NEW YORK – The question of the night here at Yankee Stadium was "Who's your daddy?"
But even before Pedro Martinez got introspective and religious (we think) in answering it, he made it pretty clear that no matter how many times fans tauntingly asked him, the question was misplaced.
Pedro is fine. He threw six strong and, at times, excellent innings.
It is the vaunted Red Sox batters who can't figure out who is who or what is what, no matter how many hurried, frantic cuts they take. It is the Boston offense that is conceding two-thirds of every game, digging holes so deep only wild, improbable comebacks can possibly save them.
It is a combined one hit and one walk during the first six innings of each game of the American League Championship Series that has put the Yankees up 2-0. The series shifts to Boston on Friday for the next three games.
Wednesday, New York rode a brilliant seven-inning effort from Lieber and a two-run homer from John Olerud to a 3-1 victory. Boston now is in the unenviable position of having to win four of the next five to avoid again watching someone else win the World Series.
"I can't do anything if we don't score runs," Martinez said. "I can only pitch. … I did whatever possible to actually keep my team in the fight."
He's right about that. The Red Sox showed little on a night when they desperately needed a victory, especially after word spread that ace Curt Schilling could be lost for the postseason due to a tendon problem in his right ankle.
They'll start coming up with the pathetic Curse excuses in Boston – the Bambino ruined Curt's ankle! – but the reason this is turning sour is simple.
What was supposed to be Boston's strength (hitting) has been flip-flopped by what was supposed to be New York's weakness (starting pitching).
"I feel good about our pitching right now," Joe Torre said.
No kidding. The Sox came in talking about their "controlled swagger" and have had every bit of it controlled by the Yankees' starters.
"We've had no base runners through the first six innings of either game," Sox manager Terry Francona said.
A day after Mussina retired the first 19 Red Sox to come to the plate, Lieber had a stretch of 12 consecutive outs.
No question, the soft-spoken 34-year-old was outstanding. He threw strike after strike low in the zone. But outside of a notable Johnny Damon battle in the sixth, few of the outs came with any drama. He didn't even have to work hard against Boston.
"Even when we took him out (in the eighth inning), he had (82) pitches or something, which was incredible," Torre said.
This is anti-Moneyball.
Maybe things will turn around in friendly Fenway Park, but right now a club that came in with a lot of bluster and bravado has been silenced by the workmanlike Yankees.
Consider the postgame scene. Lieber talked about how all the Pedro hype was great because no one focused on him and he could just pitch. "It was perfect," he said simply.
Martinez, in turn, said all of the attention was a dream come true. He made a statement that was either a stunningly honest testimonial of faith or another of his bizarre acts. With this guy, you can never be sure.
When asked about the "Who's your daddy?" – reference to a previous bizarre Martinez answer – Pedro smiled.
"You know what, it actually made me feel really, really good," Martinez said.
There was laughter.
"I don't know why you guys laugh," he said. "I actually realized I was somebody important because I caught the attention of 60,000 people, plus you guys, plus the whole world watching a guy that if you reverse time back 15 years ago, I was sitting under a mango tree without 50 cents to actually pay for a bus.
"And today I was the center of attention of the whole city of New York. … Even if tomorrow they are going to say, Pedro lost,' Pedro won. I had an opportunity to show everybody that I believe in God."
Where this all leaves the Red Sox is anyone's guess. Their no-worry attitude has been a positive all season, but their play and their injuries ought to be a buzz kill even at the fraternity house.
You just can't beat the Yankees when you are busy beating yourself.
It was a sideshow kind of night here in New York – Yankee fans vs. Pedro Martinez and both brought it strong. It was great theater, great entertainment. Everyone got caught up in it.
Except the Yankees players, who are halfway to another American League pennant because of it.
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