LOS ANGELES -- Phillies manager Charlie Manuel is giving the appearance that he doesn't believe that Pedro Martinez will be affected by the lack of activity that he's encountered over the past month. But entering the most important start that he's experienced in the past five years, Martinez appears to have some concerns about his command.
Nevertheless, courtesy of the 8-6 win the Phillies claimed against the Dodgers in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series on Thursday night, Martinez will make his start in Game 2 on Friday afternoon without having to feel the pressure that would have been present following a loss.
"All of the wins are big," Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino said. "Each one of them gets us one step closer to where we want to be."
History shows that this was a significant win for the Phillies. They are the 11th road team to take a 1-0 advantage in the NLCS since '85, with eight of the first 10 advancing to the World Series. The last seven road teams to win Game 1 have gone on to win the NLCS.
In other words, Martinez can feel even better about his decision to leave the Dominican Republic in August and sign with the defending world champion Phillies.
"I was wise in some ways to wait and wait for the right team and wait for the right situation," Martinez said.
Martinez will be making his first postseason appearance since Game 3 of the 2004 World Series. "You know, I'm on a team right now that offers me probably one of the best chances to win."
The fact that it's been five years since Martinez pitched in a game of this magnitude doesn't seem to be as alarming as the reality that he's completed just seven innings since throwing 130 pitches in his eight-inning appearance against the Mets on Sept. 13. Six days later, during an at-bat in Atlanta, the veteran hurler popped one of his ribs out of place.
Having had plenty of opportunity to rest and allow that minor ailment to heal, Martinez could certainly enter this start against the Dodgers feeling refreshed. But based on the results of a simulated game he completed on Tuesday in Philadelphia, he's been provided reason to worry about the possibility that this long layoff has created some potentially-damaging rust.
13.32 BR/9 was 17th highest among 95 pitchers with at least 140 innings
Future Hall of Famer still has something left
Seems focused with something to prove
"Normally I have good command of my pitches, and [Tuesday] I didn't have it, even though yesterday I felt a little bit better about it," Martinez said. "Today I'm expecting the same thing and tomorrow even better because I'm going to get more chances to actually sleep and actually do a little bit of flat ground and flip the ball around."
Martinez's inconsistencies on Tuesday could be partially blamed on fatigue and the cold weather that was present in Philadelphia. After a cross-country, early morning flight that brought him and his teammates back from the celebration they staged after clinching the National League Division Series in Denver on Monday, he got what he estimated to be three hours of sleep.
"[In Los Angeles] the weather is a lot more comfortable," Martinez said. "Everything seems to be more comfortable. So I'm expecting better results."
Wanting to keep J.A. Happ and Joe Blanton in the bullpen for the first two games of this best-of-seven series, Manuel had no other choice but to provide this assignment to Martinez, who went 5-1 with a 3.63 ERA in the nine starts he made after joining the Philadelphia rotation on Aug. 12.
Now, Manuel can only keep his fingers crossed and hope to see the same Martinez, who posted a 2.87 ERA during the seven starts that he made through Sept. 13.
"We feel like the other day when we was watching him in a simulated game, he was throwing the ball very good," Manuel said. "As a matter of fact he was throwing pretty hard, and his command was good, and he's had enough rest and his experience and everything."
While Martinez might not be the same dominant pitcher that won three Cy Young Awards, he still draws plenty of respect from opponents who are well aware of his experience. During his 13 career postseason appearances, the right-hander, who will turn 38 on Oct. 25, has gone 6-2 with a 3.40 ERA.
Most of the damage he's incurred during this span came while going against the Yankees teams skippered by current Dodgers manager Joe Torre. In the six appearances he made against the Torre-led Yankees, Martinez was 1-2 with a 4.72 ERA.
"He's a tough competitor, and we've seen him a ton of times, and it won't be any different this time," Torre said. "You don't try to beat Pedro. You just try to outlast him."
This will be the first time that Martinez has opposed the Dodgers since June 6, 2006. During that outing he was facing the young versions of Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, who have risen into stardom with the same organization that gave him his first Major League experience.
When Martinez makes this postseason debut for the Phillies, he'll be cognizant of the fact that he'll be standing on the same mound where he made his Major League debut for the Dodgers on Sept. 24, 1993.
"I was born in this place, and I hope this is not the last one that I pitch here," Martinez said. "But if it is, it would be a great joy to actually do it in the same place I started."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.