SEATTLE -- For a guy who spent most of the season seemingly forgotten in Triple-A Tacoma, Leonys Martin is turning out to have quite an influence on the Mariners' postseason hopes in August.
The energetic outfielder made a game-saving catch in the top of the ninth inning on Wednesday after providing what turned out to be the game-winning run with a solo homer in the sixth in a 7-6 victory over the Orioles as Seattle pulled back to .500 at 61-61 with 40 games to go in its season.
Wednesday's highlight was an excellent catch in the right-center gap as he crossed in front of center fielder Jarrod Dyson to rob Manny Machado of a potential game-tying hit with the bases loaded and nobody out in the ninth. Instead of a likely three-run double, Martin turned Machado's smash into a sacrifice fly, and relievers Edwin Diaz and Marc Rzepczynski managed to make that hold up for a critical win.
Statcast™ labeled Martin's grab a three-star catch, given it had a catch probability of 60 percent. Most impressive was the amount of ground covered by the fleet-footed right fielder as he closed 91 feet in 5.1 seconds with a sprint speed of 29.2 feet per second, well above the league average of 27.0.
"Tremendous play," said manager Scott Servais. "Our outfield defense is almost a nightly [occurrence], the job they do. Dyson wasn't running great today. He's got a little bit of issue with his groin and we had to put him in the game with [Guillermo] Heredia coming out [after being hit by a pitch in the fifth]. But Leonys tracked that ball. He went a long way. That was obviously a huge play in the game."
Martin knew exactly what was at stake when the ball sailed toward the gap after Diaz had walked the bases loaded to put the 7-4 lead in precarious position.
"It's all about communication," Martin said. "We've been talking a lot, Dyson and me. His leg doesn't feel real good right now, so it was time to take care of my guy right there. It was a little bit close. But I went hard and tried to make the catch, and thank God I did."
Said Servais: "If that ball falls in, we're in all kinds of trouble."
Martin has cooled a bit offensively after a hot start upon his recall from Tacoma. He's hit .218 in the 15 games since his return, but that includes a double, triple and three home runs, including Wednesday's decisive shot.
"He just has to stay aggressive at the plate and do his thing," said Servais. "He's predominantly a pull hitter looking to get up there and get a fastball and get on it. He got one today, which was great to see. But the defensive play was really the story of the game."
Martin called it a "great team win," pointing to the clutch hitting of Yonder Alonso, Robinson Cano and others. And yeah, he was happy to include himself in that group in this one, particularly in a game of such magnitude as the Mariners bounced back from five straight losses to win the final two against the Orioles.
As for being back with his boys for the stretch run after his long stint in Tacoma?
"To be back here to do my best to help my team to make the playoffs, that's amazing," Martin said.