Boston Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez has been all but unbeatable the past few years, except when he matches up against the New York Yankees. No matter how he pitches against the guys in pinstripes, the Sox seem to come out on the losing end.
On Thursday, former Oriole Mike Mussina pitched the Yankees to their fifth straight victory over the Red Sox in games Martinez has started - the streak dating to his terrific winning effort against Roger Clemens last May 28.
He hasn't pitched badly in those five games, if his 2.75 ERA is any indication, but he won't blame his 0-3 record on his teammates or their obvious lack of run support, even though the Red Sox have scored a total of eight runs in those five games.
"No excuses," Martinez told reporters Thursday. "They haven't done anything differently [than other teams]. They just battled, and we didn't play as good as we could - and I didn't pitch as good as I could.
"I gave my team a chance to win every outing. That's all I ask for. It we don't win, it will be some other time."
Perhaps that time will come on Wednesday, when Martinez matches up against Mussina again at Fenway Park, or the following Monday, when they are scheduled to meet for the third time in 12 days in a makeup game at Yankee Stadium.
For two guys who had never faced each other in a regular season game until Thursday, they're going to get familiar in a hurry.
"He's the best player I've ever seen," Jones said.
Jones went one step farther, predicting that Bonds might challenge Hank Aaron's all-time home run record, even though he'll be 37 next month and would need another 237 to surpass Aaron's 755.
"I was talking to him the other day," Jones said. "I think if he really wanted it bad enough and wants to stick around, he can definitely put a scare in Hank's record. He's as good as he's ever been right now. He's not even 37 yet. He's going to hit 50 this year, and he's never done that before.
"A couple of years at or near 50, and he's right in the thick of things. He hasn't shown any signs of slowing down. In fact, since I've been in the league , I think he's actually gotten better."
Bonds clearly is one of the all-time greats, but it seems more likely that he'll end up closer to his godfather, Willie Mays, who stands third on the all-time home run list with 660.
Wells a tough sell
The Chicago White Sox reportedly are shopping starting pitcher David Wells around both leagues, hoping to dump the remainder of his $9.25 million salary in exchange for somebody's prospects, but Wells' recent antics are making him a tough sell.
He has alienated White Sox fans with his criticism of injured superstar Frank Thomas and has taken verbal shots at two of the teams (the Indians and Mets) most likely to be interested in him. So where will he end up?
Probably not in Baltimore, since he's pushing for someone to pick up the $10 million option on his services for next year. The Orioles could use one more veteran starter, but not at the risk of undermining their youth movement or their decent clubhouse chemistry.
Look for Wells to suffer through the next two months in Chicago, then bounce to an established contender that wants to solidify its rotation for the stretch drive and the postseason. The Braves, maybe.
Wells was offered to the Houston Astros, but club owner Drayton McLane Jr. doesn't want to repeat the mistake his club made when it gave up several solid prospects to rent Randy Johnson for a half-season.
"My understanding is they contacted us about Wells," McLane said. "The White Sox want two or three of our minor-leaguers, and you have to remember that we traded two or three of our top minor-leaguers a couple of years ago for Randy Johnson. And those guys have become the backbone of a very successful Seattle franchise. So that's not something that we would want to rush into again. These are beginning discussions."
Bad, bad day
Red Sox outfielder Carl Everett won't be looking forward to two more encounters with Mussina. He was overmatched in Thursday's game, striking out in all four of his at-bats and making no contact whatsoever on the 10 pitches (seven fastballs, three changeups) he swung at.
"Everything was off for me," Everett said. "I didn't do nothing right. I think I might have swung at two strikes; that's it. ... I had bad approaches. I didn't allow myself to do what I wanted to do."
That, as Howard Cosell loved to say, is a piercing look into the obvious.
Gonzo not forgotten
Cleveland Indians slugger Juan Gonzalez is making the Detroit Tigers pay dearly for not re-signing him. He homered against them Wednesday night and drove in three runs on Thursday to bring his 2001 RBI total against the Tigers to 12.
By contrast, Gonzalez had only driven in 16 runs by May 24 of last year and did not drive in as many as 12 runs against any single team during the 2000 season.
If that isn't bad enough, Gonzalez's poor performance in 2000 will continue to hurt the Tigers in the coming first-year player draft. Since his cumulative performance for 1999 and 2000 was rated lower than fellow Indians free agent acquisition Ellis Burks, the Tigers dropped significantly in the order of compensation (sandwich) picks in the draft.
One that got away
Everybody knows the pitching trouble the Rangers have seen, but it must be galling for Texas fans to see former Rangers farmhand Chuck Smith on a roll in Florida.
Smith, acquired from the Rangers last June after 9 1/2 years in the minor leagues, has become a solid member of the Marlins' promising young pitching staff. Since rebounding from a spring training shoulder sprain, he is 3-0 with a 2.93 ERA and has won six of his last seven major-league decisions, dating to last September.
The recent success of Smith and young teammate A. J. Burnett has been the catalyst in the recent resurgence of the Marlins, who entered yesterday 1 1/2 games out of second place in the NL East. The two are a combined 5-2 since both returned from the disabled list.
Obviously, Smith didn't let any negative thoughts enter his mind while he was waiting to get back.
"I waited 1,000 years to get here," he said. "I relish every minute of it. I knew I'd be ready to pitch when I came back. I worked [hard] to get ready. I knew when we [A.J and me] got together, we would start rolling off some wins."
Quote of the week
"He makes me nervous - when I see him in street clothes, he makes me nervous."- Florida Marlins manager John Boles, on seeing Larry Walker come to the plate with a runner on first in the ninth inning of a one-run game Friday.
Compiled from interviews, wire services and reports from other newspapers.