A weak dribbler off the bat of Alex Rodriguez threatened to ruin the afternoon of Daisuke Matsuzaka and the Boston Red Sox. Then Victor Martinez sprung into action.
The catcher pounced on the spinning ball, secured it in his mitt and dove fearlessly toward the plate to lay a tag on the dish as Derek Jeter came flying down the line. He recorded the out — and the next one on a popup — and was a key factor in helping Daisuke work out of a bases-loaded, nobody-out jam.
It was a play that didn't turn out to have a winning impact on the outcome of Saturday afternoon's game in the Bronx, but it was something that's become somewhat routine of Martinez since joining the Sox. It even inspired Sports Illustrated baseball writer Jon Heyman to write on his Twitter page that "the pickup of [V]ictor [M]artinez was the best move any AL team made this summer."
Heyman couldn't be any more right. The stability that Martinez has given the Red Sox, both behind the plate and in the third spot in the lineup, can't rightfully be measured. He proved it again later in the game, blocking five Billy Wagner pitches in the dirt with a runner on third in the eighth before reaching base on a single and giving the Red Sox a chance in the ninth.
It's something that anyone who's watched the Red Sox since Aug. 1 has come to expect out of Martinez. And with Jason Varitek struggling at the plate (19-for-129 since July 12) and behind it (allowing some crucial pitches to get by him recently, as well as being unable to prevent base stealers from running wild), Martinez has proven very valuable.
Perhaps even more importantly, Martinez is heating up at the right time, batting .358 with two homers and 17 RBIs in his 25-game hitting streak. With Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia ahead of him and Kevin Youkilis and Jason Bay behind him, Martinez will likely be the the player upon whom the offense will hinge in October. For Red Sox fans, that's good news.
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