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The Monday/Tuesday Flyby : Dominance on the Mound

We asked what your picks were for the most dominant games were. Surprisingly, not all of them were about Pedro Martinez!

Boston Red Sox v Detroit Tigers
Chris Sale might have an entry on this list in time. For now, he’s just the cover boy of current Red Sox pitching dominance.
Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

The Red Sox have had a decent amount of dominant pitchers in the current century, even if Boston is mostly known for their big bats, monster walls in left field, and amazing hot dogs. With such names as Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Jon Lester, and now Chris Sale, the Red Sox have found themselves to not be lacking in big talent in the rotation.

But as great as all those guys were, I asked the singular best performance you ever saw, which meant it could be a lone start by a pitcher who wasn’t an ace. For example, last season, Eduardo Rodriguez had a game where he struck out 13 batters in under 6 innings, Josh Beckett had a start in 2011, where he held the Yankees to 2 hits over 8 innings (while striking out 10 batters), and who can forget Hideo Nomo, Derek Lowe, Clay Buchholz, and their no hitters?

So which starts did you go with?

One response, by SoxFanInDC, chronicles the adventures of Tim Wakefield. Perhaps better known to newer fans as the guy who gave up a key home run in the 2003 ALCS, and as a pitcher who just seemingly would never retire until he got to 200 wins (so happy for him), Tim Wakefield had one start under his belt that stood out to this user.

Tampa Bay Rays v Boston Red Sox
Tim Wakefield may not have been an expected choice, but don’t mistake that to mean he’s an undeserving one. Wakefield was one of the best when the knuckleball was dancing.
Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images

Wakefield and Randy Johnson, who were 39 and 42, respectively, dueled back and forth all night. One look at the box score doesn’t even say it all. The Red Sox and Yankees, both featuring a veritable Murderer’s Row of high level hitters (and Doug Mirabelli and John Flaherty), were held to one combined run the entire game by two pitchers who by all rights probably could have been, or should have been, retired.

When I say they were a Murderer’s Row, while hyperbole, it’s not as big a stretch as it sounds. In 2005, the Red Sox and Yankees were 1 and 2 in almost every important offensive category. In wOBA? First and second. In wRC+? Second and first. OPS? One-two. The point being, these two teams were objectively the two best offenses in baseball, and Wakefield and the Big Unit both shut each other’s opposing lineup down.

The Yankees would win the game, but Wakefield would be the only pitcher to take the mound for the Sox that night, while Randy Johnson got to hand things over to Tom Gordon and Mariano Rivera. It’s even more dramatic a game when you consider the only run to score happened in the first inning. Neither team would so much as threaten to take down the other starter after that point.

Wakefield would get the loss, but his persistence would serve as a reminder as to why he was still pitching for the Red Sox. When he was on, he was on, and that’s all you can ask out of a dominant pitcher.

But there’s more than one way for a pitcher to be considered dominant. It’s not always about simply shutting down the other team. Sometimes, it can be as much as convincing fans of other teams to root for you, because what you are doing is special. A user named jimbotomy regales us with such a tale, of Pedro Martinez, on one May 12th, 2000.

I couldn’t really do it justice, so I recommend giving it a thorough read. What is important to point out, is that by the end of the game, Orioles fans were cheering for a member of the Red Sox. In Camden. If one of our pitchers managed to do that now, I’d think hell had frozen over.

Rangers v Red Sox
Pedro Martinez, the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be.

While I have your attention though, I would like to draw attention to some numbers from Pedro’s 2000 season. His 1.74 ERA, 291 ERA+, .737 WHIP, and 11.8 k/9 is all I need to look at to know it was a special season. In the heights of the steroid era, Pedro wasn’t just successful, he was head and shoulders above everyone else, to the point where if you were facing Pedro Martinez, you knew you were almost certain to lose that game.

Pedro Martinez is one of the main reasons I am a Red Sox fan, and it was games like this one, in May of the year 2000, that are responsible for me being a fan of baseball today.

Again, I have some pieces from staff writers of OTM.

Bryan Joiner

The best-pitched game in Red Sox history was Pedro Martinez against the Yankees in New York on September 10, 1999. The only meaningful question about the quality of this game, historically speaking, is whether or not is the best game ever pitched by anyone, ever. It is ultimately probably not, but it has a case. Martinez was facing the reigning and soon-to-be-repeat World Series champions, a team that had set the record for wins in a season in the all-around lunatic year prior. But for a single pitch to Chili Davis in the second inning (befriend your enemy!), he would have had a perfect game. This is better. As Armando Galaragga can tell you in a way Norm Charlton or Dallas Braden cannot, it's our flaws that make us human -- and Pedro is, we know now, very human. On that night, he was angry, especially after Davis' home run. His velocity alone is breathtaking, but his impact is perhaps best illustrated by the reactions to his breaking and offspeed pitches, even the bad ones -- the Yankees have no idea what's coming, as if they're trying to understand the rules of the game. You will laugh:

Here’s a link to Pedro Martinez striking out some fools.

Matt Collins

I grew up watching Pedro Martinez in his prime, so I’ve seen my fair share of dominant outings. In fact, I came very close to writing about his relief appearance in the 1999 ALDS, but decided to go a different route. The game I am choosing isn’t really the most dominant outing I’ve seen, but it’s probably the most memorable.

I’ve written before about how much the 2007 season meant for me, mostly because it came at just the right age for me to fully appreciate it. Towards the end of that season, on September 1, Clay Buchholz threw a no-hitter, and it was magnificent. You see, this was only Buchholz’ second career start. There were high hopes for the young righty -- he was a top-50 prospect in the league heading into that season -- but no one could’ve expected a performance like that.

Tampa Bay Rays v Boston Red Sox
Clay Buchholz may not have been entirely consistent in his tenure in Boston, but he provided more than a few ace-like starts, including a no-hitter in his second career start.
Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

I remember vividly where I was, too. Sitting in my friend’s basement drinking disgusting beer in the midst of one of those lame high school parties that you think are so fun at the time. Everyone around me was playing beer pong and otherwise getting into teenage mischief, but I was enthralled by the young Buchholz’ performance. As the game got later, I got some company on the couch.

Then, the final pitch came. It was a perfect curveball dropped right into the strike zone and it was watched for strike three. Out runs Varitek, picking up the rookie fresh off a masterpiece performance in his second career start in the midst of a playoff race. Up off the couch I jumped, startling those who weren’t paying attention. We all know how Buchholz’ career with the Red Sox ended up, turning into one of the most frustrating players in recent memory. That start showed who he was when he was at his best, though. And that is one of the most entertaining pitchers I’ve ever seen.

Similar to Matt, I had gone back and forth on what I was going to write about. In no particular order, I considered Nomo or Lester’s no-hitter, Pedro’s performance in that legendary all-star game, Josh Beckett’s deconstruction of the Yankees in 2011, Schilling coming within one out of a no-hitter in his last season in Boston... the list goes on and on, and on. And if I tried to recap them all, it would be too long for OTM, and my editors would shake their heads and do the unappreciated job of cutting it all out, into a fun-size portion for the audience.

Instead, I’m going to write about an outing, that while sort of controversial in nature, is what has led to the belief that a game, a series, and hope in general, is not over, until it is over.

The Bloody Sock.

If you have been a Red Sox fan for any length of time, even if you are new to the fanbase, you know the story. But to anyone who has been living under a rock, unaware of the storybook performance...

Curt Schilling was a shiny new ace in town in 2004. Traded to the Red Sox just in time for Thanksgiving dinner, there was excitement and urgency in Boston. After a crushing defeat in 2003, no expense was spared, to pair with Pedro, a second ace was brought in.

Red Sox v Angels
This is an image from the fateful game in 2004, where the “Bloody Sock” incident began. Pitching in Game 1 of the ALDS, Schilling would tear his tendon sheath in his right ankle.
Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Fast-forward to the playoffs. After an accomplished first season in Boston, there was hype for the playoffs. With Pedro and Schilling in the rotation, you could take some pressure off the other guys, and put some more on the other team. Crusing into the ALDS, everything seemed set. We were going to go to the ALCS, probably, and face off with the Yankees with our new toys.

But as things tend to go in Boston, it can never be easy. Schilling would go on to tear his tendon sheath in his right ankle, and that in itself, sounded like a death knell. Despite all odds, Schilling would manage to not just recover to play in the ALCS, but he even took the ball in Game 1 of the ALCS. Probably to no one’s surprise, Schilling was not sharp. He went three innings, gave up 6 earned runs, and the air of defeat was beginning to hang in Boston.

With little hope left, the Sox would lose the next two games, and be down 0-3, a hole no one had ever escaped from. Game 4 would put off elimination another day. A hard fought Game 5 (which stands as one of the best bullpen performances of all-time) would show that the Sox would not go quietly into the night.

But Game 6 is where I started to believe that there could be a time where the Sox would not let us down. Pitching with blood literally leaking through his sock, he would somehow not only improve on his first performance in the ALCS, but be utterly dominant from start to finish. While he only struck out four in seven innings, the big number wasn’t his strikeout totals in this game. It was the amount of earned runs, one. A solo shot by Bernie Williams. When the chips were down, and Curt Schilling knew he couldn’t just blow it by guys that night, he changed the game plan. He would mow through the Yankees hitters, who would hit long fly balls that just didn’t have enough, or dribble the ball weakly to the infielders.

One could argue that the long fly balls keep it from being a dominant outing, but you could just as easily turn that around the say it was a miracle that he was able to get the ball over the plate, and not just that, but actually get batters out (21 of them to be exact).

Red Sox v Yankees Game 6
And here is an image of Curt Schilling pitching against the Yankees in Game 6 of the ALCS, the game in which Schilling would go 7 innings, allowing only one earned run, despite having an injury that would likely have kept most men at home.
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

By the end of the night, “The Sock” was completely blood red. The name “Red Sox” began to mean something more to me that night. It showed to me, that at the core, the city of Boston doesn’t really give up. If you come to Boston, and you want to be accepted, you have to put in the work to prove that you belong. The past means nothing, if you cannot continually evolve as a player. Schilling wasn’t born into the rivalry. He was traded into it, and he provided one of the last great memories that the rivalry might ever have. It no longer has the same fire it once did.

There’s been controversy over whether the blood on the sock was real, and while I don’t want to totally ignore that, I don’t think it really matters. In the end, it made for excellent drama, and helped inspire a 12 year old kid who was beginning to love baseball in earnest.

And that does it for this week! See you all on Friday!