Russell Martin

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


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.

Brett Cecil suffered a significant calf tear during ALDS Game 2

Brett Cecil
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Blue Jays reliever Brett Cecil suffered “a pretty significant tear” in his left calf during his team’s loss to the Rangers in Game 2 of the ALDS on Friday, per Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi.

Cecil allowed the Rangers to tie the game at 4-4 in the eighth inning on Mike Napoli‘s RBI single. The lefty promptly picked Napoli off of first base, but suffered the calf tear in the process. The Blue Jays can expect to be without Cecil for the remainder of the post-season, whether that lasts just one more game or longer.

Cecil, 29, got off to a shaky start during the regular season but finished strong, ultimately compiling a 2.49 ERA with a 70/13 K/BB ratio over 54 1/3 innings. He allowed only two runs — both unearned — in 37 appearances between June 24 and the end of the regular season.

The Blue Jays suffered an injury scare in Game 1 as Josh Donaldson took a knee to the helmet trying to break up a double play. He was removed from the game for precautionary purposes but returned for Game 2, during which he belted a solo home run. Outfielder Jose Bautista also exited Game 1 early with a right hamstring cramp, but was able to make Friday’s start.

NLDS, Game 1: Mets vs. Dodgers lineups

Clayton Kershaw
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Here are the lineups for the Mets and Cardinals for Game 1 of the NLDS, starting at 9:45 PM EDT at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California on Friday night.


RF Curtis Granderson
3B David Wright
2B Daniel Murphy
C Travis d'Arnaud
1B Lucas Duda
LF Michael Cuddyer
SS Ruben Tejada
SP Jacob deGrom

Wilmer Flores is battling strep throat, so Ruben Tejada gets the call to start at shortstop for the Mets. Also notable is veteran outfielder Michael Cuddyer getting the start in left field over hot-hitting rookie Michael Conforto. Cuddyer mustered a meager .699 OPS during an injury-plagued campaign, while Conforto wowed with an .841 OPS since debuting in the majors shortly after the All-Star break.


LF Carl Crawford
2B Howie Kendrick
SS Corey Seager
1B Adrian Gonzalez
3B Justin Turner
RF Andre Ethier
C A.J. Ellis
CF Joc Pederson
SP Clayton Kershaw

Outfielder Yasiel Puig is riding the bench, which is no surprise. Puig spent most of the second half sidelined with a hamstring injury and returned just before the end of the regular season. He’s currently battling back spasms. Ethier performs very well against right-handed pitching — he posted a .900 OPS against them this season — so expect Puig to ride the bench until Game 4 (if necessary), when lefty Steven Matz starts for the Mets. Also noteworthy is rookie Corey Seager hitting third to open the post-season for the Dodgers. Seager, one of baseball’s top prospects entering the season according to most, hit .337/.425/.561 in 113 plate appearances after making his big league debut on September 3.

Rougned Odor steals the show to send Rangers to 2-0 ALDS lead over the Blue Jays

Rougned Odor
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The Rangers outlasted the Blue Jays in 14 innings to take the second game of the ALDS on Friday 6-4, moving to a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series. Second baseman Rougned Odor‘s star shone brightest, as he used his speed to set up the go-ahead run in the top of the 14th.

With LaTroy Hawkins on the mound and the Jays employing an infield shift, Odor slapped a weak ground ball towards Josh Donaldson, positioned where the shortstop would normally play. Donaldson’s momentum took his momentum away from first base, so he had to make an off-balance throw. Odor then moved to second base on Chris Jimenez’s single to right field — narrowly making it back to the second base bag after rounding too far, a play which required replay review. Odor scored the go-ahead run, breaking a 4-4 tie, when Hanser Alberto (Adrian Beltre‘s replacement at third base) lined a single to center field.

Center fielder Delino DeShields had three hits with an RBI and two runs scored in seven at-bats. The RBI padded the Rangers’ lead to 6-4 in the 14th, as he beat out an infield single against Liam Hendriks. Starter Cole Hamels was strong over seven innings, allowing four runs (only two earned) on six hits with no walks and six strikeouts. The Rangers’ bullpen pitched seven scoreless innings of relief, including Ross Ohlendorf‘s 14th inning in which he recorded all three outs on strikeouts.

On the Jays’ side of things, Josh Donaldson hit a home run and helped instigate a benches-clearing argument with Rangers reliever Keone Kela. Donaldson had smoked a Kela offering home run distance was foul, then repeatedly swore at Kela because he felt the right-hander was quick-pitching him, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.

Jays starter Marcus Stroman was shaky early, coughing up three runs in the first two innings, but was able to settle down. He ultimately allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits and two walks with five strikeouts in seven innings. The Jays’ bullpen allowed only four base runners on two hits and two walks through the 13th, before Hawkins and Hendriks relented.

The two teams will have an off-day on Saturday as they travel to Texas to continue the ALDS. Game 3 starts on Sunday at 8:00 PM EDT, featuring Marco Estrada starting for the Jays and Martin Perez for the Rangers. The Blue Jays are still in search of their first playoff victory since Joe Carter’s walk-off home run in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series.