ATLANTA -- Pedro Martinez's injury-plagued season came to an end -- less than a week short of the playoffs.
The New York Mets learned Thursday that their ace is done for the year with a torn tendon in his left calf muscle.
Instead of pitching Game 1 in next week's NL division series, Martinez will be in the early days of a four- to six-week recovery period. While surgery won't be necessary, there's no chance of the three-time Cy Young Award winner pitching again in 2006, even if the Mets make it to the World Series.
"It's going to be sad because he's not here," Julio Franco said after the Mets' 7-4 victory over Atlanta, which snapped a four-game losing streak. "But we have to do it with the guys we've got, like we've been doing it the whole season."
Martinez returned to New York after getting knocked around badly in his final start of the regular season Wednesday night, a 13-1 loss to the Braves. An MRI showed a tear in the left calf -- different from the right calf injury that recently put him on the disabled list for a month and was thought to be his major concern.
"He did mention [Wednesday] that he felt some pain in the other leg," general manager Omar Minaya said.
The Mets managed to win their first NL East title since 1988 with Martinez (9-8) battling injuries most of the season. He was bothered in spring training by a sore toe, went on the DL at midseason with an ailing hip and fell short of 10 wins for only the second time in his 14-year career.
"We've had a little bit of a cloud of uncertainty wondering: Is he healthy? What's the rotation? Who's pitching?" left-hander Tom Glavine said. "A lot of that stuff goes away now. We can start focusing on who the guys are who are here, who are going to be able to pitch, who are going to try to help us win. That is going to be helpful for us mentally."
Orlando Hernandez will start Game 1 in the best-of-five division series, the slot that was supposed to go to Martinez. Glavine will go in Game 2.
Manager Willie Randolph said he hasn't decided on the rotation beyond the first two games at Shea Stadium.
"It stings a little bit," Randolph said. "Geez, we'd love to have [Martinez], but it is what it is."
The Mets wrapped up the division title with nearly two weeks left in the regular season and looked to be a strong favorite to reach the World Series from a league that will have no other playoff team with 90 wins.
But, with Martinez out, New York would appear to have one glaring weakness: starting pitching. Beyond Hernandez (11-11) and Glavine (14-7), the other potential playoff starters are Steve Trachsel, whose 15 wins are mitigated by an ERA of nearly 5.00, and six-game winner John Maine, a rookie.
"Losing a marquee name, that always hurts," closer Billy Wagner said. "But it's time for Trachsel or Johnny Maine to step up and be that marquee pitcher."
Martinez lost his last four starts -- the first when his right calf began hurting, the last three after coming off the DL. He looked downright awful against the Braves on Wednesday night, giving up eight hits, seven runs and two homers in 2 2/3 innings.
"It's taken a lot away from me: my confidence and the location of my pitches," Martinez said before leaving Atlanta. "When you don't have the legs to push off and create velocity and locate your pitches, you're in trouble. And I can't locate right now."
Martinez conceded that it would be tougher for the Mets to advance in the playoffs without him, though they've made it this far without a big contribution from their top starter.
"When I'm out or hurting, obviously we're not going to do as good," Martinez said. "Any time you lose a No. 1 pitcher, one of your five starters, it's going to hurt you a little bit. But these guys are professionals. They know how to do things. They've done really, really well without me. I hope they can do that again and pick me up during the time I'm limited or away."
Martinez posted a 16.97 ERA over his last four starts, giving up 22 hits and 20 earned runs in 11 2/3 innings.
"Obviously, the other guys are in better shape than I am right now," he said. "Everybody can see that. I think it would be a bad decision for Willie to put me out there the way I look now."
When Martinez first strained his calf muscle, he didn't think it was that big a deal. Now he knows better.
"It affects my shoulder, it affects my legs, it affects my back. It affects everything, really," he said. "Those legs are everything. Without them, it's impossible to get the result you want."