Probably not, if we all think about it. As Joe Girardi said, “At this time of year you usually see a good pitcher every night’’ and whether that is true or not, this night we saw two of them in A.J. Burnett and Pedro Martinez.
Burnett was the winner in the Yankees’ 3-1 triumph, which levels this World Series at a game each. Pedro Martinez was the loser, although he pitched very well himself and it was good to see this 38-year-old, a guy who will get this Hall of Fame vote some day (we hope), stand up to 50,000 people screaming at him and handle himself well. Better than well, actually.
He was outstanding and that considers he made two mistakes, leaving a high change-up that Mark Teixeira pulled out to right-centre, then “flipping up’’ a curve ball that Hideki Matsui went down and golfed over the short fence in straight right field. He would give up another couple of hits when he was running on fumes, but no matter; he had pitched well enough to win and didn’t because Burnett, who can blow up at any time but didn’t this time, pitched better.
“Regardless of what happened, I’m extremely proud and happy being able to participate and compete against a real, real good team,’’ said Martinez, a free agent without a contract until the Phillies signed him in mid-season. “To be able to put my team in position to catch up or win that game and at the same time tell myself I made the right decision by coming back and getting this opportunity. It was a real good game. It was a real baseball game.’’
It was, too. The heart of the game is, and always has been and will be, pitching. We’ve seen four starters in two nights and all four have been outstanding. Martinez, who at one pointing his career was as good as anyone in the game, has lost some of his arsenal, but it’s always great to see a smart guy change his approach and use what he has.
“I have been working a lot harder at mixing my pitches and hitting location now, keeping the ball low. I know I don’t have that 95- (or) 97-mile-an-hour fastball. Since I came back, I have not had it,’’ he said. “I still feel I can get people out with, you know, what I have. I think 90 or 93 sometimes is good enough to get it by anybody, if you use your other pitches.’’
Burnett, who is younger and stronger than Martinez and has better stuff, doesn’t have the same head. But he said he had listened to Cliff Lee, the Game One master, in his post-game interviews and heard a light go on in his own head. He and Lee have the same agent and are from the same part of the world, Arkansas, which is why he was listening.
“He talked about confidence and he talked about belief in his stuff and I told myself last night and today the same thing. I went out tonight with confidence,’’ Burnett said. “The game just rolled by. I was in a good rhythm. (Matt) Stairs hit a good pitch to get his RBI, but it never stopped me and I just continued to stay in that rhythm and just continued to try to get strike one.’’
He threw 21 first-pitch strikes to 26 batters, which is outstanding. Martinez wasn’t quite as good, but no matter. If you like pitching, the way I do, this was good stuff to watch, easy to enjoy. The only bad part is that every game nudges up against deadlines, or else goes right past them.