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Sox rock Martínez, Mets to run win streak to 11
Pedro Martínez rubs a new baseball after Alex Gonzalez deposited the previous one over the wall in the third inning. (Globe Staff Photo / Jim Davis)
Nostalgia held sway over the Red Sox for exactly one pitch last night, an 85-mile-an-hour fastball from Pedro Martínez that Kevin Youkilis took for a called strike while flashbulbs popped, from the Monster seats to the right-field grandstands.
The next pitch, Youkilis lined into center field for a base hit, the start of a night as short as any Martínez ever experienced in Fenway Park pitching for the home team. In 94 starts for the Sox in Fenway Park, Martínez exited after three innings only twice. Last night, pitching for his employer of the last 18 months, the New York Mets, was number three.
The overheated anticipation of Martínez's return to Boston was no match for the methodical punishment inflicted upon him by the Sox. They were as dismissive of their former ace -- every Sox player except close friend David Ortiz reached base against Martínez -- as anyone else they've faced in the course of a winning streak that reached 11 last night with a 10-2 thrashing of the Mets, eight of those runs coming on Pedro's watch.
``Everything that's hyped can't live up to it," said center fielder Coco Crisp, who walked and scored ahead of Alex Gonzalez's two-run home run that made it 8-0 in the Sox' four-run third. ``Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. It's just the way life is, anyway."
Shocking? Not to Mets manager Willie Randolph, who grumbled that Martínez not only didn't have his best stuff, but got caught up in the emotion of the night.
``[And] not for this club, not the way we're going," Youkilis said on a night he had three hits and Gonzalez not only hit his second home run in two nights but also drew a walk for the first time in almost a month.
``We've been rolling pretty good, swinging the bats good, knocking pitchers out early," Youkilis said. ``It's definitely surprising when it's Pedro Martínez. You hope for his sake that he bounces back and throws well. Hopefully, we'll see him in the World Series and get to put another eight runs on the board."
The Sox, who are averaging 7.9 runs a game during this streak, have won 13 of 14 games against National League teams, including consecutive routs of the NL's purported best, while climbing a season-best 19 games over .500.
You want pitching? With Josh Beckett going 7 2/3 innings last night and allowing just five hits, including solo home runs to Carlos Delgado and Jose Valentin after the game was in hand, Sox starters are 8-0 with a 2.93 ERA during in the winning streak.
Defense? Last night, the Sox made it 15 straight games without an error, tying an American League record (Texas, 1996) and drawing within one of the big-league record (St. Louis, 1992). The Mets, meanwhile, were betrayed by a costly blunder by rookie left fielder Lastings Milledge, who dropped Mike Lowell's fly ball to the Wall for a two-run error that made it 4-0 in the first. It was his second misplay in the shadow of the Monster in two nights.
``It was windy out there," Crisp said. ``It's a little tricky out there. The Wall, the warning track is deeper. Milledge, he seems like a good outfielder, seems like a good athletic guy. Just one of those things. Seemed like it got in his head a little bit, back-to-back days. But I'll put my money on him, catching that ball 10 out of 10 times."
Beckett, to whom Martinez had paid tribute last week as a reasonable likeness of the young Pedro, gave the Mets no chance for either Milledge or Martínez to save face en route to his 10th win, matching Detroit's Kenny Rogers for most in the American League. Last season, when Beckett won a career-best 15 games for the Marlins, he didn't win his 10th game until July 29. The Sox go to Miami to face Beckett's former team this weekend, but he won't be pitching -- he's got a golf date lined up on the same exclusive course where Sly Stallone is known to roam.
And that probably is more impressive to Beckett than pitching against Martínez. ``Like I tell you all the time, I ain't worried about who I'm pitching against," Beckett said. ``I'm worried about getting the first guy out, the second guy out, and so on and so forth. I wasn't worried two [expletives] about who I was pitching against. I can't. I can't let those distractions derail what I'm trying to do. If I'm worrying about those things, next thing you know [Jose] Reyes is on second.
``I thought it was nice what the fans did [for Martínez]. They say they've got some of the greatest fans in the world, and they showed it tonight."
A sellout throng of 36,035 gave Martinez a huge hello, a standing ovation that accompanied him on every step of that familiar walk from the bullpen after his warmups, but never got to say goodbye, Martínez having ducked unceremoniously down the runway to the visitors' clubhouse by the time the visitors' bullpen door opened at the start of the fourth inning, and another former Sox pitcher, Darren Oliver, trotted out to the mound.
Martínez, after yielding singles to Youkilis and Mark Loretta in the first, contributed to his demise with a bad decision on Ortiz's one-hopper back to the mound against the overshifted defense. Instead of wheeling and throwing to second for an easy double play, Martínez turned toward Youkilis running toward third, changed his mind, then decided it was too late to try to get Loretta at second, settling for an out at first.
``He looked right at me," Youkilis said. ``I don't know, maybe he forgot there was a guy at first. He just looked right at me. I froze, maybe he was trying to run me down, I don't know. Maybe then he realized he should go to second. [Third baseman David] Wright was at normal lefthanded hitter's depth, nothing that crazy."
Martínez, in a postgame analysis that might have struck some as odd as the ``Call the Yankees my daddy" days, insisted he wasn't disappointed by the loss, that a win would not have given him as much satisfaction as the reception he got from his former hometown. But his ex-teammates, including Jason Varitek, who singled in both of his at-bats against his former batterymate, imagined it stung.
``Pedro was a great teammate of ours, very loyal guy to his team, very good guy, so it was tough to see that," Youkilis said, ``but we'll always take the win against anybody."