Russell Martin’s pitching feat first since 1963

March 31st, 2019

Dodgers catcher Russell Martin got a rare opportunity on Saturday, when manager Dave Roberts tabbed him to close out Los Angeles’ 18-5 rout of the D-backs -- and he made the most of it.

Martin, 36, induced a pair of groundouts and a flyout in a perfect 1-2-3 ninth inning. The veteran catcher, who estimated that he last pitched “probably close to 20 years” ago, made 10 pitches -- eight for strikes -- with a top velocity of 83.7 mph. He forgot what to do after the final out, heading toward second base before David Freese reminded him he first needed to shake hands with his catcher, Austin Barnes.

Martin also made a bit of history. In closing out the ninth inning of a team win, he became the first primary position player to do so since left fielder Willie Smith got the final out of a 4-1 Tigers win over the Senators on Sept. 23, 1963 -- though Smith did make 29 total pitching appearances over his career. Hybrid player Brooks Kieschnick accomplished the feat several times for the Brewers between 2003 and ’04, while a handful of position players (John Baker, Chris Davis and Wilson Valdez) closed out long extra-inning wins for their clubs earlier this decade.

Martin is the first full-time position player to work a 1-2-3 ninth in a team win since at least 1925.

“He was our most effective pitcher these three games,” deadpanned Roberts.

For Martin, it was another feather in the cap of his accomplished career -- and a display of the Dodgers’ might that the team could afford to send him out in the ninth to wrap up their second rout in the first three contests. 

“The next thing you know, I was on the bump at Dodger Stadium,” said Martin. “I didn’t have time to get nervous.”