Pedro stands in way of 11th straight

Sox, Fenway faithful brace for Pedro return

As two first-place teams loaded with superstars battle in front of a sold-out crowd at Fenway Park on Wednesday night, all of the attention will be centered on one familiar face.

Pedro Martinez, who won two Cy Young Awards and an All-Star Game MVP at Fenway during his seven years with the Red Sox, will take the mound for the first time in Boston since his departure after the 2004 championship season.

"It's great. I feel like I'm in very familiar territory," Martinez said. "I just have good memories of all [of] this. I still feel like I belong around the people. It's hard for me to face them.

"To me, they were my family when I was on the baseball field and when I was in the clubhouse. It's always hard to actually [see] a negative happen to a family member and to me those guys were family. No matter where it is, I'm the No. 1 fan for the Red Sox. Unless I'm competing out there, I want to see them have success."

Martinez returned to the Boston clubhouse before Tuesday's game, juxtaposed between the camaraderie of former teammates and the distance that comes from wearing a different color uniform.

"I wanted to like sprint in, but then I took time out to have respect for the other team. I went to the door and just screamed some guys names," Martinez said.

"It's fun to play with him. That's my little man right there," designated hitter David Ortiz said, pointing to a picture hanging on his locker of the two friends in Red Sox uniforms.

Martinez's friend Manny Ramirez showed how much their dialogue could change in two years.

"Pedro, get out of here. You're the enemy now," Ramirez said jokingly to his former compatriot.

Squaring off against Martinez will be Josh Beckett, the 26-year-old right-hander who was brought in this season to fill a void in the pitching rotation that Martinez created when he left.

Beckett has won two straight starts, including one of his best outings of the season against Philadelphia on Friday, allowing two runs and three hits over eight innings while striking out eight and carrying a perfect game through 5 1/3 innings. He is 4-0 at home this year with a 2.58 ERA.

"It's going to be great. That's the kind of stuff that you want. You want to be that guy. I have no doubt that our offense will be fine," Beckett said.

Both pitchers were traded to Boston at the age of 25, having had incredible success for their age, Martinez as a Cy Young winner with Montreal and Beckett as a World Series MVP with Florida. While Beckett's future with the Red Sox is a blank canvas, Martinez's tenure in Boston brought color to the downtrodden team, helping create a Red Sox renaissance.

"The way baseball used to be in Boston was clap when you did good and boos when you didn't," Martinez said. "In the seven years I was here, I got to see how Boston took a different spin at the stadium. That's something I miss. That type of atmosphere, [with fans being] so close to the players and at the same time so much fun.

"The music, the people, the hype, the intensity of it and the way we played the game. I think that will be my biggest legacy because at the time I came here, Boston was a sad town about baseball. Even though [the fans] were here, they were very pessimistic."

Before Tuesday's game, Martinez was unsure how the Fenway faithful were going to respond to their former hero returning in enemy cloth.

"They are true fans. I saw 86 years of agony from the fans here and they were here every day and that's why they have so much of my respect and so much of my care," Martinez said. "I believe that they are the most faithful fans. Whatever they do, I believe they're going to do it from their heart. If they clap for me, I'll be really happy, but if they don't, I'll just have to say that they're doing it to back up their team, which is the Red Sox."

Early in Tuesday's game, in between innings, Martinez saw that the fans would respond differently than they had with former teammate and Yankees center fielder Johnny Damon, who, according to Martinez, "went to the wrong uniform."

Martinez was greeted with a chorus of cheers that could be heard in New York after a video tribute was run on the Jumbotron in center field, welcoming Martinez back. He stepped out of the dugout and acknowledged the crowd with a visual thank you card that included waving his cap and pantomiming hugging the fans.

"I thought it was nice what happened [Tuesday]. [I] thought the organization did a nice thing and the fans reacted very classy, but once the game starts [on Wednesday] it's time to try to win," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.

Martinez left the Red Sox in free agency after they were unwilling to match the four year, $53 million contract that was offered by the Mets following the 2004 season.

"My life had to go on and the Red Sox had to go on," Martinez said. "That was a big decision. And even though my feelings were here, and this is not the only time I wanted to express it, I said it before we won the championship, that my heart was here in Boston and I wanted to stay in Boston. They waited and they waited and then at the last moment they thought I was going to be there, and that was a big mistake, because at the time I had to think about my family and my interests and I had to think about my career. I think Boston should've done anything to keep me and not let me go."

Martinez's bittersweet return will only be made more difficult due to the fact that he will be pitching against a Red Sox team that has won 10 games in a row and has scored 68 runs in their last eight games.

Martinez has started 94 games at Fenway Park in his career, going 58-18 with a 2.67 ERA, 11 complete games and 800 strikeouts.

His favorite moment as a resident of Fenway was a result of the 2004 championship, a team for which he is inextricably linked.

"Coming back with the trophy and sticking my head out of the window of my truck, leaving the parking lot at about 8:30 or 9:00 in the morning. Coming back from St. Louis with the trophy, that's my biggest memory," Martinez said. "It's always special. You don't get this opportunity every day. I got the opportunity to be out there [and] be part of this team [and] be part of this town [and] be part of the championship ... which was really my goal."

This is the sixth series between the teams since Interleague Play began in 1997 and their first meeting since 2001. The Red Sox are 11-12 all-time against the Mets, including postseason.

Winners of 10 straight, the Red Sox are 12-1 against the National League this year while the Mets are 5-5 in Interleague Play.

Pitching matchup
BOS: RHP Josh Beckett (9-3, 4.84 ERA)
In his last start, Beckett set season high marks in strikeouts (eight) and innings pitched (eight) and carried a perfect game through 5 1/3 innings. His command and fastball were sharp and his breaking ball was moving more than it has all season.

NYM: RHP Pedro Martinez (7-3, 3.01 ERA)
Martinez heads to his old stomping grounds at Fenway Park, set to face the Red Sox coming off a win against the Reds. In that game, he allowed two runs on two hits and eight strikeouts over six innings.

Player to watch
Coco Crisp is batting .371 (13-for-35) since June 18. Crisp looks to have finally regained his stroke since returning from injury and will be a welcome addition to Boston's already potent offense.

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television

On radio
• WEEI 850 AM, WROL 950 AM (Español)

Up next
• Thursday: Mets (LHP Tom Glavine, 11-2, 3.33) at Red Sox (RHP Curt Schilling, 9-2, 3.61), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Friday: Red Sox (RHP Jason Johnson, 3-8, 5.96) at Marlins (LHP Dontrelle Willis, 4-7, 4.05), 7:35 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Red Sox (RHP Tim Wakefield, 5-8, 3.86) at Marlins (RHP Brian Moehler, 5-6, 6.55), 6:05 p.m. ET

Howard Kussoy is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.