Earlier this week on Twitter, I mentioned that Russell Martin hasn’t done squat since the start his red-hot April. Well, he has shut me up over the past few days.
On the heels of driving in two runs on Wednesday and hitting a solo homer on Thursday, Martin went 3-for-4 with two homers and three RBI in last night’s 8-1 win over the Twins.
After hitting just .201/.309/.287 with four homers, six doubles and a .596 OPS over 59 games from May through July, Martin is batting .269/.291/.596 with five homers, four doubles and an .887 OPS this month.
The reason for the recent offensive surge? Martin tells Chad Jennings of the Journal News that he feels fresh.
“I feel like it’s April right now,” he said. “Seriously. The way Joe’s been giving me rest, I’ve never had a year like this where I’ve been fully rested like I am now. I’ve got to give it up to him, because I’m not going to take days off. They’re going to have to give it to me.”
Long known as being one of the most durable catchers in the majors, Martin appeared in at least 143 games per season from 2007-2009 as a member of the Dodgers. He has managed to stay healthy this season while appearing in just 96 games. And with the Yankees a near-lock to make the playoffs, he should get plenty of rest down the stretch.
World Series Game 1 was billed as a battle of aces, the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw against Chris Sale of the Red Sox. Between them, they have 14 All-Star Game nominations. Kershaw has won three Cy Young Awards. Sale could his first Cy Young Award this year. Among his 10 seasons with at least 110 innings pitched, Kershaw has never posted a sub-2.92 ERA. Sale has been at 2.90 or below in each of the last two seasons. The two have combined for over 4,000 career strikeouts and both have averaged better than a strikeout per inning over their careers.
And yet Tuesday’s Game 1 was anything but a pitcher’s duel between Kershaw and Sale. Though a couple of fielding mistakes weren’t of any help to Kershaw in the first inning, Red Sox batters were squaring him up good. Of the five balls put in play in the first inning, three had exit velocities of 100 MPH or higher. Of the 12 total balls put in play against him overall, five reached triple digits in exit velo.
Kershaw gave up a pair of runs in the first, another run in the third on a J.D. Martinez double to straightaway center field, and another two in the fifth. Kershaw led off the fifth by walking Mookie Betts, then giving up a single to Andrew Benintendi, ending his night. Ryan Madson relieved Kershaw and proceeded to allow both inherited runners to score. All told, Kershaw yielded five runs on seven hits and three walks with five strikeouts on 79 pitches in four-plus innings.
Sale, meanwhile, was on the hook for individual runs in the second, third, and fifth. Dodger hitters weren’t squaring him up quite as well as the Red Sox batters squared up Kershaw, but Sale was still more hittable than usual. Of the eight balls put in play against him, four were at least 90 MPH in exit velo. One of the runs was a no-doubt solo home run to Matt Kemp in the second. The Dodgers chased Sale in the fifth when he issued a leadoff walk to Brian Dozier. Matt Barnes relieved him allowed the inherited runner to score. Overall, Sale threw 91 pitches in four-plus innings, serving up three runs on five hits and two walks with seven strikeouts.
The game is now, as has been generally the case throughout this postseason, a battle of the bullpens.