Question of paternal identity not a favorite with Martinez

October 14, 2004|By JOHN EISENBERG

NEW YORK - They mocked him as he walked from the bullpen to the dugout before the game.

"Who's your daaa- ddy?'

They mocked him again as he stood on the mound and warmed up before the bottom of the first.

"Who's your daaa-ddy?'

The fans who filled Yankee Stadium for Game 2 of the American League Championship Series last night never stopped mocking Pedro Martinez.

The Red Sox's star right-hander was in circumstances as daunting as any athlete could face.

Things tend to get exaggerated when the Yankees and Red Sox are playing for a pennant, but you couldn't overstate the pressure on Martinez. Everything was working against him.

The Sox had to win to avoid falling behind 2-0 in the best-of-seven series. And they really had to win after learning before the game that their other ace, Curt Schilling, had an ankle injury that could keep him from pitching well, or at all, in the rest of the series.

Martinez also was at the center of a high-pitched storm he alone had created with his September lament that the Yankees were his "daddy' because he couldn't seem to beat them.

The comment, little more than a throwaway line Martinez uttered in frustration, has become a tabloid newspaper staple and spawned derisive cheers that have cascaded through Yankee Stadium in the first two games of the series.

As the Yankees built an 8-0 lead in the early innings of their 10-7 victory in Game 1, the sellout crowd roared, "Who's your daddy?'

Martinez's teammates probably didn't think the "daddy' controversy was as humorous then as they did before the series, when they joked about it.

The tabloids have kept the story going. One titled its pre- series special section, "Come to Daddy." featuring a cartoon in which, according to the headline, "Pedro and the Bosox pop in for their annual spanking." Another paper called its section a "Father's Day celebration."

There was a new twist yesterday when one of the papers ran a picture of a grimacing Schilling losing Game 1 while saying, 'I want my mommy!'

It's all in fun and just a media sideshow, but standing at the center of it probably wasn't good for many grins. No one had to guess why Martinez chose to duck a standard session with reporters before Game 1.

There would be too much daddy talk.

In the past, Martinez seemed to enjoy being the inscrutable star who made bizarre comments the world couldn't make sense of, but this one clearly got away from him.

"I wish I had never said it." he admitted before the series.

It didn't help that his September loss to the Yankees was part of a season-ending run of four losses in six decisions for him. His worst run in years had the baseball world doubting his fastball and wondering if he was still a dominating pitcher.

He had to try to answer that question last night on baseball's grandest stage, with nowhere to hide.

Talk about pressure.

This was one instance of an athlete certifiably earning every penny of his mega-millions salary.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona sounded encouraged before the game, claiming he was confident Martinez would perform well.

"This [Game 2] is obviously very important to us. The guy pitching for us will relish that." Francona said. "The atmosphere will be incredible. And he will throw a gem for us."

Against that backdrop, Martinez walked to the mound in the bottom of the first last night as another sellout crowd rocked the stadium with boos and chants.

He smiled and seemed to try to answer the "Who's your daddy?' question by pointing to the heavens in between warmup pitches.

Then he started the game by walking Derek Jeter on four pitches and hitting Alex Rodriguez.

When Gary Sheffield followed with a run-scoring single, it seemed the Yankees were going to waste no time proving they did, indeed, lord it over Martinez as a paternal figure might.

But Martinez settled down, struck out the next two batters and escaped the inning without allowing another run. He then made it through the next four innings without allowing a run, working deliberately but effectively as the chants slowly decreased.

He struck out Alex Rodriguez looking to end the second, then seemed to reach a higher level when he struck out Sheffield and Hideki Matsui to end the fifth.

But the Yankees maintained the 1-0 lead behind their starting pitcher, Jon Lieber, who was Martinez's opposite, a low-profile veteran making just his second career postseason start.

Lieber's surprising effectiveness forced Martinez to remain perfect, and the pressure eventually got to him. With one out and a runner on first in the bottom of the sixth, the Yankees" John Olerud crushed a home run into the right-field bleachers, pushing the New York lead to 3-0.

The night had turned, and as Olerud circled the bases, the mocking chant once again filled the air:

"Who's your daaa-ddy? Who's your daaa-ddy?'

There was no place for Martinez to hide.

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