Martin takes advantage of green light for big HR

Martin takes advantage of green light for big HR

ST. PETERSBURG -- The way Russell Martin has been swinging the bat lately, the Blue Jays have no choice but to give him the green light on a 3-0 count. That turned out to be a difference maker on Sunday afternoon at Tropicana Field.

Martin was allowed to swing away in the series finale vs. the Rays and he came through with the go-ahead homer in the eighth inning of Toronto's 5-3 victory. The timing could not have been better, as it also helped the Blue Jays avoid being swept for the first time since May 16-18.

Earlier this year, Martin may not have been so lucky, but there was no chance Toronto was going to give him the take sign after the numbers he has put up since the beginning of August. The veteran catcher has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball, and when a player is producing like that, he gets to swing away.

"If he's seeing the ball good, which I thought he was, I gave the approval for him to take a whack at it," said Blue Jays bench coach DeMarlo Hale, who took over when John Gibbons was ejected in the fourth inning. "You're going to need a big hit at some point. Once a guy got in scoring position, he's up there to drive that run in.

"He got a pitch to drive out. It's just the situation of the game. He's seeing the ball well and one swing of the bat. We got the tie. Granted, if he had got a base hit it would've been good, too, but we'll take the home run."

The game was tied at 3 when Dioner Navarro led off the eighth inning with a walk. Pinch-runner Dalton Pompey then promptly stole second base on the first pitch of Martin's at-bat, which moved the go-ahead run into scoring position.

Rays reliever Kevin Jepsen eventually fell behind in the count, 3-0, and not wanting to put the first two hitters on base, he then grooved a 92-mph fastball down the middle of the plate. Martin was waiting and unloaded on his 17th home run of the season with a two-run shot over the wall in left field.

Martin has 10 home runs since Aug. 1, which is three more than he had during the first four months of the season. He's now batting .302/.398/.542 with runners in scoring position this season and is clearly thriving at a time when other catchers around the league typically start to wear down.

"Typically, you're looking for a pitch that's out over the plate and that's what I got," Martin said. "There's really one pitch, one spot -- if it's not there, you take it. If it's there, you have to let it rip, and it ended up in my happy zone."

Some of the credit for this victory also goes to Gibbons, even though he was long gone by the time Toronto rallied from two runs down in the seventh. Martin appeared to be on the verge of getting ejected by home-plate umpire Pat Hoberg in the top of the fourth inning for arguing a called third strike call when Gibbons intervened.

Gibbons stepped to the top of the dugout and started arguing with Hoberg and was quickly tossed from the game. That took the attention away from Toronto's starting catcher, who otherwise would have been at risk for a quick hook from the game.

"It just shows that he has our back, and that's all you can ask from your manager," Martin said. "He kind of just weathered the storm a little bit, took the heat for everybody. I think he kept some guys in the game doing that, including myself."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.