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He's just a babe in these woods

Call it Grady's Revenge or the Day the Music Died or whatever else you can come up with. But close to an hour after last night's ghoulishly familiar 6-4 loss to the Yankees, the great Pedro Martinez did the unthinkable: He conceded to the Yankees.

"What can I say? I just tip my hat and call the Yankees my daddy," said a frustrated Pedro after manager Terry Francona left him in too long in the eighth inning (sound like anyone you remember?). "I can't find a way to beat them at this point. You just have to give them credit and say, `Hey, you guys beat me, not my team.' I wish they would [expletive] disappear and never come back. I'd like to face any other team right now. To pitch a good game, make good pitches and still can't beat them. It's frustrating."

This was a night when the Sox were unofficially eliminated in the AL East (they trail by 5 1/2 games with nine to play), and it marked the latest in a series of disappointments for Martinez against the Yankees. Losing for the third straight game for the first time since 1998, he blew a 3-2 lead, then blew a 4-3 lead in the eighth. It was the 1918th regular-season game between these teams and the Red Sox are now 11-19 (including postseason) in games Martinez starts against the Bombers.

"How many times am I going to have a lead and let it go?" he asked. "It's all me. It's all me. You work so hard and you continue to lose and give it up. It's stupid. It's frustrating."

Fans saved much of their wrath for Francona, who did almost exactly what He Who Must Not Be Named did in Game 7 of the ALCS last October. This time, the Red Sox led, 4-3, after seven and Martinez had thrown 101 pitches. Based on the findings of Bill James, Theo Epstein, and the minions, all evidence shows that Martinez is cooked at 105 pitches. That was certainly apparent when He Who Must Not Be Named failed to act last October.

So there we were last night, scratching our heads when Martinez walked out to start the eighth with hitters named Hideki Matsui, Bernie Williams, and Jorge Posada (all had key hits in the epic defeat last year) coming up. No one stirred in the Sox bullpen until Martinez started making his warmup tosses. Messrs. Timlin, Embree, and Williamson were waiting for the phone to ring just as they did in October in Yankee Stadium.

Matsui hit the second pitch of the inning into the Sox bullpen to tie the game.

No Francona.

Then a double to right by Williams (much like Matsui's double to right last year, but not hit as hard).

No Francona.

After Posada fanned, Ruben Sierra knocked in Williams with a single to right-center.

At that point, there must have been an explosion in the James's lab in Lawrence, Kan.

"I wouldn't have left him in if I thought he was out of gas," said Francona.

What about after the homer?

"If I run out there after two pitches, it makes it look like I wasn't making a good decision before the inning."

Exactly what we were thinking.

Martinez's body language was loud when Francona finally came out to get him. The ace turned his back on his manager. But Martinez explained he was only annoyed with himself.

"There's no reason to be upset at Tito," said Martinez. "I was just frustrated."

There's a problem here. Pedro goes down the stretch having lost three straight and he's admitting he can't beat the Yankees. It's almost as if they've gotten to him mentally. New York fans hooted him at the Stadium over the weekend and yesterday's New York Post featured a photo of Martinez accompanied by the headline, "Pedro the Pushover."

He's no pushover, but he's not the Pedro of 1999. This is something Francona must acknowledge. The manager is like a blissfully married man who looks at his wife of 50 years and says, "You're as beautiful as you were the day I met you." His eyes see something that nobody else sees. Right now Francona is looking at a very good pitcher who has lost some of his youthful beauty.

Martinez's behavior in Boston during the week fueled speculation that he was ticked off about something. He was reluctant to cooperate with most reporters. When he spoke to the Herald's Karen Guregian Wednesday, he grudgingly conceded the top spot in the playoff rotation to Curt Schilling, saying, "I don't know how people are going to have the guts to tell me they're going to push me back . . . but if they did it, I wouldn't argue. I'm only an employee here that does his job."

Red flag that one. When Pedro -- who tells us he's a proud man as often as Bernie Mac calls himself "Mr. 3000" -- starts talking about being "only an employee," you can be sure he's furious about something. Playing second banana to Schilling might be the problem. Or maybe he really is the first big leaguer in history who gets legitimately annoyed when he gets booed on the road.

He certainly had a lot to say after last night's loss, but they were not the words that management, or fans, want to hear. Maybe it was just postgame frustration, or maybe it's a clever psychological ploy by the ever-thoughtful ace. But it was stunning. We've never heard him sound like a beaten man.

If the Sox and Yankees make it to the ALCS, the theme of every Pedro start will be . . . "Who's Your Daddy?"


Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is

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