"That's a tough pitch to lose it on," Mike Piazza said. "His curveball was lights out. That was really the one that really kind of backed up a little bit. He under-rotated it, and it stayed in the hitting zone and [Burke] banged it out of there. It's a tough pitch to lose it on, but what can you say?"
The game didn't feel like a potential no-hitter to the Mets, despite what Martinez had done.
Martinez (7-1) claimed he didn't think about it and was just trying to win the game for his team, citing several other games when he approached throwing a no-no -- he notably tossed nine perfect innings before allowing a 10th-inning double against the Padres on June 3, 1995. On this Tuesday night, he did earn the victory, allowing two hits and striking out 12 in the 44th complete game of his career.
"I didn't really realize it until I heard the fans clapping," Martinez said in a postgame television interview. "I never look at the scoreboard. I look everywhere else. It's not the first time that's happened to me."
Manager Willie Randolph didn't notice the possible no-hitter until the fifth, and even then said the atmosphere in the dugout didn't compare to that of the no-hitters he witnessed while coaching with the Yankees.
Mike Cameron didn't notice until the sixth and said that no one was following baseball superstition and staying away from Martinez -- the pitcher was yelling and shouting in Spanish with his teammates.
Cliff Floyd claimed not to notice until the crowd's reaction to the home run.
"Honestly, I swear I didn't even know he was throwing a no-hitter," Floyd said. "You just get caught up in him pitching so well, you don't look up at the board. I saw we had a lot of hits, but when he gave up the hit, people were cheering and I was like, 'We just gave up a home run. What're they cheering for?' It's just a treat for us to go out there and keep the fans on their feet every pitch."
The 39,953 fans witnessed a pitching duel during the first five innings. The Mets scored a run off Houston starter Roy Oswalt (6-7) in the first, when Floyd doubled in Mike Cameron, but Oswalt mowed down the Mets during the next three innings, striking out four of his seven batters.
Houston at NY Mets, June 7, 2005
|Pedro Martinez fanned 12 of the 29 batters he faced to increase his season strikeout total to 104 and career strikeout total to 2,757, through June 7. A look at his Ks:|
|1||L. Berkman (looking)||2||2-2|
|2||M. Lamb (swinging)||2||2-2|
|3||B. Ausmus (looking)||3||1-2|
|4||L. Berkman (swinging)||5||2-2|
|5||M. Ensberg (swinging)||5||0-2|
|6||R. Oswalt (swinging)||6||0-2|
|7||C. Biggio (swinging)||7||2-2|
|8||M. Ensberg (swinging)||7||1-2|
|9||B. Ausmus (swinging)||8||3-2|
|10||J. Vizcaino (looking)||9||0-2|
|11||O. Palmeiro (looking)||9||2-2|
|12||C. Burke (looking)||9||0-2|
|Key numbers for Martinez:|
Pitches-strikes: 110-80; Groundouts-flyouts: 7-6;
Season strikeouts-walks: 104-13; WHIP: 0.67
Martinez walked Orlando Palmeiro in the fourth to end his bid for a perfect game, but induced a double play from Burke to erase the baserunner.
The Mets scored another run in the fifth, and it was the light-hitting Martinez who kick-started the rally. He singled up the middle, the first of three such hits Oswalt would allow in the inning. And when Carlos Beltran knocked him in, the Mets had all the runs they would need.
It was fitting that Martinez scored on Beltran's hit, because the center fielder has been particularly productive during Martinez's starts. Beltran, who has started in 10 of Martinez's 12 games, is batting .442 with seven home runs and 19 RBIs in 43 at-bats. Beltran has yet to hit a home run in another Mets starters' game.
Maybe it has something to do with the knowledge that when Martinez pitches, runs are going to be scarce for the opposing team because a master is at work.
"He's an artist up there when he's on," Piazza said. "It's really a lot of improv up there -- he'll feel something or see something. There's really no game plan; it's really just feel and what's working for him. For me, it's fun because you just ride along. When he's throwing that well, you can do a lot of things."
Tensions bubbled in the seventh, when the benches and bullpens cleared after Oswalt nailed Floyd in the shoulder with a pitch. The two have history dating back to last season. Floyd hit a grand slam May 14, 2004, and was hit in the back by Oswalt three months later at Shea.
But with help, Floyd managed to keep his cool and allowed himself to be directed to first base by his teammates.
"Thinking about it afterwards, I work too hard to give up my hard-earned money," Floyd said. "I got kids to feed. I'm not going to let [Oswalt] take money out of my paycheck."
Oswalt said he didn't intend to hit Floyd. Floyd believed otherwise.
"It's over, so I don't feel any different about it," Floyd said. "Every dog has his day. He'll get his. It's unfortunate that he goes that route. His pride is too high to throw that fourth ball. Whatever an idiot like that deserves, he'll not only lose, but he deserves to get a ball somewhere.
"He does it, and everyone knows he does it," Floyd added. "He's not only going to get hurt, but maybe some of his teammates, too."
The Mets scored an insurance run two batters later, and Pedro cruised through the final two innings, striking out the last four batters and raising the Mets' record to four games over .500 for the first time this season.
"[Pedro] means the world to us because every good team needs to have a guy who can go out there to either stop a streak or begin one, and he's been that guy for us," Randolph said.