Pedro Martínez blanks Indians in Game 5 of ALDS

Written by: Craig Muder

After three-and-a-half innings, the Boston Red Sox held a 9-8 advantage on the Cleveland Indians in Game 5 of the American League Division Series.

No one at Jacobs Field on the night of Oct. 11, 1999, could have predicted what would come next.

Red Sox manager Jimy Williams, hoping against hope, summoned his ace – Pedro Martínez – from the bullpen to begin the bottom of the fourth. Martínez, arguably baseball’s best pitcher at that point, had left Game 1 after four shutout innings due to a strained muscle in his back. Red Sox team physicians told Williams and Martínez before the game that he might be able to work an inning or two at the most.

Six innings later, Martínez had held the vaunted Cleveland lineup hitless, wrapping up the 12-8 win and the series for the Red Sox.

“I put my career in jeopardy that game,” Martínez told Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated. “I knew that.

“Why? We had to win the game.”

Martinez faced just three batters over the minimum through six innings, walking three while striking out eight. His diminished fastball never topped 90 mph due to the injury, but Martínez willed his way through the night in Cleveland.

“What makes Pedro so great is he’s so intelligent,” Cleveland’s Jim Thome told Verducci. “You watch Pedro and it’s like a cat-and-mouse game, and he’s the cat, studying you.”

In a twist of fate, the second-to-last batter of the game was Cleveland’s Dave Roberts, who lined out to shortstop. Five years later, Roberts’ stolen base in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series would rally the Red Sox to a victory and eventually the World Series title. Martínez helped make it happen with a win in Game 3 of the World Series against the Cardinals.

In 1999, Martínez and Boston lost to New York in the ALCS. Martínez blanked the Yankees on two hits over seven innings in Game 3, but never took the mound again that season as the Yankees won the series in five games.

The next year, Martínez had what many believe to be the best season by a pitcher in the last 50 years – posting a 1.74 ERA over 217 American League innings. His WHIP ratio of 0.737 that season is the best of any starter in history.

Martínez left the Red Sox following the 2004 World Series and finished his career with the Mets and Phillies, retiring after the 2009 season. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2015.

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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