The Man Behind the Mask: Russell Martin

By mattgullette

In today’s Semi-Weekly Nut-Up Award: Players That Step it Up in the Clutch, we’re going to recognize the man behind the mask: Dodgers’ catcher Russell Martin.

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Last night, manager Joe Torre thought about sitting Russ, not because he’d been slumping or anything like that, but because he’s caught every single game in the month of May.

Since Manny, Ethier and Casey Blake were all taking the day off (Ethier sitting out because of a broken pinkie), Torre thought better of that idea and let Russell catch last night’s game against the first-place Padres. It turned out to be a wise choice.

In a game where offense was hard to come by, Russell Martin stepped up in the sixth inning and hit a go-ahead single to center scoring shortstop Jamey Carroll. The single was L.A.’s first hit of the game and the only run scored by either team, which turned out to be the difference as the Dodgers went on to win 1-0, sweeping the San Diego Padres.

And this isn’t the first time Russ has come through for the Dodgers in the past couple of weeks. Martin continues to be one of the Dodgers’ most reliable bats hitting safely in the last 11 games dating back to May 5 against the Brewers. During that span he’s batting .304 with  seven RBI, seven runs-scored and two huge home-runs, one against the division-rival Rockies and one against the Milwaukee Brewers.

For a man who struggled all of last year to find any kind of rhythm, Russ is catching his stride on both sides of the plate this season. In fact, Martin has been the catalyst behind the Dodgers’ resurgence, winning seven-in-a-row and 12 of the last 15. That’s the very definition of nutting up.

After beginning last week more than five games back, the Dodgers (19-7) find themselves back in the mix of things. The Blue Crew is now only two games out in the division returning home to the friendly confines of Chavez Ravine to take on the Houston Astros (13-24) tonight @ 10:10 EDT.

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