BOSTON -- For all the great performances Pedro Martinez had -- and there are way too many to be able to count by hand -- the best one took place in enemy territory at Yankee Stadium.
The night was Sept. 10, 1999, and the Yankees were in the middle of a dynasty in which they’d win four World Series championships in five years and get to the Fall Classic an amazing five times in six years.
That thoroughly dominant start by Martinez was yet another memorable chapter in the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry, but when Martinez opened the first inning by hitting Chuck Knoblauch before serving up a solo homer to Chili Davis in the bottom of the second, it was hard to know that this night would be a defining one in his career.
Yet after the blast by Davis, Martinez didn’t allow a baserunner the rest of the night, setting down 22 in a row in a 3-1 victory for the Red Sox.
In all, it was a complete-game one-hit shutout with no walks and a career high of 17 strikeouts for the great No. 45, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015.
This, against a loaded New York lineup that had Derek Jeter, Paul O’Neill, Bernie Williams, Tino Martinez, Davis and pinch-hitter Darryl Strawberry.
You’d be surprised, however, how Martinez derived his motivation for this game. But he mentioned it in an interview with MLB.com last September.
Prior to the game, Red Sox pitching coach Joe Kerrigan and Martinez had a disagreement, according to the righty.
“I went out there angry,” Martinez said. “And then I gave up this bomb in the second inning to Chili.”
So what did Kerrigan, who was Martinez’s pitching coach in Montreal and Boston, do to set him off?
“He told me to go to the [pregame scouting] meetings,” Martinez said. “I had faced the Yankees previously. I said, ‘Nothing has changed. It’s the same lineup.’ I just faced these guys [four months earlier].”
Kerrigan, who had a somewhat nagging temperament that Martinez never enjoyed, felt otherwise.
“Joe said, ‘Well you need to go to the meetings because the other pitchers need to hear what you have to say.’ I said, ‘No, I’m tired.’” Martinez said.
Martinez always felt that west to east travel took a lot of out him, and the Red Sox had come to New York after a road trip to Seattle and Oakland.
The team landed in New York in the wee hours of the morning on Sept. 10, and had an off-day in New York prior to Martinez’s start on Friday night.
But Martinez was still jet-lagged, and he had no patience for Kerrigan’s suggestions of how he should spend his pregame hours.
“I didn’t fly ahead, I flew in with the team. I was beat up,” Martinez said. “I said, ‘I need to get to the jacuzzi and get treatment because I’m about to pitch a game.’ He goes, ‘Well, you better figure it out what you’re going to do with Jeter, he’s hitting .300 off you.’ ... I cursed him, ‘I told him to take the bat and stick it’ you know where.’”
Jeter was one of the many Yankees who looked helpless against Martinez, going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. Ricky Ledee had the toughest time, striking out in all three of his at-bats. Williams, Davis, Scott Brosius and Joe Girardi each struck out twice. All nine Yankees starters K’d at least once, and Strawberry was punched out as a pinch-hitter as the second out of the ninth.
By the time Knoblauch faced Martinez with two outs in the ninth, most of the Yankee Stadium crowd was swept up in what they were watching, chanting, “Pedro, Pedro, Pedro.”
Martinez struck Knoblauch out swinging to cap the magical night.