When Pedro Martinez stepped to the mound at Busch Stadium on the night of Oct. 26, 2004, he had already established himself as a Red Sox legend, and one of the best pitchers in history.
Yet, there was a bittersweet feel -- and for good reason. Game 3 of the 2004 World Series turned out to be the last game Martinez ever pitched for Boston.
Martinez was a free agent with a feeling that the business of baseball was going to lead him elsewhere in just a few short weeks.
"That was my last game, I knew it," Martinez said more than nine years after the fact. "I figured if it didn't happen earlier, it was probably going to be hard -- after all that teams would offer and all that."
When the night started, it didn't seem like Martinez would wind up producing a gem. After Manny Ramirez had staked Boston to a 1-0 lead with a towering blast in the first inning, the Cardinals loaded the bases with one out in their half of the first, getting the crowd into the game.
Up stepped Jim Edmonds, who lofted a fly ball to medium-depth left -- and the Cardinals decided to run on Ramirez. Though not known for his defense, Ramirez made a perfect throw home to nail Larry Walker for the inning-ending double play.
Though they had squandered that opportunity, it seemed impossible that the Cardinals would let another chance go by in the third, when they utilized a double by pitcher Jeff Suppan and a double by Edgar Renteria to put runners on second and third with nobody out.
What happened next was one of the more bizarre plays in World Series history. Walker hit a grounder to second, and the Red Sox basically conceded the tying run -- as Mark Bellhorn threw to first. Somehow, some way, Suppan got hung up between third and home, instead of just running home. David Ortiz, playing first base on a night the Red Sox didn't have the DH, fired a perfect throw across the diamond and Bill Mueller slapped down the tag for an out the Cardinals would never recover from.
Martinez could feel things going his way.
"Manny made a great play," Martinez said. "Suppan slipped, everything clicked. David hadn't played first base almost the whole year, and then he goes and reacts -- and boom."
Something bad happened for the Cardinals after that play: Martinez got completely locked in.
"I remember overcoming the first couple of struggles," Martinez said. "After that, I said, 'You know what, there's no way anybody can beat me here from now on.' I just got loose and I just went on and on and on to dominate. I let it all hang out."
In Martinez's first career World Series start -- one of just three he would make before retiring -- the righty fired seven innings of three-hit, scoreless baseball. He walked two and struck out six. After striking out Reggie Sanders to end the seventh, he pointed skyward as he walked back to the dugout.
"He was phenomenal," Curt Schilling said years later of Martinez's mastery against the Cardinals.
Martinez would never throw another pitch for the Red Sox. But he had put them a mere win away from a World Series championship that had eluded Boston since 1918.
The Cardinals, with their loaded offense, couldn't generate anything.
"We were just locked in from the first pitch to the last pitch," said closer Keith Foulke. "We just got a couple of breaks in there and just never let them breathe."