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Martin does heavy lifting, and Dodgers don't mind

Catcher has three hits, including a key two-run single in the seventh, in a 7-2 win over the Padres.

June 11, 2008|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO -- And then there are the nights when Russell Martin has to put the Dodgers on his shoulders and carry them.

Mind the kid on the mound. Deliver the runs. Keep Trevor Hoffman out of the game.

Martin did it all Tuesday, lifting the Dodgers to a 7-2 victory over the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. He had three hits and drove in three runs, including a two-out, two-run single in the seventh inning that put the Dodgers ahead for good, followed by a daring sprint for an insurance run.

In the wake of news that shortstop Rafael Furcal would sit out at least another three weeks, Manager Joe Torre stopped just short of calling Martin the Dodgers' most irreplaceable player.

"There's a lot of things he helps us with," Torre said. "He can catch. He can hit. His baserunning is a little unusual. Catchers don't usually have that ability.

"He's pretty darn important for us, no question. At this point in time, our shortstop is irreplaceable too."

At that, Torre managed a smile. The Dodgers might not have much at shortstop, but they had themselves a rare road victory, with Martin's stamp all over it.

The kid and the professor were gone by the time Martin settled the game, and so were most of the arms in the San Diego bullpen. Greg Maddux, the Hall of Famer in waiting, still is sitting on 350 victories. Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers' phenom, still is sitting on zero.

The Dodgers had 13 hits -- two doubles and 11 home runs -- and drew six walks. James Loney, the Dodgers' first baseman, reached base in all five plate appearances, on two singles and three walks.

The Padres handed a 2-1 lead to their bullpen in the seventh inning. Padres Manager Bud Black used four relievers in the inning -- including three relievers for three consecutive batters -- only to watch Martin foil the strategy.

Bryan Corey, the first San Diego reliever, pitched to two batters and got one out. Justin Hampson, the next reliever, pitched to two batters and got none out.

That loaded the bases for the Dodgers -- and for yet another San Diego reliever, Cla Meredith.

Meredith is a ground-ball pitcher, and Jeff Kent obliged. On the first pitch, Kent grounded to third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff, who threw home for the force.

Meredith got one out on one pitch, and yet Black summoned Heath Bell to face Martin. Bell is the Padres' top setup man, and if Black could get four outs from Bell, the Padres would have their closer, Hoffman, ready for the ninth.

Martin took three pitches -- a strike, a ball, then another strike -- then lined a single into right field. The Dodgers led, 3-2, thanks to that two-run, two-out, two-strike single.

Martin did not stop at first base. He took second on the throw, and from there he scored the second of two runs on an infield single by Matt Kemp. He just hit third and kept going, sliding home safely by tagging the plate with his back hand, then popping up to mimic the safe call, jumping in the air and pumping his fist.

Martin said he had never slid like that, but he had seen Andre Ethier do so.

"Anything to not get tagged," Martin said.

"Unbelievable slide by Russell," Kemp said, smiling broadly. "I just saw it on ESPN. That was pretty impressive. It got me another RBI too, so I'm happy about that."

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bill.shaikin@latimes.com

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