Russell Martin played a monster game last night when the Pittsburgh Pirates needed it most.
We thought back to this excellent NY Times article from last season. The article starts with the Yankees catcher leaving the clubhouse at Comerica Park last October 18, the sting of a season-finishing loss starting to set in.
Still, Martin was a dependable presence behind home plate, guiding his pitchers to a 2.76 earned run average in the postseason. He caught all but the last two innings of the Yankees’ 88 postseason innings. That included a streak when he caught every inning of five playoff games in five straight days, three of which went at least 12 innings. The 55 innings in five consecutive days established a postseason record.
“And what people didn’t know is how banged up he is,” Girardi said of Martin. “Both of his thumbs were jammed. He could barely hold the bat.”
We wonder if losing in the postseason hurts so bad that it lingers? It’s hard to explain Martin’s explosion in the latest edition of The Biggest Game in PNC Park History. Sure he hit a big homer last year of Orioles closer to keep the Yanks alive, but coming in to last night, Martin was hitting like shit.
Last season Martin caught 1,133 innings in 137 games, roughly 20,000 pitches.
This year, Martin played in 127 games by our count, missing 11 games in the month of May including a four game stretch when he was out of action in New York. Clint Hurdle and Jeff Banister rested their catcher for five games in July and August with eight more games off in September.
Martin started two games at third base, and a game in right field, but mainly he was the anchor behind the dish. The flexibility was a joy to watch. He wanted to play shortstop for Team Canada. What’s not to like about this guy?
But do yourself a favor and read the NY Times article. Read what Martin saw while he was in pinstripes, imagine what he dealt with in the press after hitting .176 into the month of July. Check out what he does off the field and then think back to all of those runners he threw out this season, how well he works with his pitching staff, and then what he did last night at PNC Park.
It’s been nothing short of magical.