Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin entered Wednesday’s game against the Texas Rangers mired in an offensive slump.
His bat came to life at the perfect time.
Martin gave Toronto its second straight walkoff win by belting a bases-loaded drive off the wall in right field to give the Blue Jays a 4-3 victory.
“He needed that,” said Toronto manager John Gibbons. “We needed that more as a team. But he’s always hit, he’s going to hit. But that can do wonders for you, I don’t care who you are.”
The Toronto native entered play with just two hits in his last six games. Martin managed to squeak a single through the infield in the seventh before getting the barrel of the bat on the ball in the ninth against Tony Barnette (1-2).
“For me it’s never been about statistics,” he said. “As long as the team wins, I’m happy. We’ve won two big games and hopefully we can keep it going.”
Justin Smoak hit a game-winning homer in the 10th inning a night earlier to give Toronto a 3-1 win. The Blue Jays used the long ball again Wednesday with Edwin Encarnacion hitting a no-doubt two-run shot in the sixth to tie the game at three.
Toronto starter Aaron Sanchez settled down after giving up three runs over the first two innings. He pitched seven frames in all and has held the opposition to three earned runs or less in 15 of his 17 career starts.
“They’ve got a good hitting team, they came out and they were on him early,” Gibbons said. “He could have imploded but he didn’t. That’s a big step in the right direction.”
Drew Storen and Roberto Osuna (1-0) worked a scoreless inning apiece. Sanchez allowed seven hits while walking a pair and striking out five.
“Not the way I wanted it to start but I’ll definitely take the way it finished,” he said.
Texas starter Colby Lewis also lasted seven innings. He allowed three earned runs, five hits and struck out seven with one walk.
In the ninth, Encarnacion led off with a single and Ezequiel Carrera came on as a pinch-runner. Smoak and Kevin Pillar drew walks to set the stage for Martin, who is now hitting .169 on the season.
“It’s tough luck,” Barnette said. “I lost a little bit of control. I’ve got to be able to keep the team in it and give them a chance. I didn’t do that tonight.”
It was the second straight victory for the Blue Jays (14-15) and the first time they have posted back-to-back walkoff wins since Aug. 9-10, 2014 against the Detroit Tigers.
Texas (15-13) has dropped six of seven on the road. Announced attendance was 25,229 and the game took two hours 32 minutes to play.
Notes: It was the first time Sanchez had started against the Rangers. He appeared in all five ALDS games against Texas last year as a reliever. … The teams will close out the four-game series Thursday night. Toronto’s J.A. Happ (3-0, 2.76 earned-run average) will start against fellow left-hander Derek Holland (3-1, 2.48). … Smoak moved up a spot to fifth in the Toronto batting order while Troy Tulowitzki, who is hitting just .160, dropped down to the No. 6 spot. … The Los Angeles Dodgers will visit Rogers Centre this weekend in interleague play. The Dodgers adjusted their rotation plans Wednesday, moving ace Clayton Kershaw to a Saturday start and Ross Stripling to Sunday. Kenta Maeda will start the series opener Friday.
The Canadian Press