18 May 2002 – On this day ten years ago, Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez struck out the side on nine pitches in the first inning of a 4-1 win over the Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park. To date, he is the only pitcher to accomplish this remarkable feat in a Boston uniform.
In baseball, a pitcher must face a minimum of three batters in each half inning to record the required three outs. While it is not uncommon for a pitcher to retire the side on three strikeouts, it is extremely rare to do so on nine pitches, the minimum number required to perform the same task. According to Wikipedia, 43 pitchers in MLB history have combined to accomplish this feat 46 times; it is commonly referred to as the immaculate inning. Lefty Grove, Sandy Koufax, and Nolan Ryan, all Hall of Fame pitchers, are the only ones to done so twice (Grove, who pitched for the Sox between 1934 and 1941, did it twice within a span of a month with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1928).
Martinez, in seven years with Boston, was well-known for his high strikeout totals. In addition to his 117 wins and an adjusted ERA+ of 190, he averaged 10.9 strikes per nine innings pitched, best in team history (his career average of 10.040 ranks him third in MLB history). Three times, he led the American League in strikeouts and in total struck out 1683 batters, which ranks him third in team history behind Roger Clemens and Tim Wakefield. He is also the only pitcher in team history to strike out 300 or more in one season, fanning 313 batters in 1999. The results of his success with Boston were two American League Cy Young Awards and four All-Star game selections, once as the starting pitcher in 1999.
Martinez opened the game facing right fielder Ichiro Suzuki. Suzuki, the reigning American League MVP and Rookie of the Year, looked at two called strikes before being dispatched with a third strike swinging. Left fielder Mark McLemore dug in next; after missing strike one and fouling off strike two, he took a third strike for the second out. Finally, designated hitter Ruben Sierra, like Suzuki before him, took two strikes and then swung and missed on strike three to set a mark unequaled in team history.