Russell Martin

Cast off by Yankees, Russell Martin is early postseason hero for Pirates

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Russell Martin may have hit a mere .226 for the Pirates this season, but there’s little doubt he was a difference maker. On Tuesday, he showed the Yankees what they were missing my hitting two homers and catching another gem from Francisco Liriano as the Pirates advanced to the ALDS.

After a successful first year in pinstripes in 2011, Martin and the Yankees discussed a three-year deal without ever getting anything done. He avoided arbitration for the 2012 season by signing a one-year, $7.5 million deal, but he wanted more than that annually to do the long-term pact. The Yankees were thinking something closer to $20 million for three years.

Martin’s average ended up tumbling from .237 to .211 in his second year in New York, and while there was still some talk of a multiyear contract when he hit free agency, indications are that the Yankees never submitted an offer. The Pirates made him two offers: $17 million for two years or $21 million for three. He was also reportedly offered $13 million for two years by the Rangers. He chose the two-year contract from the Pirates.

Martin went on to hit .226/.327/.377 with 15 homers and 55 RBI in his first year for the Pirates. It was the best season the Pirates got from a catcher since Jason Kendall’s heyday. Despite the modest average, Baseball-reference says he was worth 4.3 WAR. It’s actually the ninth-highest total for a sub-.230 hitter in their database.

5.2 – Gene Tenace (1978 Padres)
5.0 – Ozzie Smith (1980 Padres)
5.0 – Mark Belanger (1975 Orioles)
4.9 – Gene Tenace (1974 Athletics)
4.9 – George McBride (1910 Senators)
4.7 – Darryl Strawberry (1989 Mets)
4.6 – Ron Hansen (1963 White Sox)
4.5 – Mark Belanger (1974 Orioles)
4.3 – Russell Martin (2013 Pirates)
4.3 – Roy Cullenbine (1947 Tigers)

That’s an interesting mix of defensive whizzes (Smith, Belanger) and homers-and-walks guys (Tenace, Cullenbine). Martin is a little of both there, getting equal credit for his offense and defense in rWAR. It rated him as the NL’s 23rd best position player this year.

The Yankees, meanwhile, suffered through the season with Chris Stewart, Francisco Cervelli and Austin Romine doing the catching. In all, their catchers hit .213/.289/.298 with eight homers.

If not for the Yankees’ desire to get under the luxury tax in 2014, there’s a good chance they and Martin would have worked something out. The Pirates, though, are thrilled they didn’t. Expect to see Martin behind the plate for every one of their games until their postseason run is complete.

Jeurys Familia blew another save

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 26: Pitcher Jeurys Familia #27 of the New York Mets delivers a pitch against the St. Louis Cardinals in the ninth inning during game two of a doubleheader at Citi Field on July 26, 2016 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 3-1.(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
Rich Schultz/Getty Images
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Usually, a pitcher blowing two saves isn’t noteworthy, even if it’s on back-to-back days. But Mets closer Jeurys Familia had successfully saved 52 consecutive games before the Cardinals put an end to that on Wednesday night.

The Mets opened up a four-game home series against the Rockies on Thursday afternoon. Because Familia had appeared in consecutive games, manager Terry Collins told the media, including MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, after last night’s game that the right-hander would get a day off and Addison Reed would serve as the fill-in closer.

The Mets rode a 1-0 lead through eight innings and wouldn’t you know it, Familia took the hill to start the ninth inning. Things quickly got out of hand. Trevor Story led the inning off with a single, then stole second base. David Dahl drew a walk, and Daniel Descalso followed up by loading the bases with a bunt single thanks in large part to a mental error by catcher Rene Rivera.

Familia then got Cristhian Adames on what could’ve been a game-ending 1-6-3 double play. But first baseman James Loney booted the ball, allowing a run to score and everyone else to advance safely. Even if Loney got the ball, though, Familia wasn’t anywhere close to first base to cover on a double play attempt. Charlie Blackmon stepped to the plate and Familia uncorked a wild pitch on a 1-1 fastball, allowing the go-ahead run to score.

Collins ordered Familia to load the bases by intentionally walking Blackmon, then brought in Hansel Robles, who escaped the inning without any further damage by striking out D.J. LeMahieu and getting Nolan Arenado to pop up. The Mets were unable to get any offense going against Rockies closer Carlos Estevez, who set the side down in 1-2-3 fashion to lock up the 2-1 victory.

After Thursday’s outing, Familia is now 36-for-38 in save situations on the season with a 3.14 ERA and a 49/22 K/BB ratio in 48 2/3 innings.

Phillies place Peter Bourjos on the DL and activate Aaron Altherr

Aaron Altherr
AP Photo/Winslow Townson
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The Phillies placed outfielder Peter Bourjos on the 15-day disabled list with a right shoulder sprain and activated outfielder Aaron Altherr from the 60-day disabled list, the club announced on Thursday.

Bourjos, 29, injured his shoulder robbing Marlins outfielder Ichiro Suzuki of a hit on Tuesday. It was a pretty nifty grab. He hits the DL with an uninspiring .253/.290/.384 triple-slash line but he had been on a hot streak, compiling a .938 OPS between June 21 and July 21. It’s also bad timing for the Phillies, who probably would have traded Bourjos ahead of Monday’s non-waiver trade deadline.

Altherr, 25, suffered a torn tendon sheath in his right wrist on a diving catch attempt in early March during spring training. He impressed in 161 plate appearances last season, batting .241/.338/.489 with five home runs, 22 RBI, 25 runs scored, and six stolen bases. Altherr is in Thursday’s starting lineup, batting fifth and playing right field.