Pedro Martínez relishes 3000th strikeout
Pedro Martínez sat on the precipice of 3,000 strikeouts for nearly a year.
When he finally became the 15th pitcher to reach the milestone on Sept. 3, 2007, the Mets right-hander was overjoyed.
“It’s indescribable,” Martínez told The New York Times. “I’m really excited, I’m really happy and I’m very thankful.”
The matchup against the Reds at Great American Ballpark marked Martínez’s first start since Sept. 27, 2006. He had spent the previous 11 months recovering from surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in October 2006.
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In his return to the mound, Martínez worked five innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits as New York defeated Cincinnati 10-4.
“It’s been awhile since I could say that I’m good enough to pick up a ball tomorrow and go right back out there and do it again,” Martínez said. “I’m going to continue to work hard. If I work hard, it will obviously pay off. I’m not done yet.”
Martínez came into the game with 2,998 strikeouts. In the bottom of the first, he allowed a pair of runs and didn’t record a strikeout. But in the second, he turned in a 1-2-3 frame, getting Scott Hatteberg to strike out swinging, retiring Edwin Encarnación on a flyout and then fanning Reds pitcher Aaron Harang for No. 3,000.
Martínez’s battery mate Paul Lo Duca, seemingly unaware of the milestone, rolled the ball back to the mound as the inning came to an end. But Martínez quickly scooped it up and brought it back to the dugout with him for safekeeping.
Martínez’s fastball velocity was down, but he pitched with finesse and, backed by the Mets offense, delivered the win in his 2007 debut, as he threw 76 pitches – one more than the planned 75.
“He didn’t throw that hard,” Reds leadoff hitter Josh Hamilton told the Journal News. “But he mixed speeds well and he mixed his pitches. He kept us off balance.”
The biggest win for Martínez was that he was finally healthy and ready to pitch his team through the season’s final month.
“It was good to get the first one out of the way,” Martínez said. “I did what I was supposed to do. I pitched five innings. I gave my team a chance to win the game. But most importantly, I came out of it healthy.”
In his return to the team, Martínez was starting to look like the Mets’ good luck charm. Since he had rejoined the club in Atlanta four days earlier, the Mets had rattled off four straight wins.
“Everyone’s starting to call me lucky charm,” Martínez said.
But it may have been more than luck. To teammates, the influence of Martínez was undeniable.
“He’s a shot of life in the clubhouse,” Mets third baseman David Wright said. “Guys flock to him. Guys rally around him for just being Pedro.”
Though the Mets fell short of the playoffs in 2007, Martínez assembled a strong September in his return, posting a 2.57 ERA in five starts.
He would play one more season in New York before finishing his big league career with the Phillies in 2009. Martínez retired with 3,154 strikeouts and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2015.
Janey Murray was the digital content specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum