Martinez newest source of concern
He left before the fourth inning with tightness in his neck as the Phillies lost.
ATLANTA - Heading into this weekend's series at Turner Field, the most compelling story line for the Phillies involved J.A. Happ and Pedro Martinez, and which of the two would earn the final spot in a playoff rotation.
The two pitchers remain the central topic of these games, but for a different reason than expected. The night after Happ was removed from a start in the fourth inning because the team feared he would aggravate a strained side muscle, Martinez left last night's 6-4 loss to the Atlanta Braves after throwing one warm-up pitch before the fourth.
Martinez suffered the injury while swinging and missing in the second inning and said later that his arm was perfectly healthy.
"I felt something, I didn't think it was going to get worse," he said. "I felt a little discomfort, but it got stiff as the game went on."
Though the 37-year-old righthander said after the game that his neck was still "very stiff," he did not sound overly alarmed about possibly missing a start. "Everybody gets it sometimes, even from sleeping on a pillow," he said. "I hope mine is not any worse than that."
The setback came six days after Martinez, 37, threw 130 pitches in a win over the New York Mets, his highest workload in nearly six years. The self-styled "old goat" is a diminutive legend whose durability defied his build before he broke down over the last few years.
He said that, while he felt affected by that long outing in the first inning last night, his arm quickly strengthened.
"I was feeling better as I was going on in the game," he said.
After two weather-aborted appearances early in his Phillies career, Martinez had settled into a pattern of effectiveness bordering on dominance. The Phils won all seven of his starts before last night, a stretch that culminated in last Sunday's eight shutout innings against his former team. Martinez ascended from insurance policy to the front-runner for a potential Game 4 playoff assignment, and his effectiveness had begun to seem automatic.
But before leaving last night, Martinez was less successful than he had been in any of his previous starts for the Phils. He allowed three runs and seven hits in three innings, although both Martinez and catcher Paul Bako contended that the results were worse than the pitches.
"A couple of breaking balls that they hit [were] good breaking balls," he said. "You have to give them credit for staying back and looking for it and hitting it in good places. Paul told me that some of those pitches were really good pitches; [the hitter] just happened to go out there and get it."
"There was only one off-speed pitch he hung," said Bako, referring to a curveball that Yunel Escobar dunked into shallow right field in the second inning. "He made some good pitches, and they hit them."
The hits and early exit finally led to Martinez's 100th career loss, coming in his 408th start and after 219 wins.
"That's just a number," he said. "If you didn't tell me today, I wouldn't realize. I would just go home, try to get some sleep and a muscle relaxer, and forget about it.
"To lose 100 games in the big leagues is a great honor, to be honest. Many people don't have the opportunity to lose three games, two games, or maybe none. I'm a very blessed man."