The Russell Martin Chowder and Marching Society

One player who I never, ever get tired of saying good things about: Russell Martin. On an offense-starved team where just about everyone shares a bit of the blame, Martin just keeps chugging along. Think about this: no Dodger who’s played in more than half the team’s games (yeah, as of tonight that excludes Rafael Furcal) is hitting more than Matt Kemp’s .297. Except for Martin, who’s blowing everyone away at .321 – not to mention playing a fantastic backstop. And occasional third base.

Really, everything he means to this team showed up in tonight’s game. To put it simply, without Russell Martin, the Dodgers do not win this game. And who knows how many other games you can say that about? In the first inning, Martin drives in the first run with a single to RF and then steals second base, where he was stranded. He follows this with another single in the 4th, being stranded again, before grounding out in the 6th.

But it’s the 7th inning where he took the game into his own hands. At 2 outs and the Dodgers down 2-1, the 4th Padre pitcher of the inning (!) Heath Bell works Martin to 1-2 count. With a flick of the wrists, Martin rolls a single between first and second to plate two, and advancing to second on the throw home. Hey, that’s pretty impressive, right? After an intentional walk to James Loney, Kemp is the next batter, and really, when’s the last time you saw this line on a simple grounder to the shortstop with 2 outs?

M Kemp reached on infield single to shortstop, J Kent and R Martin scored, J Loney to second

Honestly, you had to see it to believe it. Jeff Kent, of course, was running on the play from third and was easily safe when Kemp beat out the throw to first. But talk about heads-up baserunning; Martin, knowing there were two outs, never slowed down and steamed around third towards the plate. Padres 1B Adrian Gonzalez throws home, catcher Michael Barrett does a great job of blocking the dish, and Martin makes an incredibly athletic dive to get around Barrett and get his hand on the plate. I wish I had the video to embed here – the best part was him jumping up right after and shaking his fist in excitement. On a team that too often plays without passion, it was fantastic to see. The Padres fell apart in the 9th inning, so the 7-2 margin doesn’t look like a nailbiter, but in a game that was much closer than the score looks, the Dodgers have Martin to thank – yet again.

Final tally: 3-5. 3 RBI. 1 SB. 2 runs.

With that in mind, and with Andy LaRoche finally getting recalled, it’s time for a new MSTI Cause – and I can’t think of a better one than supporting the most valuable player on this team. I don’t care what the news says, there’s only one candidate to back this year: Vote Martin, ’08! I know, I know – it’s sort of a moot point, as with Furcal having sat himself out of consideration, there’s really no other Dodger with a shot to make the All-Star Team. But this is a pride thing. How is Martin only 5th in voting? Now, Geovany Soto, fine, I can’t argue – he’s having a fine season for a Cubs team in first place. Even Brian McCann, okay – he’s outhitting Martin by most standards. But Yadier Molina? J.R. Towles? J.R. Towles just got demoted to AAA after hitting .145. That, friends is a travesty. Martin is second amongst all MLB catchers in VORP, behind only McCann. He started the All-Star Game last year, and in many ways, he’s been better this year.

By the way, if you just weren’t quite sure how useless “wins” are as a stat for pitchers, after Clayton Kershaw was very effective for 5.1 innings, and before Beimel, Broxton, and Wade combined for 5 strikeouts over 3 scoreless innings, Scott Proctor pitched 0.2 of an inning, allowing a run to score on a wild pitch on his very first offering, and then committing an error on a grounder back to the pitcher on the very next hitter. Who gets the win? That’s right, Proctor, by virtue of still being the pitcher of record in the bottom of the 7th when Martin put the Dodgers ahead for good.

In other good news: Andy LaRoche is getting a start tomorrow night, says Diamond Leung

Andy LaRoche was officially recalled today and is scheduled to start tomorrow either at first base or third base while facing left-hander Randy Wolf. Torre said his plan is to get LaRoche plenty of at-bats, and he’ll use LaRoche to spell left-handed hitters Blake DeWitt and James Loney depending on who’s struggling more.

Just a guess, but since Loney got on base all 5 times tonight (2 hits, 3 walks) while DeWitt went 1-5 with 4 men stranded, my money’s on LaRoche at 3B tomorrow night.

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg