Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Cautionary Tale For Russell Martin

Any of you who saw Sunday's ALDS Game 3 between the Yankees and Twins saw that the Twins lost all momentum in the eighth inning, when Nick Punto tried to stop himself from heading home by sliding in the grass after rounding third, only to get tagged out back at third as he flopped back to the bag like a fish:

On Sunday, Minnesota ran itself out of the postseason with none out in the eighth inning of New York's 4-1 win when Nick Punto rounded third base and was caught trying to dive headfirst back into the bag. It was the Twins' third baserunning gaffe in the final two games and took the team out of a last-gasp rally, with the score 2-1 at the time.

"Nick Punto, no one felt worse than him," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He thought it was a base hit. He didn't pick up [third-base coach] Scott [Ullger] rounding third. He had his head down. [Derek] Jeter makes a play, and there you have it."

Denard Span singled up the middle on a ball that seemed destined to skip into center field. But the Yankees' shortstop glided over and grabbed the ball as Punto started heading toward the plate. Punto opened the inning with a double to left-center off New York reliever Phil Hughes, who replaced Joba Chamberlain to start the frame.

Jeter quickly tossed the ball to catcher Jorge Posada, who nailed Punto diving in.

I can't find the specific games, but I distinctly recall seeing Dodger catcher Russell Martin pull off this same move multiple times this year. Luckily, I don't believe he's been caught in that no-man's land between third and home (especially now with the "NLCS" logo on that grass, it is sure to be super-slick in that area).

But I don't want to see us get run out of an inning, or even taken out of scoring position, due to a gaffe like this. Let's keep a watchful eye on Larry Bowa, please Russ? And enough of the skidding past third--don't get tagged out there and pull a Punto.

photo: Marvin Levinson, Minneapolis Star Tribune