With walk-off hit, Martin recaptures winning feeling

May 5th, 2016

TORONTO -- When Russell Martin walked into his postgame scrum after a 4-3 walk-off victory over the Rangers on Wednesday night, there was a sense of relief in the air. It had been a long time coming, but the veteran catcher finally had something to celebrate.

"It's about time I talked to you guys after doing something good," said Martin, who sent the Blue Jays to their second consecutive walk-off win over Texas with a bases-loaded single in the ninth inning.

It has been that kind of season for Martin, who entered the game hitting .149 with one extra-base hit in 23 games. There hasn't been a whole lot to smile about, but that changed Wednesday night when he picked up the eighth walk-off hit of his career.

Martin stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and one out against right-hander Tony Barnette. He lifted a deep fly ball to the warning track in right field that dropped for a long single and gave Toronto its third win in the last four games. For at least one night, the monkey was off Martin's back.

"My strength throughout my career, when I've been really good, I've been predominantly going the other way," Martin said. "Whenever I'm pulling off the ball, or striding off, or something like that, it's not a good sign for me. The fact that I'm able to stay with pitches now and use the other part of the field, it's a good sign. Small step forward, just keep plugging away."

Martin's offensive numbers are not even close to where he wants them to be at this point of the season, but there is finally cause for some optimism. He was dealing with spasms in his neck for a large portion of April but appears to be over the injury and rounding into form.

The 33-year-old never used the neck injury as an excuse but even so, it clearly played at least some kind of role in Martin's issues.

"Playing with a bad neck is tough, but now I feel so much better," Martin said. "You're going to be banged up throughout the whole year. I wasn't even swinging the bat necessarily good when, I wouldn't say injured, but it stiffened up on me. But now it feels better -- it almost feels like I needed that to not feel good and now that it's gone, I feel better, so therefore I feel more confident up there."

Martin was swarmed by his teammates on the field after the ball dropped in the ninth inning and he was treated to a red Gatorade shower. Every walk-off win is immediately followed by an on-field celebration, but this one had a slightly different feel.

The Blue Jays players inside the clubhouse know exactly what Martin has been going through over the last several weeks. The weight has been lifted off his shoulders, at least temporarily, and his teammates knew it.

"It's huge," said Blue Jays starter Aaron Sanchez, who allowed three runs over seven innings. "That's a huge hit, obviously. He had been struggling, so for him to get that big hit, in a crucial spot against a team like that, is a big one for us for sure."