08/23/09 7:18 PM ET
Pedro earns win in bittersweet return
Former Met's visit caps strange day at Citi Field on Sunday
By Tim Britton / MLB.com
Pedro Martinez articulated the question on everyone's mind at the end of what could only be described as a bizarre day at Citi Field. Two three-run homers in the top of the first, a leadoff inside-the-parker in the bottom of the inning, and, for good measure, the 15th unassisted triple play in Major League history to end the Mets' 9-7 loss to the Phillies on Sunday.
And that's not even including what may have been the most bizarre part of it all: Martinez's return to Queens in a Phillies uniform.
The former Met spoke candidly on Friday of his desire to return to the Mets this season to help reverse the sad ending at Shea Stadium in 2008, one he couldn't let be the final chapter of his Hall of Fame career.
When he finally took to Citi Field for the first time on Sunday, there was admittedly something a bit off about it.
Because there was Martinez, draped in the gray and red of the Mets' rivals from Philadelphia, in a Citi Field filled with as many Phillies fans as Mets ones, stepping into the batter's box before the mound.
While there was a brief smattering of boos when his name was announced, the loud applause of the Mets faithful quickly took hold. The fans, already dismayed by the two long balls Oliver Perez surrendered in the first inning, rose to their feet to greet the team's former ace.
And the former ace felt like reciprocating the gesture.
"That's exactly what I expected, because I know the good bond that we have here and how much the people around here respect me and I respect the people here," Martinez said. "There was a mutual reaction I had inside of me. I wasn't going to go out there and start [waving my arms]. I wanted to do that. I wanted to express that I respect them, I love them and I miss them.
"You don't have to feel bad because I came back with the Phillies. The fact that I'm with the Phillies doesn't change my heart."
Handed a six-run lead in the first, Martinez on the mound was, like the circumstances surrounding his return, just a bit off. Through the first three innings, he looked more like the pitcher the Mets saw last season, the one they declined to offer a contract to in the offseason. Martinez allowed four earned runs on six hits in those frames. Angel Pagan hit home runs in his first two at-bats, including that inside-the-park homer to lead off the game.
Martinez acknowledged that his pitches caught far too much of the plate early, in part because he was pitching with the six-run advantage.
In his final three innings, though, Martinez more closely resembled the pitcher he said he would be this season, the one who was closer to full health and could still be a reliable Major League starter.
"It showed even on a bad day," Martinez said of his improvement from last season. "It shows I'm in better shape than I was last year, more consistent. ... I don't have to show [the fans]. They know that I'm different. They were watching me today."
Martinez was at his best in the game's biggest spots. Even though he allowed four early runs, he stranded three Mets that reached third with less than two outs. Martinez said he felt better pitching from the stretch than he had in a long time.
With a run in and runners at second and third with no outs in the third inning, Martinez dialed his fastball up to 92 mph to strike out Jeff Francoeur. It was that extra gear that the veteran lacked for much of last season.
"His stuff is definitely better," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "He's in better shape; he can set you up and throw the ball by you."
The game featured so many bizarre moments that it was easy to forget Martinez's offensive contribution. He hit an RBI single in the third inning off Nelson Figueroa.
What mattered most, though, was the end result, and for all that was strange at Citi Field on Sunday, Martinez earning a victory wasn't.
"Getting a win and getting to come back to New York makes it really special," Martinez said. "To get away with a win on a very hard day makes it even sweeter."
Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.