06/11/2003 10:13 PM ET
Pedro, Red Sox stifle the Cards
Martinez pitches three scoreless innings
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
BOSTON -- Picasso probably could have whipped out a pretty artistic piece of work if he went 27 days without his paintbrush. Hemingway surely could have cranked out a must-read passage after 27 days without his pen. So why should anyone be shocked that Pedro Martinez went back to his office Wednesday night and fired three crisp innings without pain or rust after his 27-day hiatus from the mound?
That is why he is who he is. Showing no ill effects from the strained latissimus dorsi muscle that sidelined him, Martinez fired three shutout innings as the Red Sox pounded the Cardinals, 13-1.
No, Martinez didn't leave with an injury. It was by design the three-time Cy Young award winner went three innings in his first appearance since May 15.
The Red Sox can breathe a lot easier knowing that their ace is back in the mix.
"It's huge," said Red Sox center fielder Johnny Damon. "To have him pitch three innings and know we're going to have him every fifth day now, it puts a little pep to our step. We know some days when the offense doesn't show up, Pedro can go out there and shut them down. It's good. He felt great, he was in great spirits and I can't wait to see him pitch again."
Next up for Martinez are the White Sox in Chicago on Monday. Though the truest test of how the injury has progressed will come when he wakes up Thursday morning, Martinez has a sneaking suspicion that he is out of the woods from an ailment he never had before.
"Tomorrow is going to be a big day, definitely," Martinez said. "But I'm right away jumping ahead and saying I'm going to feel better according to what I feel right now."
It is hardly surprising that the Red Sox went 9-13 while Martinez was absent. Sure, he pitches just once every fifth day. But he means more than that to his team and his pitching staff.
"Having Pedro out there meant the world because we need our No. 1 guy and tonight he looked like he normally looked," said Sox second baseman Todd Walker. "It wasn't as if he was holding back. He didn't look like he was out for however long he was out."
Even Martinez, who finished a 1-2-3 first inning by striking out J.D. Drew looking and Albert Pujols swinging, sounded a little surprised at just how at home he felt on the mound.
"Pretty good, pretty confident," Martinez said. "(I was) actually locked in (considering) the time away from the mound. I thought I was pretty good, and pretty much in command of all my pitches."
The only thing he didn't get was the win, and that was only because he didn't go the minimum requirement of five innings for a starter.
He surrendered two hits in this 47-pitch, 33-strike cameo, issuing no walks and registering three strikeouts.
With their ace back on the hill, all seemed right for the 36-27 Sox, who moved back in front of the Yankees by a half-game in the AL East.
Martinez had a 9-0 lead after three, paving the way for 38-year-old right-hander John Burkett to pick up one of the most stress-free victories of his 14-year career.
The crafty right-hander pitched the final six innings and scattered eight hits and allowed one earned run to improve to 4-3.
Burkett will take his regular rotation spot back next Wednesday in Chicago. On this night, he was happy to be the long man that gave the over-burdened bullpen a much-needed respite.
"My main objective was to get through it and not have to go to our bullpen," Burkett said. "Our guys down there have had a lot of work recently. I really wanted to throw strikes, which is my game."
Though Martinez was by all means the story of the game, the Red Sox had a plethora of key contributors on offense.
Leading the way was leadoff man Damon, who had four hits and three RBIs. Nomar Garciaparra produced his Major League-leading 10th triple of the season. Kevin Millar drove in three runs and Bill Mueller belted three hits. Trot Nixon and Manny Ramirez continued their recent power surges with home runs.
As much as the pitching staff was burdened by Martinez's absence, the offense never relented.
"Our guys responded with a lot of runs," Burkett said. "Our offense just continues to impress. That's really the story of tonight, aside from Pedro coming back."
If not for those big bats enabling the Sox to at least tread water these last few weeks, Martinez might have felt an irresistible urge to rush back to the mound before he was ready.
"Those are moments when you sometimes rush yourself and get yourself hurt," Martinez said. "I did want to come out and pitch, probably sooner than I thought. But thanks to God we have a good team behind us and a team that can score some runs and they kept us in the fifth. And they gave us the support that we needed so I could get healthy and come back like I came back today."
Much to the chagrin of the Cardinals, Martinez wasn't lacking any velocity or location in his return to the hill.
"There isn't anybody out there that's any better," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. "I thought he looked like he hadn't missed a step. I'm sure he could have pitched longer if they'd wanted to push him. I'm sure they're glad to get him back."
Which was, of course, the understatement of the night.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.