Continuing its inexorable trend toward sports-as-celebrity-playground, ESPN touted its Wednesday Night Baseball matchup between the Phillies and Cubs as little more than The Return of Pedro Martinez. But while the future Hall of Famer was impressive in spots and easily good enough to secure his 215th career win, it was the return of the recently absent Phillies offense that lifted the team to a second straight victory at Wrigley Field.
The Phils jumped on Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija early, making the first big league start for the former Notre Dame football star one he'd probably like to forget. With one out in the first inning, Shane Victorino tripled, Chase Utley doubled, and Ryan Howard tripled as the Phillies matched their hit total from 12 innings a night earlier to grab a 2-0 lead. Two innings later, Jimmy Rollins doubled and Victorino followed with a home run to put the visitors ahead 4-1. They delivered the knockout blow to Samardzija in the fourth and roughed up reliever Sean Marshall as well, sending thirteen men to the plate and scoring eight runs. Rollins and Raul Ibanez each had three-run homers in the inning.
That was more than enough for Martinez in his 2009 debut. Showing more velocity than had been reported--his best fastball was 93 miles per hour, and he hit 92 perhaps a half-dozen times--the three time Cy Young winner went five innings, giving up three runs on seven hits and a walk while striking out five. Martinez didn't quite seem to have the command of his legendary change-up and threw only a handful of curveballs, and he ran out of gas in the fifth inning as the first four Cubs reached base, scoring two runs--but he came back to retire Derrek Lee, Jake Fox and Kosuke Fukudome without further damage to qualify for the win. It should be fun to watch as he re-acclimates to major league competition and gets sharper.
Cliff Lee, the other recent addition with a Cy Young Award on his mantel, faces Ryan Dempster Thursday afternoon as the Phillies go for the sweep.