A hanging 3-2 pitch from closer Braden Looper was sent soaring over the scoreboard fence in left field and into a sea of red at the Great American Ballpark. Joe Randa had struck again, this time driving a dagger through the Mets 2005 season opener. The loss not only served as a disappointing debut for skipper Willie Randolph, but shattered one of the more dominant pitching performances in Mets history.
That warm April afternoon was to commemorate the launching of a new era in Mets lure. “The New Mets,” as newly inked slugger Carlos Beltran dubbed them. Pedro Martinez took the hill fresh off of a World Series title with Boston, Martinez was the poster boy for the winning culture Omar Minaya hoped to deliver to the Flushing faithful for years to come.
After yielding only a first inning solo shot to Reds slugger Adam Dunn, the three-time Cy Young award winner not only retired the next 14 batters that stepped into the batters box, but in the process, remarkably struck out 12 of them. He threw 103 pitches in his first outing while dawning a Mets uniform and appeared to be as dominant a pitcher to ever toe the rubber for the Amazins.
“He struck out the world.” Looper jokingly stated after allowing three runs to score in the bottom of the ninth. “I feel bad for him more than anyone.”
Martinez returns to the grounds where it all started this afternoon. On the surface, it is only a September meeting against one of the worst teams in all of Major League Baseball. However, it is undoubtedly the most crucial start Pedro Martinez will make in quite some time, arguably ever along the course of his illustrious career. Though he isn’t going to be coming with the 97mph petrol he once took to the hill, he is still arguably the most intelligent pitcher in the game today. Perhaps as important a start as it is for Martinez, it is more critical for the organization. The Mets are in need of a spark, not only is Pedro a vital piece to their grueling playoff push, but he is going to be relied on heavily in 2008 as a focal point in the starting rotation.
Much stock shouldn’t be placed in his box score, but rather in the way he feels in the coming days. Not to suggest his on-field performance is not significant, certainly if he goes out and gets touched for up for six runs in an inning of work, while topping out at 84mph, then their would be cause for concern. Nevertheless, on a limited pitch count, what should be monitored closely is his location and movement. Velocity is not nearly as imperative when you can hit sports and alter speeds at the drop of a dime.
Along with a new season, a new shoulder, Pedro’s 2007 debut comes along with a revitalized approach. When he stepped out of the visitors dug out for his first start in 2005, it was the start of a new chapter, a fresh start if you will. Two seasons later, it is again a clear slate for Pedro, no longer is he going to blow sluggers away; he is going to have to be innovative and use his smarts to gain the upper hand. It is only fitting that when he takes the mound today, that he do it in Cincinnati….. where it all began.