Thursday night at Shea was Pedro Martinez’s second to last regular season start and you can bet your bobblehead that fans’ eyes were watching his performance as closely as if it were the seventh game of the World Series. Every fan knows how important it is to have our best players ready come the postseason. Yes, we need Carlos Beltran. Yes, we need Carlos Delgado. Yes, we need Billy Wagner, David Wright and Jose Reyes. But, more than anyone else we NEED Pedro Martinez if we are going to have any chance at bringing the ring home to momma.
As we head into the land of the few, the arena where the best in the majors claw for baseball supremacy, one question above all others has dominated Mets fans’ minds. Ever since the Maestro shed his tears in Pittsburgh, Sheasters throughout our great metropolis have endured many a sleepless nights wondering will Pedro Martinez be ready for the playoffs?
If it allows even one Metropolitan fan to sleep well tonight, I am here to tell you the answer is YES! After watching the Mets’ 5-2 loss to the Marlins, I can confidently say that Mr. Martinez is very close to being playoff ready. So, what did I see that allows me to speak so confidently? If ever there was a pitcher who is an artist, it’s Pedro Martinez. How else does a man who couldn’t top 86 MPH on his fastball all night strike out 7 guys in 5 innings. Knowing that his arm strength is still rebuilding, Pedro slowed his delicious changeup an extra 5 mph, throwing it at 70 MPH instead of his normal 75. When he did spot his fastball it was almost always following a changeup. The result was that Marlins’ hitters were late on it just as if he were throwing his normal 89-90 MPH. But, that’s only half the story. Because if that’s all Pedro had, well then the hitters could have just sat on his fastball or changeup once they figured out his pattern. But remember, Pedro is an artist on the mound. Pedro rode a dizzying curveball for four spectacular innings that had so much dip and dive, the Marlins might have wanted to call the all-night pharmacy for some anti-nausia medication.
It was only in the fifth that the Marlins got him. But, then again they really didn’t get him. Pedro
started to tire at about the 65-70 pitch mark, which is very understandable considering this was only his second start back after a month off because of his calf injury. Mike Jacobs and Joe Borchard both did a good job going with the pitch for a couple of singles, but then Pedro hit Alfredo Almazaga on a two-strike pitch and Miguel Olivo blooped a sawed off dunker into right followed by a Shawn Green throwing error that allowed both runners to move up. Martinez then easily struck out Anibal Sanchez and totally fooled Hanley Ramirez on a good changeup, but an off-balanced Ramirez had just enough to ground a two-out double past David Wright. Pedro ended his night by freezing Dan Uggla with a couple of Uncle Charlies before setting him down with an 85 MPH fastball for his 2,997th career strikeout.
So, to recap— Pedro threw 5 innings, giving up 4 hits, 1 walk, 1 hit batter and 3 earned runs while striking out 7 Marlins. He threw 87 pitches, 52 for strikes. He spotted his fastball well, topping out at 86 MPH on the radar gun, but mostly relied on a stellar changeup and a killer curve. He has one start left next Wednesday or Thursday at Atlanta before the fun begins. He is only 3 K’s away from the magical 3,000 milestone. Yes, it would be nice if Pedro had two starts left to bulid his arm strength, but if in his final regular season start he can throw 100 pitches, last 6 innings and add a couple of miles onto his fastball, he will be primed and ready to roll. Tonight was a big hurdle, one that he cleared easily. As Pedro said after the game, "I’m really close… Everything seems to be coming along just like I expected". So, sleep easy Mets’ fans, no more tears for Pedro, only smiles. In this cabbie’s opinion the Maestro will be magnificiant again come October.
Carl The Cabbie