Russell Martin was hitting .293 with six home runs at the end of April. Since the first of May, he was hitting .190 with three homers, two doubles and 12 RBI in 36 games. Martin entered tonight’s game as easily the coldest player in an otherwise red-hot Yankees lineup.
“The good thing about Russ is that he can go 0-for-30 and you’d never know it,” A.J. Burnett said. “He cares more about harnessing us and taking care of us (pitchers). The homers and the hits will come.”
A big hit came tonight. Martin’s three-run homer was a game-changer, a go-ahead shot to left field that was his first extra-base hit in 68 at-bats.
“As long as we’re winning, it doesn’t bother me as much,” Martin said. “If we were losing more, it would probably affect me more. I go out there and my main focus is on calling a good game whether I’m doing it with the bat or not.”
Through that first month, Martin’s impact on this team was easy to notice. There were numbers and highlights to prove it. He was the new guy, and he was hammering the ball. These past two months, Martin’s impact has been behind the plate and in the clubhouse. The players seem to respond to him, a more soft-spoken version of Nick Swisher. I wrote a few days ago that, while being around this team, Martin’s felt like an all-star, no matter what the numbers have suggested.
It’s also worth remembering that Martin has dealt with toe and back injuries. He’s also been run over at the plate, and he’s been knocked in the head by a back swing. Joe Girardi said he thought the toe bothered Martin quite a bit, and Martin said he’s only recently started to feel like himself at the plate. But even through this slump, he’s had an impact. With a brand new pitching staff, he’s developed immediate relationships, and he’s not let offensive struggles affect his defensive approach.
“You wouldn’t know if he didn’t get another hit the rest of the month because he cares so much about us,” Burnett said. “That’s his main priority… When you meet between home and the mound and the catcher’s got this voice where you know it’s coming from his heart, it makes you believe in that pitch. It’s fun to work with him.”
• In case you missed it, here’s a quick summary of the pregame injury updates: Brian Cashman said there’s a “good likelihood” that Bartolo Colon will start on Saturday, he said Phil Hughes’ stuff is ready for the big leagues but the Yankees have to decide whether to stretch him out further, and Cashman said it’s possible Derek Jeter will begin a rehab assignment on Saturday and return during next week’s Cleveland series.
• When Sergio Mitre was designated for assignment, I texted two of my writer friends and predicted he’d be with the Yankees by the weekend. Burnett said he and CC Sabathia had a similar conversation in the dugout yesterday, saying they wouldn’t be surprised if the Yankees found a way to get Mitre back in the bullpen. “Just shows you what we think of him,” Burnett said. “We believe in him.”
• Girardi said he expects Mitre to serve a long relief role similar to last year. He’ll be available on Thursday.
• Burnett got some help from his defense tonight — including a nice running catch by Curtis Granderson and a nice stop by Eduardo Nunez — and he took advantage for a strong seven-inning start that ended with a standing ovation. “I threw some changeups in counts tonight that were big pitches and I got some double plays,” Burnett said. “In the past, it would have been fastball, fastball, fastball.”
• I’d never thought of this, but Burnett mentioned it after the game: Before coming to New York, Burnett never played for a team that always packed a stadium like the Yankees, so he never really experienced this sort of standing ovation until he got to New York. “I get goose bumps right now thinking about it,” he said.
• Burnett’s night ended on Nunez’s 10th error of the season, but Burnett made sure to talk to his shortstop before walking off the mound. “He was kind of the last one to come to the mound, and I was like, are you going to smile or what?” Burnett said. “You can’t forget the play he made earlier… He can play behind me any time.”
• Another escape act for Robertson, who struck out two of the four batters he faced. His ERA is down to 1.11.
• Speaking of the bullpen, Mariano Rivera got his 21st save. He’s converted 26 consecutive interleague save chances at home, dating back to June 14, 2001. He hasn’t allowed a run in those games. He’s struck out 32.
• Jorge Posada’s sixth-inning home run was the eighth time a play was reviewed at Yankee Stadium, including the postseason. I twa sthe second call reversed via replay. “I saw that the ball hit something out there above the wall,” Posada said.
• For the second night in a row, the Yankees won despite being outhit.
• Martin homered on an 0-2 pitch for the second time in his career. His 68 at-bats without an extra-base hit was a career-long stretch. That’s according to Elias. I didn’t know that off the top of my head.
• Joba Chamberlain was back with the team tonight. He came to town to have his stitches removed.
• Former Yankees reliever Luis Vizcaino has been suspended 50 games for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance.
• I’m sure I’ll mention it again, but I’m going to host a chat at noon on Friday leading into this weekend’s Subway Series. Stop by!
Associated Press photos