The other day, I posted something on a Reddit thread about which season was better: Pedro Martinez in 2000 or Clayton Kershaw in 2014. Like most of my fellow respondents, I felt that Pedro was the clear winner, though I still noted that Kershaw has been “remarkable” and “sensational.”
That wasn’t enough for one person, who pointed out that Kershaw has a lower batting average than ERA, the implication being that I was somehow downgrading the Dodgers’ lefthander.
That response made me curious, and I headed off to Baseball-Reference to check out Pedro’s offensive numbers. For his career, he hit .099 with no home runs, 18 RBI, and 190 strikeouts in 434 at-bats. His OPS+ was -32.
Most of his plate appearances came when he was in the National League (1992-97 and 2005-09). During his seven seasons (1998-2004) with the Red Sox, however, he came to the plate 21 times – once he delivered a sacrifice bunt, once he walked, and ten times he struck out, part of the 19 times in total that he came to the plate and sent back to the dugout without recording a hit.
It was the sort of futility you would expect from an American League pitcher trying to play by National League rules, and I was all set to walk away and go about my business when I noticed something that struck me as interesting: despite not hitting safely in those 19 at-bats, Pedro managed to score a single run in seven years.
It came in 2002 – on June 20, 2002, to be specific – against the San Diego Padres. Matched up against the immortal Kevin Pickford, Pedro began the game in typical Pedro fashion, striking out the first five Padres he faced (all of them swinging) before allowing two runners to reach without consequence. In the top of the third, Pickford hit Lou Merloni before giving up a sacrifice bunt to Pedro. Lou was stranded, however, and the game remained scoreless through four.
In the top of the fifth, Pickford struck out Trot Nixon and got Merloni to ground out to third. The rookie was rolling, with only two singles and a hit batsman on the negative side of his ledger, and the opposing pitcher coming up to the plate.
Of course, Pickford didn’t know it at the time, but Pedro Martinez the batter had his number. I mentioned above that in his time with the Red Sox, Pedro delivered two positive offensive outcomes. The first was the sacrifice bunt that moved Lou Merloni over to second in the third inning; the second was the walk that he drew with two outs and nobody on in the fifth.
The next batter, Rickey Henderson, singled to center field, moving Pedro to second and putting two men on for Johnny Damon. Damon demonstrated to Pickford why it is a bad idea to issue a two out walk, especially to the pitcher, tripling to right-center field to score both runners and give the Red Sox a 2-0 lead. Pickford was given one more batter to right the ship, but a walk to Nomar Garciaparra sealed his fate and he was removed in favor of Rodney Myers; he would pitch one more month for the Padres, mostly out of the bullpen, before being shipped back to the minors.
Pedro flied out and struck out in his final two at-bats of the day, but the damage was done: the Red Sox won the game, 5-0, meaning that on the finest offensive day of his time in Boston, Pedro Martinez scored the eventual winning run. (He also allowed just two hits and struck out eleven batters in eight innings pitched, which at that point was really just another day in the life of Pedro Martinez.)