September 10, 2015

16 Years Ago: Pedro Strikes Out 17 Yankees

In a new MLB video, Pedro Martinez talks about his 17-strikeout, one-hit performance against the Yankees on September 10, 1999.

Here is the box score.

Buster Olney, New York Times, September 11, 1999:
Hitters gossip on the Yankees' bench during games, sharing information about the opposing pitcher's flaws. But there was no free-flowing exchange of thought last night, no tips, no insight. They said nothing in the dugout because there was nothing to say. Boston's Pedro Martinez humbled the Yankees in their home park in a manner never seen before.

Martinez struck out 17, the most ever against the Yankees, and Chili Davis had the Yankees' only hit, a home run, as Boston prevailed, 3-1. Martinez faced 28 batters, one over the minimum, and those making the loudest noises among the 55,239 at Yankee Stadium were Red Sox fans. Boston pulled to within five and a half games of the Yankees in the American League East, hoisted almost single-handedly by a pitcher with a sagging face, the body of an oversized jockey, and an arm and confidence of a comic book superhero.

"We didn't get beat by the Red Sox," said Paul O'Neill, the Yankees' right fielder. "We got beat by Pedro Martinez."

Jimy Williams, the Boston manager, said it was the best pitching effort he had ever seen. David Cone agreed, less than two months removed from throwing a perfect game. Joe Torre, the Yankees' manager, mentioned Bob Gibson and Sandy Koufax as he drew comparable efforts from his memory.

Said Martinez: "This is as good as it gets, I won't lie."

As if he could fool anybody. As if the Yankees had any chance. Derek Jeter was Martinez's first strikeout victim, on a 97 mile-an-hour fastball in the first inning, and Chuck Knoblauch was his 17th, the last out of the game, on a 97 m.p.h. fastball. Every Yankee hitter struck out at least once, including Darryl Strawberry, who pinch-hit in the ninth inning.

It was as if the Yankees were swinging within a darkened closet, for Martinez was throwing all three of his pitches for strikes. His fastball was moving, Tino Martinez said, and he was spinning his curveball for strikes, and when you looked for the fastball, he would then throw his changeup, the ball dropping away as if Pedro Martinez were manipulating it like a marionette. "That is about as close to unhittable as you can find," Torre said. "You can't fault the hitters."

Ricky Ledee, the Yankees' left fielder, slipped into a side room at Yankee Stadium yesterday afternoon to watch videotape of Martinez, to remind himself of how the pitcher's fastball moves, how his change up fades. You try to keep the same approach against all pitchers, Ledee said, but facing a great pitcher is a special challenge, the tension and concentration increasing. A film of sweat will cover your arms, Ledee explained.

Martinez bounced his second pitch off Knoblauch's arm, but the Yankees' leadoff hitter was almost immediately thrown out stealing. Martinez then registered his first strikeout, of Jeter: in a sequence of three pitches, he ratcheted the velocity of his fastball from 93 to 95 to 97 m.p.h. Nobody was saying anything in the Yankees' dugout.

Martinez made perhaps his only mistake in the second inning, a fastball that tailed over the middle of the plate -- a pitch Davis anticipated, and whacked deep into the bleachers in right field. Later, Jeter would say, "We didn't have anybody on base -- except Chili, who was on base for about five seconds."

But Martinez threw a curveball to strike out Ledee and end the second inning, and there was a sense in the Yankees' dugout, Torre said, that the one run would be the only support Andy Pettitte would get. Scott Brosius struck out on a 95 m.p.h. fastball in the second, and Joe Girardi whiffed on a curveball; Tino Martinez, Davis and Ledee all whiffed in the fifth inning, the first of three innings in which the Boston pitcher struck out the side.

"Awesome," Girardi said later. "The sharpest stuff I've seen," Pettitte said.

Pettitte walked Nomar Garciaparra to lead off the sixth and then Mike Stanley launched a home run into the right-field stands. Boston led, 2-1; it felt as if the score was 10-0, Torre said, with Martinez defending that lead.

Jeter, O'Neill and Bernie Williams, who may combine for about 600 hits this year, struck out in order in the seventh, and Davis and Ledee were cut down in the eighth, Martinez's 13th and 14th strikeouts. A contingent of fans in the right-field stands -- fans of Martinez, waving the flag of the Dominican Republic -- cheered loudly. Somebody had been hanging K's for Martinez at the front of the stands above the left-field line, but those were ripped down.

The Red Sox scored another run in the top of the ninth, giving them a 3-1 lead. "It felt like we had another mile to go," Torre said.

Brosius swung and missed at a curve leading off the ninth. Strawberry pinch-hit for Girardi, and later, he smiled slightly when asked about his plan for his at-bat. "I didn't really have a plan," Strawberry said. "I had no clue."

He struck out on four pitches, the last a high fastball. Knoblauch was next. Martinez, who finishes as well as any pitcher in the game, was rocking and firing, and there was no doubt he would try to blow his fastball past the second baseman. He reached a 1-ball, 2-strike count, and Knoblauch fouled off a high fastball. Martinez threw another, Knoblauch swung and missed, and Martinez aimed two hands toward the sky jubilantly.

"I felt great," said Martinez, now 21-4. "I felt in control of every pitch."

Martinez whiffed seven of the last eight hitters he faced. He retired the last 22 batters he faced. "Wow," Cone said to Mariano Rivera.

"That is pitching," Rivera replied.

The Yankees' hitters showered and dressed rapidly, spoke softly and departed quickly from the clubhouse. There wasn't much to say.
My favourite tidbit from the game: On Pedro's last 53 pitches, the Yankees managed zero fair balls.


FenFan said...

That he did it against Boston's biggest rival was the cherry on top.

allan said...

Three tweets from Jon Shestakofsky:

Over the last 30 days, the top 3 AL players by total bases are all Red Sox:
1. Jackie Bradley Jr, 72
2. David Ortiz, 68
3. Mookie Betts, 67

David Ortiz has 12 extra-base hits (6 2B, 6 HR) in his last 12 games. That ties his career high over any 12-game span.(Source: @EliasSports)

Mookie Betts now has 57 extra-base hits this year, the most by a Red Sox player in a season before turning 23 since Tony Conigliaro in 1966.

allan said...

As I have said many times, I sure wish the guy Laura knew who was taking us to this game had showed up with three tickets so I could have seen this game live (I think he was forced to work late) rather than waiting a long time and then finally going home and watching innings 4- or 5-9 on TV. I did eventually see the whole game because the VCR was running. (Does saying I used a VCR mark me as an old fart?)

allan said...

Tonight's Blue Jays at MFY game - the first of a 4-game series - has been postponed. ... Saturday doubleheader scheduled.

Jere said...

"That he did it against Boston's biggest rival was the cherry on top."

And the hot fudge was that it was on national TV.