Pedro Martinez Circa 1999

The 1999 All-Star Game was just one of many highlights to this season.

After his Cy Young award-winning 1997 season, the Montreal Expos could see the writing on the wall. Pedro had just won a Cy Young Award, he was 26 years old, and he had one more year before he hit the free-agent market. The chances of them re-signing him were slim, and they decided to get something for him while his value was high. In November of 1997, the Expos traded him to the Boston Red Sox for Carl Pavano and Tony Armas Jr., and it wasn’t long after that the Red Sox signed Martinez to a 6-year, $75 million contract, the largest ever for a pitcher. Martinez responded with a brilliant season, going 19-7 with a 2.89 ERA, but because I’m only focusing on his “historic” seasons, this one doesn’t quite cut it, though it was spectacular. The only slight concern was that his strikeouts had dipped by a whole two per inning, but because it was still 9.7 and it was his first season in the majors, no one was really concerned.

Indeed, they shouldn’t have been. April started Pedro off well for the season. His innings pitched per game went from 6 to 7 (for 2 games) to 7.2 to, finally, a whole 9 as it appeared that Pedro was growing stronger. Even better, the strikeouts returned and consistently. After striking out 9 in his first 2 appearances, he went on to strikeout 10 in each of his last three starts, and for the whole month, he only walked 7. By the end of April, he had a shiny 4-1 record along with a spiffy 2.21 ERA.

May was even more impressive. Feeding off his strong start, Pedro rattled off six more wins in six starts in the month. In his first four starts, he was absolutely dominating. The first start of the month saw him go 7 innings while striking out 13 batters and giving up one run, but his best was yet to come. On May 7, the Anaheim Angels were utterly lost, striking out 15 times. Garrett Anderson notched a hat trick, and catcher Matt Walbeck was the only one to survive Pedro’s wrath. 6 harmless hits led nowhere as Pedro went 8 strong. During his next start, he was almost as domineering. Pedro sent the Mariners down with another 15 K’s in eight innings with Ken Griffey Jr. and Jay Buhner receiving some rough treatment. Other than single runs in the 5th and 6th (a David Bell home run of all things), Pedro wasn’t very nice to the Mariners. Oddly thinking of today, Tim Wakefield and Derek Lowe finished those two games, respectively. Three more decent starts and Pedro was 10-1 with a 2.01 ERA.

June, like April, was solid, but it had an amazing start. In an interleague game, the Atlanta Braves were taken to the woodshed. Other than a Ryan Klesko homer, the Dominican righty stormed through Atlanta like Sherman, burning down the Braves. 16 hitters went down after three strikes including every batter and Brian Jordan (4 times for the golden sombrero) especially. Tom Glavine went to 3-7 while Pedro won his 11th in a complete-game victory. His next start was a little rough, giving up 4 earned and taking his second loss of the season. But three more starts saw three more victories, and at the end of June, he was 14-2.

July was a bit of a mixed bag for Pedro. On one hand, he had his worst start of the season, going 3.2 IP while giving up 9 runs (7 earned), and he had to go on the disabled list with a sore right shoulder on the 25th. Not to condemn his usage, but 8 of starts saw him throw 120+ by this point. Even with that, Pedro had a couple nice starts to begin the month, but his big moment came in the All-Star Game. At 15-3 with a 2.10 ERA, he was the All-Star Game starter in his own park as the game was held at Fenway. Pedro stepped up in the spotlight. Barry Larkin, Larry Walker, and Sammy Sosa realized what 184 others had before them — Pedro was good. Mark McGwire found out quickly in the second, and after Matt Williams reached on an error, Jeff Bagwell struck out swinging and Matt Williams saved Mike Piazza by being thrown out trying to steal. Martinez won the MVP Award easily.

Coming back in August, the Red Sox were gentle, easing Pedro back in. He only threw five innings in his first two starts, and his next appearance, in relief, would go 4 innings. But the beast reawoke on August 19th. Facing Tim Hudson and the Oakland A’s, Pedro struck out 11, beginning an epic streak that saw him strikeout at least 10 hitters in 10 consecutive starts. Pedro would lose the game and move to 17-4, but he would turn into Superman down the stretch as the Red Sox desperately tried to catch the Yankees. At 6.5 back, they wouldn’t get closer than 3, but Martinez made it fun. The Twins became his next victims as he struck out 15 with Terry Steinbach wishing he hadn’t been born (4 K’s). By the end of August, he was now 19-4 with a 2.36 ERA.

September saw every team hoping and praying they didn’t have to face Pedro. Seattle wished Pedro would just go away as they went down 15 times again, and Jay Buhner found a new mortal enemy as he struck out 4 times this time. 2 hits, 3 walks, and a Rod Beck ninth later, and Pedro had win 20. The most gratifying of the month, year, and maybe career was the next start against the Yankees. On September 10th, Pedro went berserk. He struck out 17 hitters, the most against the Yankees, and the only hit he gave up was a Chili Davis home run. No one escaped, and only three starters escaped with less than 2 K’s — Paul O’Neill, Chuck Knoblauch, and Tino Martinez. 14, 12, and 12 strikeouts later, Pedro’s regular season came to an end with a relief appearance on October 2nd, probably just moving him into the right spot for the playoffs.

For the regular season, Pedro Martinez won the Triple Crown for pitchers by going 23-4 with a 2.07 ERA and 313 strikeouts (a staggering 13.2 K/9 and 8.46 K/BB) in 213.1 IP. His 243 ERA+ was his second-best of his career (check back tomorrow for the best), and his WHIP was 0.923. After narrowly missing his second Cy Young the season before, he won it unanimously in 1999. However, there was some controversy over the MVP race. Ivan Rodriguez would take home the prize, but after a dominating season, a New York and Minnesota writer left him off the ballot entirely, leaving him 13 points shy of Pudge.

As for the playoffs, it was an interesting few weeks. After going 4 innings against the Indians in Game 1 of the ALCS, he had to leave with a strained back, but in Game 5 when no one thought he could, he pitched 6 no-hit innings to send the Indians away after the starting pitchers were entirely ineffective and left with a 8-8 tie. But the Red Sox ran into a juggernaut in the ALCS. The Yankees only lost one game the entire postseason, and guess who beat them. Yep, it was Pedro going toe-to-toe with Roger Clemens in Game 3. But the Yankees took the series two games later, ending a magical season for Pedro Martinez.

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