So far, Martinez makes blessing of R. Sox curse

ON THE AL EAST

May 26, 2002|By Joe Christensen

Curses, curses, curses.

Pedro Martinez had heard enough.

The rivalry between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees was tainted in his mind because the talk always strayed from baseball itself to the Curse of the Bambino.

The Red Sox, of course, sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1920 and haven't won a World Series since. Martinez was sick of talking about it, and last season he playfully suggested he would drill Ruth with a pitch if he ever got a chance.

No doubt, this only added to the Yankees' thrill of hanging two losses on Martinez last season and then torching him for four first-inning runs when the teams met on April 13.

Martinez received a no-decision in that game, as the Red Sox came back to win, 7-6. It was clear the Yankees didn't see the same Martinez who has simply dominated both the Orioles and Seattle Mariners again this year.

In three starts against the Orioles, Martinez is 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA.

In two starts against the Mariners, he is 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA.

When he took the mound Thursday in the opener of a four-game series against the Yankees at Fenway Park, Martinez took his place as the American League East's most important player. If he falters this season, the Red Sox seem to have little chance of maintaining their early season pace. If he remains brilliant, look out Bambino.

And Thursday, Pedro was dominant again. He struck out 10 over seven innings, allowing one run on four hits, as the Red Sox won the statement game of the series, 3-1.

"Who knows?" Martinez told The Boston Globe. "Maybe the Bambino was looking out for me tonight."

The Yankees came into the game looking like the Bombers of old, with 74 home runs in 47 games and 13 wins in their past 15.

But Martinez tore through their lineup, just like he has against the Orioles and Mariners, improving to 7-0, matching his number of wins for all of last season and posting his best start since he opened his 1997 Cy Young campaign 8-0 for Montreal.

"We thought we could get [Martinez] tired if nothing else," said Yankees manager Joe Torre. "But he always has the hammer when he needs it."

The Yankees will have to avoid that hammer again next weekend, when the two teams play three more games in New York. Martinez is tentatively scheduled to pitch next Sunday's finale.

New Rays of hope

Joe Kennedy's four-hit shutout against the Mariners on Tuesday broke Tampa Bay's major-league-record streak of 194 games without a complete game. The Devil Rays, in fact, took two of three games from the Mariners to win their second consecutive road series.

After breaking his 222-at-bat homerless streak against the Orioles last weekend and finishing the series with four home runs in two victories, Greg Vaughn went 1-for-9 with a triple in three games against the Mariners.

Around the division

Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina and David Wells entered Friday a combined 19-5 on the season, reinforcing the contention the Yankees have so much pitching, it isn't fair. But Boston's Big Three has been even better. Martinez, Derek Lowe and John Burkett entered Friday a combined 19-1 ... Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Shannon Stewart entered the weekend hitless in his past 18 at-bats, the longest drought of his career.

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