has paid attention to our hair," Damon said. "Hopefully, they know how well we've been playing, too."
How could they not after the masterwork Martinez submitted and the winning hit Damon delivered to spoil San Diego's inaugural visit to the Fens?
In his finest outing of the season, Martinez blanked the Padres on two hits, a walk and a hit batsman over eight innings, putting Damon in position to contribute. And Damon did just that, rifling a double into the right-field corner with two outs in the seventh inning to drive in Gabe Kapler with the game's only run.
"Thank goodness, or we might still be playing," said the hair-challenged Boston manager, Terry Francona.
Kapler, who currently favors Francona's shaved-scalp look, cleared the way for Damon's winning hit by lofting a towering double off the Monster with one out and moving to third on pinch hitter Brian Daubach's fly to right.
For Kapler, the Mr. Clean approach worked just fine.
"It feels good not to have any hair, especially when it's this warm," he said. "I can put on my motorcycle helmet and I don't have to worry about my hair."
Nor did the Sox need to worry much about the Padres, thanks largely to Martinez, who helped shut them out for only the second time this season. If the Padres had visions of denting the Monster in their Fenway debut, Martinez utterly disappointed them as he allowed only a first-inning single to Mark Loretta and a fifth-inning double to Terrence Long. The Sox ace fanned eight as he reached 94 miles an hour on the rader gun numerous times, at least four times for strikeouts.
Take it from Kapler, who all but guaranteed in the face of widespread skepticism late in spring training that Martinez would return to throwing at least 94 miles an hour by midseason.
"There are a couple of guys you just don't sweat it with, like Manny and Pedro," Kapler said. "It doesn't matter what happens because the odds are going to be with them. Pedro was phenomenal tonight."
After Martinez flummoxed the Padres for eight innings -- he threw 115 pitches in lowering his ERA to 3.98 from 4.40 -- Keith Foulke retired them in order in the ninth for his 12th save.
Martinez's numbers were nearly as impressive April 25, when he blanked the Yankees on four hits and a walk for seven innings in a 2-0 victory. But he seemed more dominant against the Padres, capitalizing on some minor corrections he made in his delivery by studying videotape and working with pitching coach Dave Wallace.
Martinez refined the landing on his delivery, improving his arm slot for his fastball and curveball. Catcher Jason Varitek said the difference was evident.
"With the stuff he threw out there, they had a limited margin for success," Varitek said. "When he needed to make a pitch, he was extremely good."
Martinez, who also benefited from dandy defensive plays by Damon and second baseman Mark Bellhorn, faced his toughest challenge in the fifth inning after Long doubled into the right-field corner leading off. Long advanced to third when Ramon Hernandez flied to right, creating a prime scoring opportunity for the Padres with one out.
At that, the Sox drew the infield in, which allowed Bellhorn to hold Long at third when Kerry Robinson grounded out. Martinez then escaped by getting Khalil Greene flailing at a 94-mile-an-hour heater en route to retiring the last 12 batters he faced.
But even in flashing some of his vintage brilliance, Martinez seemed unsatisfied.
"It seems like it was a great game," he said. "It was a game anybody could dream of. But you know what? I'm not going to sit on this one. I'm going to go and watch my videos, go back to the bullpen and do the things I have been doing to get better."
Martinez needed to be at his best since San Diego starter David Wells held the Sox scoreless for 5 2/3 innings, scattering six hits, walking none and striking out two. But the Sox capitalized against the San Diego pen, with Kapler doubling off former Yankee Antonio Osuna and Damon doing his damage against Akinori Otsuka.
The Padres summoned Otsuka, who was holding opponents to a .144 batting average and had struck out 34 batters in 28 1/3 innings, specifically to face Damon. But Damon, who leads the Sox with a .351 batting average with runners in scoring position, delivered again.
"Last year, I was the weak link on the team," he said. "I'm just trying to pull my weight."
Caveman-style or not.
© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.