NEW YORK -- To a man, the Mets admit they have a little extra swagger on the days that Pedro Martinez is scheduled to pitch. An extra hop in their step coming from the knowledge that they'll have a legitimate chance to win that day's game, no matter what the score.
But what happens when Martinez is missing in action, absent from the clubhouse just hours before he is scheduled to take the mound?
The Mets found out on Friday, with Martinez and his driver navigating head-splitting gridlock until 65 minutes before game time. With less than an hour to spare, Martinez stepped into Yankee Stadium and right into his role as the team's savior, throwing eight strong innings en route to a 6-4 Mets win.
"I was really nervous," Martinez said. "I left at 3:20 [p.m. ET] thinking I'd get there in plenty of time, get in the Jacuzzi and relax, and probably watch some videos. ... We ended up in the wrong neighborhood. We got lost."
Martinez's wild ride through the South Bronx -- the end result of a tractor trailer mishap that snarled the George Washington Bridge for hours -- took the Mets' ace through some of New York's rougher neighborhoods. Only with a cellular phone call and a brief escort from a pair of police officers was Martinez finally able to arrive at the Stadium.
"But everybody was late today," Martinez said. "That made me relax a little bit more."
So, too, must have been the fact that the Mets played one of their best fundamental games of the 2005 season.
After Martinez was touched for a first-inning homer by Derek Jeter, the Mets plated three runs in the second inning via a trio of sacrifice flies -- tying a Major League record and becoming the first National League squad to pull off the feat -- and played outstanding defense, helping Martinez retire 12 of the last 13 batters he faced over his eight innings of work.
"He never ceases to amaze me," said third baseman David Wright. "The competitiveness, the passion, the fire for what he does. It's unreal."
The Yankees plated a second run against Martinez in the third inning on Alex Rodriguez's run-scoring single, but were held at bay through the next five frames, with Martinez facing the minimum in four of those innings. It was vintage Martinez at times, as his fastball crackled as high as 97 mph on the stadium radar. Pedro's trademark curveball and changeup also showed extra bite in an economical six-hit, three-strikeout performance.
"What can you say? Pedro never surprises me," Mets manager Willie Randolph said. "Nothing he does is really out of the ordinary."
That is, except his postgame press conference, in which Martinez said he didn't understand why his starts against the Yankees garner more attention than, say, Kris Benson's or Kazuhisa Ishii's (Martinez's examples).
"I've got nothing but respect for the Yankees organization and players," Martinez said. "All I want is to beat them when I can. That's all I want. I don't want any enemies. ... [Yankees fans] have the totally opposite part of me. I'm not a fighter, I'm just an athlete trying to do his job coming to Yankee Stadium."
Cliff Floyd / LF
Weight: 230 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: R
Teammate Cliff Floyd, who homered along with Carlos Beltran, earlier said just about the opposite regarding the Mets' Pied Piper and his habit of drawing attention.
"I think he enjoys it," Floyd said. "The one thing I do like about Pedro is he takes the pressure off the 24 other guys in there, believe it or not. He loves it."
The Mets' offense made its first dent in the second inning. After loading the bases with no outs via a walk and two hits -- including Doug Mientkiewicz's bunt single -- Ramon Castro skied a fly to right to knock in the first run. Jose Reyes followed with a fly ball to center field that Bernie Williams dropped for the second sacrifice fly and an error, and Mike Cameron flew out to right to plate Mientkiewicz with the third run.
"It's always good to see guys taking little bites," Randolph said. "That's part of what we need to do. It's nice to see us move guys along."
The three runs were also all Martinez -- who improved to 11-10 in 30 regular-season starts against his supposed "Daddy" -- would need.
"I get the lead, I'm going to make it happen," Martinez said. "I was still in command of the game. I knew I was going to make it happen."
Indeed, it was one of those nights where everything seemed to go right for the Mets. In the eighth, Reyes and Floyd converged on a Sheffield pop fly, with Reyes racing deep toward the left-field foul line. Floyd pulled up to avoid colliding with Reyes and juggled the ball, but caught it on the deflection to record the out.
"He goes full out after everything," Floyd said. "I'm looking and he's head down, flying over. If I hit him, our season's over."
One batter later, Beltran crashed into the wall in right-center field to snare a deep Rodriguez drive, falling onto the warning track as Martinez raised his fist, staring out toward the 385-foot mark.
"It's always great to see Carlos do something," Martinez said. "He's really exciting to watch."
Reyes added an insurance run in the ninth with yet another sacrifice fly, his second and the Mets' fourth of the night.
Braden Looper allowed a two-run homer to Tino Martinez in the ninth inning but recorded the last three outs for the Mets, who are 36-37 this season and 2-2 against the Yankees.
Bryan Hoch is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.