On May 6th, 2000, Pedro Martinez was absolutely dealing. His first seven outs were all via the strikeout and by the end of the game every Devil Rays batter had struck out at least once. Martinez struck out a career-high 17 batters in the game, walking just one. It was a vintage Martinez outing amid a remarkable season where he finished with a 1.74 ERA. Yet somehow, some way, Martinez could not away with the victory in the game. The 2000 Tampa Bay Devil Rays were not a remarkable team by any measure. But Steve Trachsel hurled his best game as a D-Ray and the Rays managed to scratch a run across a run as they delivered a victory to remember.
Gerald Williams quickly broke up Martinez’s no-hit bid with a single to left field on the first pitch of the game. But the Devil Rays went down weakly after that as Martinez preceded to strike out the side. The surprising thing was the bottom half of the 1st inning, when Trachsel matched Martinez by striking out the side. Martinez then struck out the side while working around another single in the 2nd inning so the first nine outs of the game were all via the strikeout. A Carl Everett groundout ended that run, but Trachsel managed to work around a single and a walk in the inning to keep the game scoreless. Martinez’s personal strikeout stretch ended with 1 out in the 3rd on a Gerald Williams popout.
The surprising thing was how hittable Martinez was for a pitcher throwing a 17-strikeout game. He allowed hits in the 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th to go along with a 7th inning walk, but it was only one baserunner per inning and four of the five baserunners came with 2 outs. Martinez was able to escape trouble unscathed every time. Trachsel had it a little tougher, allowing multiple baserunners in the 2nd, 3rd, and 6th in addition to a single baserunner in the 4th inning, but he found a way to keep the Red Sox off the board. The question was going to be who would crack and all the money was on Trachsel faltering first.
With 2 outs in the 8th, Dave Martinez singled off Martinez on a groundball that found a hole to get into right field. Then he stole second base. And then Martinez left a fastball up, and Greg Vaughn drilled a line drive up the middle for a base hit, scoring Dave Martinez for an RBI single to make it 1-0 Devil Rays. And the Red Sox could do nothing to tie the game. Trachsel retired the last two batters of the 6th with 2 runners on then worked a 1-2-3 inning in the 7th, another perfect frame with 2 strikeouts in the 8th, and then he closed out the game by retiring Troy O’Leary on a flyout, striking out Mike Stanley, and forcing Jason Varitek to hit a routine flyball to centerfield to end the game as the Devil Rays won 1-0.
It doesn’t get any tighter than this. Trachsel went 9 shutout innings allowing just 3 hits, striking out 11 while walking 3. Martinez went 9 innings allowing 1 run on 6 hits, striking out 17 while walking just 1. Trachsel threw 132 pitches, Martinez 130. And by Game Score, Trachsel scored an 89 and Martinez was right behind at 87. But while this start wasn’t so out of the ordinary for Martinez, it was a major anomaly for Trachsel. It was Trachsel’s only 10-strikeout game as a Tampa Bay Ray, the first of his career in his 8th season, and one of just two in his 16-year career. Martinez had 15 games with 10 strikeouts or more in 2000 alone! Trachsel’s Game Score of 89 was the highest of his entire career and one of four games with a Game Score of 85 or higher. Martinez had 6 such games just in 2000!
There is no doubt that Pedro Martinez was better than Steve Trachsel by a wide margin. There was no doubt that the Devil Rays were a much worse team than the Red Sox in 2000 and every year from the start of the team in 1998 until the incredible run of 2008. But that’s baseball for you–on any given day, a mediocre pitcher can beat the best in the game. These days, sparkling performances are much more common from the Rays’ starters. But even amidst years and years of struggles there were incredible games and moments that are nearly impossible to believe as we look back.