ST. LOUIS -- If Game 3 eventually turns out to be Pedro Martinez's last as a member of the Red Sox, it will certainly be a fitting end.
Martinez was brilliant in shutting out the Cardinals for seven innings Tuesday, and he was so because of his mix of a devastating curveball and changeup. It was evident early on that Pedro didn't have his good fastball, so instead of being hard-headed and macho-like about continuing to throw his hard stuff, he basically only used it in certain spots.
With consistent prodding from Jason Varitek, Pedro pitched a masterful finesse game. And because of that, the Cardinals' hitters essentially had little chance as they collected only three hits off Martinez, two of which were infield singles. After allowing a double to Edgar Renteria in the bottom of the third inning, Pedro retired the final 14 batters he faced.
Follow the leader
Let's face it with Varitek: The guy is the heart and soul of the Red Sox and while he's been that for a while now, he really showed it Tuesday. From constantly convincing Martinez to stay with his strong curveball/changeup mix to his tremendous block of the plate that prevented Larry Walker from scoring in the first inning on a throw from left field by Manny Ramirez, Varitek showed once again what a truly incredible player and leader he is.
While Varitek isn't the most talented player the Red Sox have, he's by and large the most valuable player they have. And that's because he brings a mostly unmatched competitiveness each and every time he takes the field.
Speaking of Ramirez, he once again showed that nothing bothers him. Yes, he made a few blunders defensively in Game 2 -- dropping a fly ball and allowing a runner to take an extra base after misplaying a hit -- but it didn't affect him in the least heading into Game 3.
And he had a first inning that was simply amazing. He began it by smoking a pitch up and over the plate from Cardinals starter Jeff Suppan over the wall in left field to give the Red Sox a 1-0 lead. And then he ended the inning with his rifle of a throw to nail Walker at the plate.
Doing their homework
It's a little-known fact, but it needs to be mentioned. The Red Sox's scouting staff deserves a ton of credit for preparing this team to excel in this series. Scouting director Galen Carr, along with Dave Jauss and Jerry DiPoto, presented a game plan for the Boston pitchers on how to attack the Cardinals' hitters and it's worked out perfectly thus far.
Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds have not been factors at all, while Albert Pujols has been greatly minimized. In its most simplest terms, the Sox pitchers and catchers have executed the game plan that was given to them. And they've done this in a near-flawless way.
Is this series over?
As the Red Sox showed in coming back from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Yankees in the ALCS, anything can happen. But the Red Sox presently look like a team that in no way could possibly lose four straight games. The Sox have now won seven straight games and are 10-3 for the entire postseason.
And the attitude of this team -- never being tight, a positive outlook no matter any dire circumstance, a true family of sorts -- gives them the ability to stay focused on the goal at hand. And that goal is to win a championship.
While many people don't agree with the way this team goes about its business, it has worked for them and now they sit one win away from making history.