Sporting batting averages hovering around .200 for much of 2012, New York Yankees catcher Russell Martin has been far more effective since Sept. 3, hitting .299 with six home runs and 16 RBIs in 19 games (18 starts).
Martin, who posted an on-base percentage of .382 in that span, went deep with two runners on in New York's 11-4 win over the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on Friday. The three-run shot marked his career-high 20th homer of the season. The Yankees (91-66), leading the Baltimore Orioles (90-67) by one game in the AL East coming into Saturday, are 5-1 when Martin has homered this month.
One of those wins took place last Friday night at Yankee Stadium, where the three-time All-Star beat the Oakland Athletics 2-1 with a 10th-inning walk-off homer.
Martin's batting average on the year is only .212 at this moment, but that actually represents a 13-point increase since Sept. 3. He was hitting .199, one point beneath the cursed "Mendoza line," when play concluded that day. In case you didn't know, the "Mendoza line" is synonymous with a .200 batting average. The phrase was created during the late 1970s in mockery of shortstop Mario Mendoza, a career .215 hitter who managed to play nine Major League Baseball seasons due solely to his defensive skills.
Martin's batting average is still three points below Mendoza's actual lifetime mark, but with five games (including Saturday's Yankees-Blue Jays matinee) left to play, any offensive help the Yankees can get from him--or anyone else, for that matter--carries a lot of weight. They'd like to avoid the Wild Card Showdown, a potential death sentence, so every big hit these days is that much more important.