- Matt Ehalt, ESPN New York contributor
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Russell Martin chose the right month to get hot.
Martin continued his torrid September by hitting a pivotal three-run homer in the Yankees' 6-4 win over the Rays on Sunday. Martin, who went 1-for-4, is hitting .291 this month but is batting .343 over his last 10 games with three homers and 11 RBIs.
"It's a good time to heat up, September," Martin said. "That's always a good time. From here on I feel like it's one-day playoffs for us. We just gotta keep grinding and if I can stay hot that's great. Hopefully I can carry it through all the way."
As he found himself stuck below .200 for most of the year, Martin always believed the law of averages would take hold. He had perhaps run into some bad luck but always believed he'd eventually find himself back over the Mendoza line. He had never hit lower than .237 in any season.
It took until Sept. 5 for him to get above that dreaded mark, but he hasn't looked back since. He's successfully hit in nine of the last 10 games.
"I just feel like I'm seeing the ball well and that's really it," Martin said. "Pitch recognition is there and I feel like I'm swinging at good pitches and I'm striking out a bit more than I want to. Producing some big runs lately, I'll take it."
Sunday, with the Yankees leading 2-0 and two men on in the third inning, Martin went deep to right to give the team a 5-0 lead. Those runs proved to be crucial as Tampa Bay would make a late rally.
Martin, who has 17 homers, is now two shy of tying his career-high set back in 2007.
"At that point I'm just looking for a good pitch to hit over the plate," Martin said of his at-bat. "It was a fastball, maybe a little bit up, and I tried to put my best swing on it and really was just trying to think of scoring that run from third base. It's a short porch out there so just got enough of it."
While he might not finish with the numbers he wants, Martin's hot streak has boosted him to .209 and gives him 47 RBIs. His teammates have noticed that Martin has found a way to be at his best when the team has needed it the most.
"It's been huge," Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez said of Martin's production. "He's been a great help for us lately."