Sunday, January 02, 2005

January 2nd, 1963

Edgar Martinez and David Cone Born

In addition to sharing a birthday, Edgar Martinez and David Cone were both key players in the 1995 ALDS, and specifically, Game 5 of that series. It was arguably the best Game 5 ever played, even if it broke my 11 year-old heart. The Yankees had won the first two games at Yankee Stadium to take a 2-0 lead, but the series shifted back to Seattle and the Mariners won the next two games, bringing the whole series down to one game
at the Kingdome.

David Cone, acquired earlier in the season to boost the Yankees' pitching rotation, had pitched eight innings in a winning effort in Game 1. He was opposed by Andy Benes (that's the older, better Benes). Cone's real opposition, however, was the Seattle
offense. Ken Griffey Jr. had 4 HRs, including a pair off Cone in Game 1. The real offensive star for the Mariners though was Edgar Martinez. Edgar entered the game batting .600 with 2 HRs and 8 RBI of his own.

The game was scoreless for the first two innings, although the Mariners left runners (one of whom naturally was Edgar Martinez) on second and third in the second inning. In their half of the third, Joey Cora homered off Cone, putting the M's up 1-0. The Yankees would respond in the fourth, when Paul O'Neill hit a two-run home run, giving Cone a one-run lead, which he proceeded to surrender in the bottom half of the fourth when Jay Buhner singled home Seattle's other Martinez, Tino.

In the sixth, Don Mattingly hit a bases-loaded double--the last hit of his career--putting the Yankees ahead 4-2. This lead stood until the 8th inning. Joey Cora flied out, but Griffey followed that with his fifth homer of the series, a playoff record. Edgar Martinez then grounded out, leaving the Yankees just four outs away from victory. They would never get there as Cone then surrendered his first walk to Tino Martinez, gave up a single to Jay Buhner and walked pinch-hitter Alex Diaz. Cone had now thrown 141 pitches but Yankee manager Buck Showalter decided to stick with his ace to face pinch-hitter Doug Strange. Cone ran a full count on Strange and on his 147th pitch of the night, threw a splitter in the dirt. Strange refused to bite and the Mariners scored the tying run, as the 57,000 plus in the Kingdome cheered wildly while Cone bent over on the mound and waited for Showalter to pull him.

Showalter went to the Yankee bullpen and summoned a twenty-five year old rookie who had appeared in just nineteen games for the Yankees and posted an ERA over five and a half. Showalter's faith in his rookie was rewarded however, as Mariano Rivera struck out Mike Blowers on three pitches. The Yankees threatened in the ninth, putting runners on first and second when Lou Pinella called Randy Johnson out of the bullpen. Johnson had pitched seven innings in Game 3 two days prior but retired Wade Boggs, Bernie Williams and O'Neill without trouble. The Mariners got runners on first and second in their half of the ninth, prompting Showalter to bring in his Game 3 starter, Jack McDowell. John Wetteland the Yankees' closer had struggled throughout the series, giving up a grand slam to Edgar Martinez in Game 4, apparently prompting Showalter's decision. McDowell escaped the ninth and both pitchers pitched a scoreless tenth.

In the eleventh, Johnson apparently began to tire walking Mike Stanley. Pinch runner Pat Kelly would come around to score on a Randy Velarde single, putting the Yankees now just three outs away. With Cone now long-gone, it was time for the other birthday boy to shine. Joey Cora singled on an intensely controversial play, arguably leaving the basepath to avoid a Don Mattingly tag. Griffey singled moving Cora to third. Martinez
stepped to the plate, the tying run on the third, and the winning run on first. He launched a double into the left-fielder corner of the Kingdome. Cora scored easily and Griffey went all the way from first to slide in ahead of the Gerald Williams throw.

Cone would finish the series on the losing squad with a 1-0 record and a 4.60 ERA. After a brief flirtation with the Baltimore Orioles, he would re-sign with the Yankees and go on to win four World Series while Martinez's M's would go on to lose the '95 ALC S to Cleveland and then lose the ALCS to the Yankees in 2000 and 2001, thus perhaps giving Cone the last laugh. However, for 1995, the series belong to Edgar. He finished with a .571 batting average, 2 HRs, 3 doubles and 10 RBIs, including the series winner. Baseball players sharing a birthday are not uncommon, but two players with such meaningful roles in such a great series is something of a rarity, and one worth noting.

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