When a pitcher is paid $53 million to be a stopper, stopping a 5 game, season-opening losing streak isn’t neccesarily what the employers had in mind. But that’s the situation facing the New York Mets and Pedro Martinez today, writes the eternally doomy Bob Klapisch of the Bergen Record.

Little by little, one dreary loss at a time, the Mets have come crawling back to Pedro Martinez, who’s quickly learning he’s not in Fenway anymore. The tough little right-hander faces John Smoltz this afternoon as the Mets’ last line of defense from a doomsday scenario – being introduced at Shea on Monday with an 0-6 record.

“Think we’ll get booed?” is what one veteran asked rhetorically. The embarrassment was everywhere after a 6-3 loss to the Braves on Saturday night, even though Willie Randolph was still doing a credible job looking and sounding upbeat. But no one is understating the importance of today’s power-versus-power matchup between Pedro and Smoltz and how desperately the Mets need him to outpitch the Braves’ ace.

That’s why the Wilpon family outbid the Red Sox, precisely for the kind of game Pedro is expected to pitch today. For the rest of the season, Martinez will draw the toughest assignments, the National League’s best pitchers and will have to win with minimal offensive support.

It’s not easy carrying a panicked franchise on slender shoulders, but don’t feel sorry for Pedro. No one imposed this life on Pedro – he chose it. He turned down a three-year offer from the Sox, as well as his cult-hero status in Boston, for the extra year and the extra cash flowing out of Wilpon’s wallet.

Pedro offers the Mets hope. Beating Smoltz would go a long way toward healing this troubled team. It might not be an Game 7 start in October, but it’s serious enough for the Mets to gaze Pedro’s way and say, simply: Save us.

If the Mets are booed on Monday, I fully expect an outraged Fran Healy to ask “would you boo Perry Farrell for hitting a bum note?”