WASHINGTON (AP)—Pedro Martinez vs. Jose Guillen. Bases loaded. One-run game. One who had declared “enough is enough” after the other had hit him twice in one game last week. Both teams playing under a season-long warning to cut out the beanballs.
This was great baseball theater.
Martinez threw a ball. Catcher Paul Lo Duca called time, went to the mound and gave Martinez a hard “Let’s go” pat on the behind as they parted. Three pitches later, Guillen hit a 91-mile-per-hour pitch to the shortstop. Double play. Martinez had worked out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam to end the Washington Nationals’ last real threat, and the New York Mets went to a 3-1 victory for their fifth straight win.
“Usually in a game like this you’re hopeful for one good shot at a pitcher like Pedro,” Nationals manager Frank Robinson said. “And we got that in the sixth inning. We couldn’t ask for any better chance than we had there, with the people we had coming to the plate. We got nothing out of it.”
Martinez (2-0) struck out Jose Vidro, who had earlier homered, with a high fastball before facing Guillen. The sixth inning was the only real trouble for the Mets ace on a night in which he allowed three hits and walked one over seven innings. He struck out only three and allowed the Nationals to hit 11 fly ball outs to the spacious confines of RFK Stadium.
Most importantly, he avoided anything close to a repeat of the troubles that marred last week’s series between the teams in New York, when seven batters were hit—six by Mets pitchers—and a near-fight ensued after Guillen was plunked for the fifth time by Martinez in his career. Guillen said later: “We used to be friends, but that relationship is over.”
Washington right-hander Felix Rodriguez and manager Frank Robinson were suspended by Major League Baseball, although Rodriguez’s suspension is under appeal. Guillen was fined. Before Wednesday’s game, both Robinson and Mets manager Willie Randolph confirmed that they had been warned by umpires that brushbacks and hit batters would be scrutinized whenever these two teams play for the rest of the season.
It was only fitting, therefore, that Martinez would face Guillen in the game’s most crucial at-bat.
“It could happen in any game, but you know what? I don’t hold any grudges,” Martinez said. “He’s probably bitter still, but I’m just going to continue to pray for him, and hopefully it will get better, his temper will change. I still have respect for his bat, he’s a good hitter and I’m just going to continue to do what I have to do. And I was glad that, when I’m OK, I don’t need to hit anybody.”
Guillen had much less to say when asked if he was glad nothing unseemly happened: “They win. It’s over.”
Then he paused, realizing the teams will face each other 13 more times this season. “It’s not over, but they win,” he said.
Guillen did give credit to Martinez for a well-pitched game, and he and Vidro took the blame for not converting when given the chance in the sixth. Vidro, perhaps showing frustration over the offensive woes in the Nationals’ four-game losing streak, also launched into a lengthy diatribe over his frustrations with RFK, where long fly balls go to die in outfielders’ gloves.
“This ballpark is not a good ballpark,” said Vidro, who hit his third homer of the season. “It killed us last year, and it’s going to kill us again this year. The organization looked deep into it last year, saw what happened and didn’t change anything, so I guess they didn’t care about it.”
Carlos Beltran went 2-for-3 with a run scored and a RBI sacrifice fly for the Mets, whose 6-1 start is their best since they went 8-1 to begin the 1985 season. Carlos Delgado doubled home a run against Tony Armas Jr. (0-2), and David Wright went 2-for-4 with a double and a triple and a run scored to raise his average to .444.
Billy Wagner got his second save.
The fans booed Martinez whenever they could, but he quieted them quickly by retiring the first 10 batters.
“Pedro, he’s just sly like a fox, man,” Randolph said. “He plays off what you do, he sets up every at-bat, and you look at the way the game went for him, I think he changes his approach with Vidro and made him chase out of the zone. That set up the double play.”
The Nationals have homered in eight straight games, their longest streak since the Expos went long in nine straight from Sept. 11-14, 2004. … Wide receiver Antwaan Randle El, one of the Washington Redskins’ marquee free agent signings this offseason, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Unlike Vice President Dick Cheney the night before, Randle El got his pitch to catcher Brian Schneider without a hop. … A day after failing to sell out their home opener, the Nationals drew 29,985 to their first home night game.