Twenty-four up, twenty-four down.
Then came John Flaherty's leadoff single in the ninth.
"I don't really care. I've achieved enough," Martinez said after finishing with a one-hitter Tuesday night in Boston's beanball- and brawl-filled 8-0 win over Tampa Bay.
"I've had enough achievement in my career," Martinez said. "A no-hitter is not what's going to dictate what kind of pitcher I am. I think my career is more interesting than one game."
He struck out 13, including Greg Vaughn and Fred McGriff three times each, and walked none.
Eight Devil Rays, five players, manager Larry Rothschild and two coaches were ejected in the first seven innings during five altercations, primarily caused by four hit batters, including Boston's Brian Daubach twice.
Tampa Bay thought Martinez hit Williams intentionally, and Daubach became a target for Devil Rays pitchers after the first baseman joined the fray when Williams charged the mound and landed a punch.
"The whole thing was we thought Daubach threw some cheap shots in the pile," said Devil Rays manager Larry Rothschild, who was ejected for arguing that Martinez should have been tossed out for thowing at Williams.
"You've got to protect your players," the manager added. "You're not going to let that happen."
Martinez, the AL Cy Young Award winner, lowered his major league-leading ERA to 1.68, throwing 110 pitches, including 71 strikes.
On June 3, 1995, when he was with Montreal, Martinez became only the second pitcher in the history of the major leagues to take a perfect game into extra innings, before allowing a leadoff double to San Diego's Bip Roberts leading off the 10th.
The only other pitcher to accomplish the feat was Harvey Haddix of Pittsburgh in 1959. He pitched 12 perfect innings in that game before losing in the 13th.
Under amended no-hitter rules adopted by an eight-man committee on statistical accuracy in 1991, Martinez received credit for neither a perfect game nor a no-hitter.
"I'm not disappointed at all. I wanted to win a ballgame. I'm not there to pitch no-hitters and stuff. The days that it happens, I'll take them," Martinez said.
Flaherty lined his hit after Martinez carefully removed a chain from around his neck that broke on the previous pitch. Flaherty wasn't in Tampa Bay's clubhouse after the game.
"He hit a good pitch. I have to tip my hat to him and just go away," the Martinez said. "I lost with a fastball, the way it should have been."
Carl Everett went 4-for-5 and equaled a career high with six RBIs. He had a two-run double in the third, a solo homer in the fifth and a three-run seventh-inning homer. The first homer was Everett's 100th, including 32 this season.
"Unfortunately, we had some disagreements out there. But I wanted him to throw a no-hitter," Everett said. "It just is amazing that someone like him has never thrown one. I just wanted him to do it. When Flaherty got the hit, I wanted to have rubber arms and try to grab that."
Williams and Rothschild were ejected in the first. Williams, hit near the left hand, took a several steps toward first base, alternating his stare between his hand and Martinez. He then charged the mound and throwing a right. Williams was then tackled from behind by catcher Jason Varitek.
Williams was restrained by several different people, including Vaughn and Red Sox coach Jim Rice.
Like Rothschild, the Devil Rays center fielder thought Martinez should have been ejected based on his history. The right-hander has hit one batter (14) for about every two he's walked (27) this season, which Tampa Bay offered as evidence of what kind of control he has.
"I want to remain professional," Williams said. "Sometimes, it becomes increasingly difficult when you're given a guy's background. That's all I want to say about it."
There wa considerable pushing and shoving after both benches and bullpens emptied. Daubach, who emerged from the pile holding his left arm, was pushed from behind by Devil Rays closer Roberto Hernandez.
Rothschild was ejected by second base umpire Tim McClelland, and the game was delayed 12 minutes.
Dave Eiland (2-2), Tampa Bay's starting pitcher, and coach Bill Russell, who became acting manager following Rothschild's ejection, were tossed in the third after Eiland hit Daubach and Nomar Garciaparra with pitches.
Daubach hit the dirt avoiding a high and inside pitch, then was hit on the next pitch. After Everett doubled, Garciaparra was hit in the back and Eiland was ejected.
Cory Lidle was ejected in the seventh after throwing a pitch behind Daubach and coach Jose Cardenal was tossed because he was acting manager. Tony Fiore relieved, threw an inside pitch to Daubach, then hit him with his second pitch.
Both benches emptied, but there were no punches thrown. Williams came out of Tampa Bay's clubhouse and ran back on the field, in front of the Devil Rays' dugout.
Vaughn was ejected by plate umpire Phil Cuzzi in the bottom of the seventh inning for arguing balls and strikes after Martinez, who was working on a no-hit bid, threw a called third strike by him.
After the game, Daubach was taken to a hospital for precautionary X-rays on his left arm. Third baseman Lou Merloni, who left the game with a mild concussion after winding up at the bottom of the pile, was hospitalized overnight for observation.
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