Phillies smiling all the way home despite loss

Pedro Martinez gave up the go-ahead home run in the sixth inning, and now, after the Yankees began the seventh with back-to-back hits, it was time to surrender the ball, too.

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Once Charlie Manuel emerged from the dugout, Martinez had to know the boos were coming. And as the jeers echoed through the New Stadium, the Old Ace did something that reminded us why we can’t take our eyes off him.

He smiled.

Martinez later offered an explanation for his peculiar countenance, and we’ll get to that in a moment. For now, let’s consider why the Phillies had reason to be similarly smug on their early-morning train to Philadelphia.

Yes, they suffered a 3-1 loss to A.J. Burnett and the Yankees in Game 2. But they achieved the road split sought by soothsaying shortstop Jimmy Rollins. They have home-field advantage. And they (temporarily, at least) found the answer to Alex Rodriguez that eluded the Twins and Angels during the American League playoffs.

A-Rod is 0-for-8 with six strikeouts through two games in his first World Series. A number of his teammates haven’t fared much better, as evidenced by the Yankees’ team batting average of .222. Take away Derek Jeter and Hideki Matsui, and that number drops to .143.

“They’re a lot more than that offensively,” Martinez said. “We made pitches.”

Martinez and a trio of relievers couldn’t match Cliff Lee’s Game 1 dominance. But their performance suggested that Philadelphia’s scouts, staff and pitchers have developed a coherent plan for New York’s big bats.

A-Rod’s outs have come against three very different pitchers: a left-hander whose ball was darting every which way (Lee); a right-hander who relies much more on movement than velocity (Martinez); and a hard-throwing setup man (Ryan Madson).

Was there a common trait across their respective approaches to Rodriguez?

“You’ve got to be unpredictable, show him a little bit of everything,” Lee said after watching Game 2. “You can’t get into patterns. You’ve got to work ahead. We’ve all done that. But there’s no one way to get him out. It’s about mixing speeds and trying to keep his timing disrupted a little bit.”

Madson was asked if the Phillies have developed any rules for where they should or shouldn’t throw pitches to Rodriguez.

He grinned.

“I’m going to keep that a secret,” he said.

I understand. The Phillies wouldn’t gain anything by discussing their A-Rod dossier. But to those who watched the Martinez-Rodriguez encounters, the theme was obvious.

Bust A-Rod inside.

Second inning: He took a curveball on the inside corner for a called third strike.

Fourth inning: He saw three pitches, all of them on the inside corner, and flew to left.

Sixth inning: He fouled off two inside fastballs before waving at a down-and-away changeup.

“He’ll bounce back,” New York manager Joe Girardi predicted. “We’ll get it going with him in Philly.”

Martinez’s mastery against Rodriguez was the most outstanding feature of a start that was, by almost any measure, a very good one.

There were questions about how effective Martinez could be against an AL lineup. He hadn’t faced one since losing to the Yankees on June 27, 2008, at a stadium (Shea) that no longer exists.

And Martinez wasn’t exactly facing an ordinary AL team on Thursday night. The Yankees scored the most runs in the majors this year. But Pedro found a way to control them.

He was charged with three earned runs in six innings. One came on a solo home run by Mark Teixeira. One came on a solo home run by Hideki Matsui. One came on an RBI single by Jorge Posada off reliever Chan Ho Park in the seventh.

And you could make the case that Manuel was more responsible than Martinez for the third run. Martinez had thrown 99 pitches through six innings, and it looked as though he might have been done. I was so sure he wouldn’t pitch the seventh that I wrote “PARK” below “MARTINEZ” on my scorecard after Robinson Cano flied out to end the sixth. But Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee stuck with their starter.

“He said that he wanted to go back out and pitch,” Manuel said.

For someone who was “under the weather” during the past two days — which Martinez admitted after the game — it was an admirable outing. He described himself as “extremely proud and happy” to have pitched in the World Series again, five years after he helped the Red Sox win a title.

He finished with eight strikeouts — two more than in the only other World Series start of his career.

“I did everything I could to beat those guys,” Martinez said. “You have to give them a lot of credit.”

As for his parting smile in seventh? Well, you see, there is some history between Martinez and the folks who watch baseball in the Bronx. The bluster about drilling Babe Ruth. The Don Zimmer Game. The Grady Little Game. The Who’s Your Daddy Game. Classics.

Then he went from the Red Sox to the Mets.

So Martinez couldn’t help but smirk on Thursday when one fan — beer in one hand, daughter in the other — said “all kinds of nasty stuff” during his walk to the dugout.

“The fans, I enjoy that,” he said. “Because at the bottom … I know they really want to root for me. It’s just that I don’t play for the Yankees. I’ve always been a good competitor, and they love that. They love the fact that I compete.

“I’m a New Yorker, as well. If I was on the Yankees, I’d probably be like a king over here.”

The Yankees beat Martinez on Thursday, but they didn’t embarrass him. New York fans were too busy worrying about their own team to reprise a “WHO’S YOUR DADDY?” chant after the first inning. Maybe they were restrained by the sobering Game 1 loss.

The best part of this? Martinez will get an extra day of rest before Game 6, and it certainly looks like the series will go at least that far. I’m starting to think that Pedro’s most memorable start in this World Series hasn’t happened yet.