"We didn't get beat by the Red Sox. We got beat by Pedro Martinez"
- Paul O'Neill, New York Yankees
Boston pulled to within five and a half games of the Yankees in the American League East, hoisted almost single-handedly by a pitcher with a sagging face, the body of an oversized jockey, and an arm and confidence of a comic book superhero.
New York Times, September 11, 1999
Fifteen years ago today on September 10, 1999 Pedro Martinez pitched a one-hitter, striking out 17 Yankees, a team that would go on to win its second consecutive World Series that year, in one of the most dominating pitching performances in recent decades.
THC listened to some of the game on the radio as he drove to the home of his friend RM where he watched the last couple of innings on TV.
The Yankee game was a capstone for a season that is in the argument for the best season by the pitcher in the past half century. In 1999, Pedro won 23, losing only 4 while making only 29 starts plus two relief appearances. Over 213 innings he gave up only 160 hits, walking only 37 while striking out 313 and having only 9 home runs hit off of him. His ERA of 2.07 led the American League which had an overall ERA of 4.86 during that offense-crazed period of baseball. If not for one horrendous start against the Florida Marlins his ERA would have been 1.81. And during the All-Star game that year, played in Fenway, Pedro struck out five of the six batters he faced. Of course there are those who say his 2000 season was at least as good!
Coming into the Yankee game, Pedro had been on a hot streak even in the context of his '99 season. In his prior three starts he'd given up 10 hits, one earned run and five walks in 22 innings while striking out 41 batters.
At Yankee Stadium that night in front of packed house of 55,239 all of Pedro's pitches (fastball, curve and change) were working. He gave up a second inning home run to Chili Davis but no other Yankee reached base that night. Every Yankee struck out at least once and the Red Sox won 3-1. You can watch each one of his strikeouts:
On September 12, Bob Ryan writing in the Boston Globe quoted Yankee David Cone (who pitched a perfect game two months earlier):
``It was the best-pitched game I’ve ever seen,’’ asserts the great Yankee hurler.
Cone really does believe Pedro’s masterpiece was a more dominant pitching display than his 27-up, 27-down dispatch of the Montreal Expos on July 18.
``I’ve never seen anything better,’’ reiterates Cone. ``He had three completely dominant pitches: a great fastball, a knee-buckling curve, and a parachute changeup. Other than that, what else do you need?’’
To Cone’s way of thinking, Pedro’s repertoire is nothing less than unfair.
``I saw [Orel] Hershiser’s great year in ‘88, and he basically did it with one pitch, a hard sinker,’’ says Cone. ``Nolan Ryan had a fastball and a curve. Mike Scott, when he was at his peak, had a fastball and a splitter. Dwight Gooden was another one with a fastball and a curve. Pedro has three great pitches.’’
In his last eight appearances in 1999 (seven starts, one relief) Pedro pitched 56 innings giving up only 28 hits, eight walks and five earned runs while striking out 97 and going 6-0. If you add in his first 18 starts of 2000 you end up with one of the most marvelous sustained pitching streaks in baseball history:
26 appearances (25 starts), 193 IP, 110 H, 33 BB, 285 K, 1.21 ERA 18 W, 3 L
Pedro's ERA was about 25% of the league average during this period. Given the offensive context no pitcher may have ever had a better stretch of this duration.