ST. LOUIS — Don't question Pedro Martinez anymore.
Fame and fortune already his, Martinez finally made it to the World Series on Tuesday night. And when he got there, he shut down the St. Louis Cardinals like the Martinez of old, putting the Boston Red Sox within one victory of their first World Series title since 1918.
On the mound where Bob Gibson dominated Series games years ago, Martinez mystified the Cardinals, allowing just three hits over seven scoreless innings in a 4-1 win that gave the Red Sox a 3-0 lead.
Bushy hair protruding from his cap, Martinez got in trouble early, and had to escape a bases-loaded jam in the first. He allowed hits to his first two batters in the third, but St. Louis ran into another double play, and never got another runner to first with Martinez on the mound.
"I think that was a gap that really opened for us. After that, I knew we were going to score some runs," Martinez said. "I had to settle down and pretty much make it my game."
Did he ever.
Martinez retired his final 14 batters and put to sleep the Cardinals' batters and their fans.
"He found his changeup, started using his cutter," Boston manager Terry Francona said.
His success can't be questioned — three Cy Young Awards and a regular-season record of 182-76.
But in Boston, fans talked about how he wasn't the same as a few years ago. He no longer overpowered batters, he had turned into a 100-pitch pitcher and he came apart against the New York Yankees. They debated how much the Red Sox should pay the free-agent-to-be.
And, of course, in September, he called the Yankees his "daddy" because of their recent success against him, sparking chants of ridicule when he pitched in New York during the AL championship series.
"The Yankees are over. That was one frustrating game I said that," he said.
"I could be anybody's daddy any day."
Martinez needed just 98 pitches to get through seven innings and turn the game over to the bullpen, and he allowed just one ball out of the infield after the third. The 100-pitch barrier, the supposed point when he starts to falter, never became an issue.
Boston has had great pitchers over the past 85 years.
Dave Ferriss led the 1946 staff within one victory of the title. Jim Lonborg dominated in 1967 only to lose Game 7 to the Cardinals. And in 1986, Roger Clemens and Bruce Hurst couldn't get the job done against the New York Mets.
Well, Martinez has done his job and put the Red Sox in position to win. Boston has four chances to finish off St. Louis.
Derek Lowe gets the first chance Wednesday. After that, it would be Tim Wakefield's turn, and then Curt Schilling, ankle willing.
If that doesn't happen, and the Red Sox and Cardinals go to another Game 7 on Sunday, Martinez's spot comes up again. But by then, Martinez and his teammates could be getting fitted for rings and celebrating at Beantown's biggest party since the one with tea.