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Second Time's the Charm

Facing the same team on consecutive starts isn't ideal for pitchers. Facing the exact same matchup that yielded a cringeworthy disaster five days before isn't ideal for fans.

Yet this time around, Pedro Martinez vs. Zach Duke turned out just fine. Pedro might not have had as good stuff as he did on Monday, but he had a little more stamina and a lot better run support. And turned in a game that struck me as far more significant than you'd expect from a mid-August tilt with a second-division club.

Every athlete must eventually battle age, but Pedro's unearthly competitiveness and pitching smarts always suggested he'd have an advantage in that melancholy competition; the sad part is the idea has only rarely been tested, with all manner of injuries interfering. From the neck up Pedro's perfect, but it seems like everything below there has been balky and fragile. Last night, happily, the body supported the brain just fine: Pedro's flamethrower fastball is gone, never to return, but he used his changeup to deadly effect, supplementing it with a modest fastball made more effective by the addition of a few MPH here and the subtraction of a few there.

The sadness of Athlete vs. Age is that ultimately age will win — and often in a rout. Tom Seaver wound up a crafty journeyman in Boston colors. A bad back turned Keith Hernandez's Cleveland tour of duty into a farce and forced him from the game. Before we can believe it, David Wright will be a graying first baseman with a slider-speed bat. Jose Reyes will be known for his excellent baserunning and his good arm at short, but no longer for his explosive speed or the joyousness of youth. And then even those qualities will be beyond them, and they'll be gone.

Fairly soon, Pedro will precede Wright and Reyes down the road taken by Tom Terrific and Keith. But he's still got some time left — and with a little luck, he'll have more games like last night's, with brain and body in sync. Games for him and us to appreciate.