The 1997 Red Sox had finished the season with a 78-84 record. They were in fourth place in the AL East, 20 games behind the leader. Their lone bright spot? The incredible rookie campaign of Nomar Garciaparra. He put up one of the greatest seasons ever by a rookie shortstop. But, even with that, the 20 games were a lot. The Red Sox needed more. Enter Pedro Martinez. The Red Sox traded for him following the 1997 season, and signed him to a long-term deal. As we all know, the Red Sox haven’t had a losing season since. But, on April 11, 1998 Pedro had yet to show his stuff to the hometown fans. His first starts as a member of the Red Sox had been wonderful, but had been in other cities. The fans were drooling over the chance to see those performances in the home whites. This was the chance. Here is how the day looked.
With all the build-up, let’s just start in the pitchers spot and see how the great Pedro Martinez did in his Red Sox Fenway debut. Yeah. Not so bad, eh? Nine innings. Zero runs. Two hit, two walks, and 12 strikeouts. He certainly has a flair for the dramatic, doesn’t he? It always amazes me when an athlete enters a game with unrealistic expectations, and them exceeds them. We all expected him to dominate. We all expected him to win. He simply shut Seattle down. It was almost unfair.
Who else played a part in the game? I see Nomar still in his lead-off position. Really, the top three that year is pretty solid. Nomar-Valentin-Vaughn is pretty formidable. Compared to Ellsbury-Pedroia-Youkilis? Not really much of a drop off. It’s the rest of the order that needs some work. In this game, Jim Leyritz did just fine…even if I forgot to write down his number. Frankly, he was probably the offensive star of the game. He went 2-3 with three RBI and a home run. Not a bad day from the clean-up hitter. The stiff of the day? That honor has to go to Damon Buford. He was the only player without a hit on the afternoon. Hatteberg’s presence in an early season line-up shows that Jason Varitek was still “That other guy they got for Slocumb.”
So, the Sox rallied around their new ace. It was a mark of things to come. They would finish the season 92-70, improving by 14 games. (Oddly, they would finish even farther out of first…22 games…but win the wild card behind the ’98 Yankees) Pedro would finish with a 19-7 record. This Fenway start certainly gave a glimpse of greatness yet to come.
And the scorecard shows how it happened.