Bautista home run brings Martin therapeutic relief

Toronto Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin joins Hazel Mae to talk about the controversial seventh inning play and being a lucky charm.

Russell Martin was mid-sentence when the Budweiser started running down his back, underneath his already champagne-and beer-soaked “Toronto Wants it More” t-shirt. He didn’t flinch, though.

Asked what he was thinking when, in the bottom of the seventh, the Texas Rangers committed error after error after error, Martin didn’t skip a beat: “I’m thinkin’, it’s karma,” the veteran catcher said, grinning. “I just felt like we weren’t gonna go down like that.”

By “that,” of course, he means thanks to the run Texas scored in the top of the seventh to take a 3-2 lead.

In case you somehow missed it, in Game 5 of the ALDS at Rogers Centre on Wednesday, Martin threw a ball back to Aaron Sanchez, who’d just taken over on the mound in relief of Marcus Stroman. The ball hit the outstretched hands of Shin-Soo Choo, and bounced up the third baseline.

That’s when Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor, who was on base, ran home and celebrated while the nearly 50,000 people at Rogers Centre went quiet for a brief moment and then got really loud and upset and started throwing things. But it was 3-2 Texas.

Martin, standing in the middle of the clubhouse in his ALDS Champions hat and with champagne running down his face, had obviously recovered from that play. And probably nobody in the Jays clubhouse felt the amount of relief he did.

The 32-year-old Montreal product was pretty much absent when the Blue Jays celebrated their playoff berth, but not Wednesday after Game 5. In fact, he walked into the clubhouse, beer in hand, and said, “Where is everybody?” He found a few of his teammates pretty quick, in the middle of the clubhouse, spraying champagne, smoking cigars and hopping around with GoPro cameras on their heads.

Before long, Martin had a bottle of beer in one hand, a bottle of champagne in the other. He stood in a circle with a few teammates while Budweiser was poured into his mouth and all over his face from an impressive height, and he yelled.

But back to that crazy seventh: That had never happened to Martin before. Never had he hit a batter with a ball he was throwing back to the mound. “First time in my life,” he said, shaking his head, grinning. “Great time to do it, isn’t it? Unbelievable.”

Martin watched as fans threw beers and water and toilet paper and popcorn on the field after the play was ruled a Texas run. “They were more pissed than I was, you know?” he said. “People have a lot of emotions, and I’ll tell you what: They really care, and we can feel it.”

All the Blue Jays could do was move on after the call was made, with the score 3-2 Texas. And it was Martin who was first up to bat in the bottom of the seventh. “I’m thinkin’, I better do something,” he said. “I need to get on base right here.”

He started the comeback in a four-run inning, thanks to an error by shortstop Elvis Andrus. “I’ll take it, man,” he said.

While he was mid-sentence, surrounded by reporters, fellow catcher Dioner Navarro came over and gave him a long hug.

Martin wanted to give a longer one to Jose Bautista. He couldn’t say enough about Bautista, whose three-run shot in that unbelievable seventh frame sealed a win for the Blue Jays. “I wanted to hug him forever,” Martin said. “But you know, I decided not to.”

As first baseman Justin Smoak put it after Bautista hit that shot: “It was over.”

Martin had his Blue Jays ALDS Champions hat on, but no goggles, unlike many of his teammates. The champagne Dalton Pompey was spraying him with somehow didn’t bother his eyes, though.

“Relief man,” Martin added of Bautista’s home run, shaking his head. “I don’t even know if that’s the right word. Ha!”

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