Martin's slam lifts Dodgers past Cubs
Catcher breaks month-long slump with decisive shot
LOS ANGELES -- Former All-Star. Former Gold Glove. Former Silver Slugger.To those believing that Russell Martin's best days are already behind him, his sixth-inning grand slam that powered the Dodgers to a 7-2 win over the Cubs on Thursday night might hint otherwise. "That was a big win for us, obviously, but Russell needed that," said manager Joe Torre. "Just to have that kind of hit in that situation was big for us because it broke open a tie game, and it gave him something to build on, hopefully." Martin could use it. He made a throwing error that contributed to the Dodgers' 3-2 loss to St. Louis on Wednesday night, just another in a series of disappointments this season for the two-time All-Star, who came into Thursday's game hitting .261 with only three homers and 34 RBIs. Two years ago, Martin slugged 19 home runs and received the National League's Silver Slugger and Gold Glove at catcher. He now has 38 RBIs, compared to 87 in 2007. He had driven in only three runs in the past month, then drove in four runs with one swing. "There's nothing I can change in the past," said Martin. "I haven't had a great season so far, but I'm just looking forward to finishing well and hopefully this ignites a little fire within me so I can keep going." The Dodgers and Cubs were tied at 2 going into the sixth inning. Jeff Weaver, starting in place of the injured Hiroki Kuroda, gave way after 5 1/3 effective innings, lowering his ERA as a starter to 3.13. Ronald Belisario took over, the first of three relievers who combined to pitch 3 2/3 scoreless innings. That included Ramon Troncoso, who left after one inning when a wart popped on the inside of his pitching thumb. Troncoso said he'll be available on Friday. Guillermo Mota pitched the final two innings. "It starts with Weaver," Torre said of his spot starter, who was charged with two runs and pulled off a neat escape in the third inning by striking out Alfonso Soriano and Jeff Baker with the bases loaded. "Weaver's a bullpen guy and he gives us an effective five innings. He gave us an opportunity to go to the bullpen guys like Belisario, Troncoso and Mota to finish it up and give [Jonathan] Broxton and [George] Sherrill the night off." The Dodgers won the game in the sixth. Manny Ramirez played catalyst and singled, one of his three hits, followed by Casey Blake's single, a sacrifice bunt by Orlando Hudson and an intentional walk to James Loney to bring up Martin against Cubs reliever Angel Guzman, who followed starter Tom Gorzelanny. "Just really looking for something out over the plate, a little bit elevated so I could drive it into the outfield," said Martin. "That was the only thing I was looking for, so worst-case I'd get a sacrifice fly." Instead, it was the best case. Martin launched the kind of home run he'd hit often during his first few years as the Dodgers' catcher, his second career grand slam and, by his count, his first curtain call. "I've been waiting a while to do something in front of the home fans," he said. "I've been squaring a lot of pitches lately. I don't know what it looks like in the stats, but I feel every time I'm going to square it, and I haven't had that feeling in a while." He received a hero's welcome in the dugout. "We're a team, so everybody feels for each other," he said. "Obviously they know I haven't had the season I'm capable of having, and they're just there being good teammates." Martin said his offseason conditioning program that brought his weight down to 206 pounds for the start of Spring Training hasn't exactly worked. So he's picked up 16 pounds and said he believes there will be a payoff the rest of the season. "I was stronger and lighter early in the year but had a completely different feel in my body," he said. "Now I feel I can get more behind my swing. I'm starting to get that feeling back." Said Guzman: "It was a cutter right in the middle. I was trying to be aggressive in the strike zone and see if I could get a ground ball. It didn't happen."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.