“I don’t even know my numbers, to be honest,” Martinez said when asked about the heated race for the division crown. “That’s how much I’m paying attention.”
Once he steps onto the Yankee Stadium mound for Sunday’s series finale, he’ll quickly be reminded of his place in baseball’s biggest rivalry.
Martinez has been at the center of seemingly every big moment between the Yankees and Red Sox since arriving in Boston in 1998, and things have only intensified over the last two seasons.
During last year’s AL championship series, Martinez threw 72-year-old Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer to the ground during a bench-clearing skirmish in Game 3 and gave up a three-run eighth-inning lead in Game 7 as New York rallied to win the pennant.
Martinez pitched seven brilliant innings in a 2-0 victory in the Bronx on April 25, and did not receive a decision in New York’s memorable 13-inning home win over Boston on July 1 in his last Yankee Stadium appearance.
Despite his history with the Yankees, Martinez insists Sunday’s showdown with fellow right-hander Mike Mussina will be a start “just like any other.”
“Every game counts,” he said. “We’re winning one game at a time, we’re not trying to do anything special. Why, any panic? You guys had us out for a little while, I mean, for at least two months we were out of it.”
After taking Friday’s series opener 3-2 by rallying for two runs in the ninth inning off Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, the Red Sox were pounded early and often in an ugly 14-4 loss Saturday.
Martinez was noncommittal about the importance of Sunday’s start. When asked whether he felt he was relied upon to stop losing streaks, he said, “I’m only going to try and give 100 percent effort. I’m not a stopper, I’m not anything. I’m just a player trying to earn his living and do his job.”
Saturday’s loss dropped Boston 3 1/2 games behind New York. With a three-game series against the Yankees looming at Fenway Park next weekend, the Red Sox would like to see Martinez cut into the deficit again before they return to Boston for a four-game set with Baltimore.
“Hopefully, Pedro can pick me up tommorrow,” said Derek Lowe, who gave up seven runs while recording just three outs before leaving Saturday’s game after taking a line drive off the leg.
The Yankees admitted that getting a victory Saturday was critical after Friday night’s rare meltdown by Rivera.
“To come back and win this game was very important,” said Yankees outfielder Gary Sheffield.