Commentary

Walk-off like 'walking on air'

Martin sounded like a man who wants to stay a Yankee after his star turn vs. Mets

Updated: June 11, 2012, 12:21 AM ET
By Andrew Marchand | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- The euphoria lit up Russell Martin's face. Everything he loves about being a member of the New York Yankees welled up inside of him. All the feelings that will make it so hard for him to possibly leave as a free agent at the end of the season came to the surface.

Leading off the bottom of the ninth in a 4-4 game, Martin already had a two-run homer in his pocket. Now he got the barrel of the bat on Jon Rauch's slider and sent it into Subway Series history. The high fly ball landed in the left-field seats at Yankee Stadium, and Martin danced around the bases before awkwardly leaping onto home plate, putting an exclamation mark on the Yankees' series sweep.

"I can't really picture a better script for me," Martin said on Sunday afternoon, after his two homers sparked the Yankees to a 5-4 win over the New York Mets.

While it couldn't have been written any better for Martin, it closed out a torturous weekend for the Mets. After losing the first two, they led most of the game, as Jon Niese cruised.

In the seventh, David Wright made a two-out error that preceded Martin's shot off the top of the wall in short right field -- a two-run homer. In the eighth, the Yankees took the lead on a combination of Mets mistakes and Yankees good fortune, culminating in Alex Rodriguez's go-ahead bloop.

The ninth saw Rafael Soriano give it up back, in large part because of Curtis Granderson's misplay on Lucas Duda's drive to center to begin the inning. Soriano, 9-for-9 previously in save opportunities, left to boos, and it appeared the skyrocketing Yankees might come back to earth for a day.

Then Martin swatted Rauch's pitch high and far, bringing the Yankees fans who remained in the crowd of 49,010 to their feet. The Yanks are now a season-high nine games over .500 and have won seven of eight and 13 of their past 17. They are a half-game behind the Tampa Bay Rays as they head to Atlanta and Washington for six games this week.

Martin has been a big part of the revival. After dancing the limbo with the Mendoza Line most of the year, Martin told hitting coach Kevin Long that he would back off the plate a little more so his hands would stop being tied by inside pitches.

Martin has homered four times in the past six games, using his natural swing to take advantage of the right-field porch in Yankee Stadium. In his past 12 games, Martin has scorched the ball, hitting .342 with eight of his 13 hits going for extra bases. His average has climbed from .173 to its current .216.

Prior to the season, Yankees GM Brian Cashman and Martin's agent, Matt Colleran, briefly spoke about a contract extension. Martin wants to stay in the Bronx and the Yankees like Martin in part because he fits the profile of a Joe Girardi-type catcher.

"Russell is tough," Girardi said. "Even when he was going through all his struggles offensively, he was the same guy every day. I think he is real tough-minded. He is going to do everything it takes to win. He is going to take his bumps and bruises and never ask out of the lineup."

Martin got the comeback started in the seventh, knocking about as short a home run as you can hit in the major leagues. It just eluded Scott Hairston's glove, bouncing off the top of the right-field wall. He cut the lead to 3-2 as the teams seesawed toward the ninth.

Martin freely expresses how much he enjoys the extra energy of the rivalry games. He famously said last year he "hates" the Boston Red Sox. He may not have that level of animus toward the Mets, but the energy is a little different when Queens and the Bronx do battle.

"It just seems like the atmosphere in the ballpark is a bit more intense, a bit more electric," Martin said. "I kind of feed off that. I feed off the energy of the crowd. I enjoy those situations."

Martin created plenty of excitement in the ballpark when he connected with Rauch's slider.

"I thought it had a chance," Martin said. "I saw the outfielder back up and have no room. It was just a barrel pop up that was hit in the right spot."

Hitting a game-ending home run anywhere is special, but Martin gushed about doing it in the Bronx.

"It is kind of hard to describe. Just wearing the Yankee uniform is special," Martin said. "But then when you are able to go out there and do something special, like hit a walk-off in front of the fans, it is kind of hard to put in words. It is a great feeling. You just feel like when you are running around the bases it is a 'walking on air' kind of thing."

Martin doesn't always fit perfectly into the Yankees' corporate clubhouse. As he spoke to the media, he wore a Ron Burgundy T-shirt and joked about how he touched home plate. "I tried to jump in the air and I got about two inches off the ground," he said.

Martin smiled broadly, as he should, after taking his place in Subway Series history.

Andrew Marchand is a senior writer for ESPNNewYork. He also regularly contributes to SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, ESPNews, ESPN New York 98.7 FM and ESPN Radio. He joined ESPN in 2007 after nine years at the New York Post. Follow Andrew on Twitter »

SPONSORED HEADLINES

EDITORS' PICKS

  • Nova Pain
    Ivan Nova gave up four homers, injured his elbow, and things only got worse.
  • Lost In Queens
    Curtis Granderson went 0-for-5, Jose Valverde gave up a homer -- same old story.
  • Fossil Fuel
    Paul Pierce was the classic "truth" in a Game 1 win.
  • Things Could Get Messy
    Forcing Geno Smith into an open competition threatens to stunt his growth as a QB.
  • Buying Into The Blueprint
    The Rangers look to relive the game plan from their Game 1 win.

ALSO SEE

MORE MLB HEADLINES