As he walked through a sea of reporters to get to his locker, Russell Martin was already laughing. “I want to know how many of you guys would have pinch hit for me right there,” he said.
The answer: A lot of us. But not Joe Girardi.
“I had no thoughts of pinch hitting for him there,” Girardi said. “I was going to let him hit. I liked his swings all night. He has been working really hard with Kevin (Long) to make some adjustments, and I liked what I saw tonight.”
How do you overshadow a guy who had two home runs, five RBI and hit a three-run shot to tie the game in the eighth? You step to the plate with a sub-.180 batting average and line a game-winning single to right field. Then you seal it by throwing out a runner for the final out, the last of three runners thrown out on the bases.
“I feel a lot better now than I did before and during the game,” Martin said. “It’s a good way to start the second half, a W, and I’m starting to feel a little bit better about myself. That’s never a bad thing. … I’m sure (Girardi)’s patience was starting to wear thin a little bit, and that’s probably why we had that talk. But nobody was getting more frustrated than myself. You try to keep your defense separated from your offense, but when you’re not hitting it’s just not as fun to play the game.”
Martin and Girardi talked over the weekend in Boston. That’s where Girardi kept Martin out of the lineup on Sunday and told him to use that day to reset and begin putting his mind at ease. Martin used that day to get in the cage.
“Me and K-Long spent like an hour and a half that last day before the break in Boston,” Martin said. “I had the day off and I took advantage. I took a zillion swings, it seemed like. I really shortened up my swing, tried to make it more compact. It’s a simpler approach, I feel good right now, trying to be more compact. … If I have a long swing, I probably roll over that pitch (in the eighth inning). If you stay compact, you have a little bit of room to work with. If you start your swing long, you have nothing extra. That ball ended up going further away than I thought it did, but I still had a little bit of room, because I started my swing closer to my body.”
Martin said he spent the All-Star break at home in Montreal seeing his family. When he described his past four days, “good dinners” was the most exciting thing he said. The weekend talk with Girardi, he said, helped him “recenter” and the four days off left him feeling “refreshed.”
“It was more mental, just beating myself up,” he said. “I was 0-for-30 at one point. Feels like you’re 0-for-half-the-season when you’re in that. You try not to think about it, but you’re you’re reminded of it every day. It’s kinda your jobs to do that.”
Tonight, Martin had the final word. Would most of the writers have pinch hit for him in the eighth? Probably. Would that have been the wrong call? Martin left no doubt.
• Martin is a great story tonight, but the Yankees had no chance tonight without Teixeira, who is also trying to make up for a disappointing first half. “I actually took a terrible batting practice today,” Teixeira said. “Early BP was bad. Regular BP was bad. Just off from the four days. But when you have that extra energy, you can kind of lock it in for the games, and I put a couple good swings on them tonight.”
• Teixeira on his first homer: “C.J. Wilson’s a really good pitcher. His numbers have been insane the last couple weeks. For us to scratch two runs off of him, I mean he didn’t make too many mistakes, even the ball that I hit for the home run, it was a cutter down in the zone, it was probably a ball. He’s a really good pitcher so I don’t think a loss against C.J. would’ve been a bad loss.”
• Teixeira on his second homer: “He pounds me away. Downs has one of the best sinkers in baseball, one of the best left-handed relievers in baseball, so I didn’t want to roll over a sinker down and away into a double play, looking to shoot the ball to right field. I can do that a little more right handed, and when you have that approach, breaking balls, you can pull.”
• Can we just take one moment to pause and consider where Mark Trumbo hit his three-run homer in the seventh? Over the visiting bullpen into the left-field bleachers? Yowza. “You don’t see too many people go where he went tonight,” Girardi said.
• Hiroki Kuroda’s final line doesn’t look too impressive, but he actually pitched a pretty good game. He made the mistake to Erick Aybar, but Martin said the ball that Trumbo hit actually wasn’t a bad pitch. “He threw one pitch, and it wasn’t even a bad pitch,” Martin said. “It was right where I asked for it and Trumbo put a great swing on it. He’s a tough guy to get out these days.”
• Kuroda is undefeated in eight of his past nine starts since May 27, going 5-1 with a 2.90 ERA. He’s lasted seven innings in seven of his past nine starts.
• Martin on the final out of the game: “I blocked it but I never got down on my knees and it just kind of hit off my chest and it caromed to the right. It took a nice hop and I just barehanded it, kind of just in my old shortstop days, I kind of sidearm slung it to second base and he was out by a couple of steps.”
• Nice catch by Nick Swisher tonight too, part of a good defensive game for the Yankees. “Swish, it seems like he doesn’t mind the wall out there too much,” Martin said. “That play in Atlanta that he made. He’s got some hops. I wonder if he played basketball a little bit, dunking on eight-foot rims.”
• The Yankees were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position before Teixeira’s home run. “We don’t keep track during the game,” Teixeira said. “I had no idea we were 0-8 in my last at-bat. I’m looking to shoot a ball to right, try and keep the inning going, don’t want to hit into a double play there. You guys can kind of look and see that stats. No one comes up and says ‘Hey Mark, you’re 0-8 today with runners in scoring position. Good luck, go get ‘em.’ C.J. Wilson was really good tonight. He made some really good pitches. Sometimes you have to give the pitcher credit.”
• This was Teixeira’s 36th career multi-homer game and third of the season. … Derek Jeter scored his 1,817th run, passing Carl Yastrzemski for sole possession of 16th place all-time. … Robinson Cano extended his hitting streak to 16 games. It’s the fourth-longest hitting streak of his career.
• Let’s give the final word to Teixeira: “It’s a new start. The first half really doesn’t mean anything. You can say you had a good first half, and seven games up or whatever it is, but we have to play really well this second half because we’re playing a lot of teams in our division. We’re playing some good teams like the Angels, and nothing’s going to be given to us. We’re going to have a bulls eye on our back, and it was important for us to get off on the right foot.”
Associated Press photos