BOSTON - APRIL 04: Former the Boston Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez greets the fans before the game against the New York Yankees on April 4, 2010 during Opening Night at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Pedro Martinez' 1999 season will forever rank as one of the best of all time. In an era where new offensive heights were being reached with some regularity, the Sox' ace recorded a league-best 2.07 ERA and struck out 13 batters per nine innings. When the end of the season came around, he received every first place vote for the Cy Young Award, and came in second in the MVP race despite receiving more first place votes than eventual winner Ivan Rodriguez.
He was putting up dead-ball era numbers against steroid era competition, playing in tiny Fenway Park. And he was never better than when he was facing the best.
The National League lineup in the 1999 All-Star Game was, to put it simply, loaded. Anchored by a 3-4 punch of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, who had one season before chased and surpassed Roger Maris' home run record, the top-6 was a murderer's row of men who are either future Hall of Famers, or are doomed to be kept off due to steroid allegations.
Them and Matt Williams.
It was this group of six men that Pedro Martinez was asked to get out, and not one of them really stood a chance.
First up was Barry Larkin, who actually put up a fight, fouling off a number of 2-2 fastballs to stay alive. Then Pedro dropped the changeup on him, and he was helpless, swinging and missing for the first strikeout.
Larry Walker was up next. He would strike out only 52 times during the 1999 regular season, but Pedro had no problem, catching him looking on the fourth pitch.
In came Sammy Sosa, but one of the greatest home run hitters of the day could not catch up to Pedro's fastball. The inning ended with Pedro's third strikeout in front of a packed Fenway crowd.
Pedro was far from done, however. The one man who beat Sosa out the year before stood in to start the second: Mark McGwire. His record proved little protection against Pedro, however, and he went down the same way as all the rest.
The streak was finally broken up by Matt Williams, of all people. One of the more strikeout-prone members of the lineup, Williams did manage to put the ball in play, reaching first when Pedro's defense failed to back him up the first time he asked them for any help. But Pedro would not be denied his 1-2-3 inning, as he struck out Jeff Bagwell with speed enough for Ivan Rodriguez to gun Williams down at second.
The National League had sent its best at Pedro, and he had sent them back broken and bruised. There was no such thing as a match for Pedro around the turn of the century, and he proved it that night in July.