For the first time in his 11-year, 97-day major league career, Buck Martinez, the Blue Jays' part-time catcher, got the white carpet treatment. Two towels paved the way to his stool, where two beers, a can of shaving cream, a hairbrush, a razor and a can of his favorite chewing tobacco waited for him. Everything was there but the ball he hit out of Memorial Stadium for his first major league grand slam, which gave Toronto a 5-2 victory over the Orioles today.
"They got me all set up," he said. "Never happened before. I guess I just don't get any respect."
"I expect it of him," said Manager Bobby Cox, smiling. "He's making good money. He ought to hit a home run now and then."
The homer moved Toronto back into a first-place tie with Boston in the American League East (28-22, .560). The Orioles (29-23) are two percentage points behind.
Normally, Martinez, a right-hander who is hitting .328 with two homers and 12 RBI, would not have started against Storm Davis, a right-handed pitcher. Martinez shares the catching with Ernie Whitt, a left-handed hitter, and says, "You have to accept it and work at it or you're going to be miserable."
Martinez played today because he hadn't in eight days and Cox wanted him sharp for Monday's game against left-hander Scott McGregor. When a club is going as well as the Blue Jays are, every move seems the right move: whether it is bringing in Barry Bonnell, a defensive replacement who made a shoestring catch to end an Oriole threat in the seventh (the Orioles left two on in the seventh and the eighth), or leaving Martinez in to hit against Tim Stoddard. When things are going well, the unexpected becomes the expected.
For 5 2/3 innings, it was what you expected: a tightly played, taut pitching duel between Davis (3-3), the loser, and Jim Clancy (5-4), the winner.
Davis had given up only three hits and one walk when Rance Mulliniks stepped to the plate with one out in the sixth. The Orioles were leading, 1-0, thanks to John Lowenstein's homer to right in the fourth--his seventh of the year (tying him with Eddie Murray for the club lead) and the 100th of his career.
Mulliniks, who had struck out twice before, fell behind, 0-2--swinging at two balls, Martinez said. He fouled off two more. Davis called catcher Rick Dempsey to the mound. It didn't help: Mulliniks walked. "A great at bat," Martinez said, and a pivotal one.
Davis struck out Willie Upshaw but walked Cliff Johnson, pitching ever so carefully. Jorge Orta singled to left, scoring Mulliniks and tying the game. But Johnson went too far around second and was thrown out. With two outs, it appeared the Orioles had things under control but Davis struggled. He made Moseby his third walk of the inning and fourth of the game.
Manager Joe Altobelli called for Stoddard, who had not pitched since May 26. "The only reason it was a tough decision to remove Storm was that other than (Sammy) Stewart, our middle relief is not doing the job," Altobelli said. "Stoddard said last night he was available long today and we gave it to him."
Stoddard walked Hosken Powell, loading the bases for Martinez. When the count went to 3-2, he wasn't thinking home runs.
"When you have 30 lifetime home runs (39 actually), you don't swing for the fences too often," Martinez said. "I can't swing at the fences. I swing at balls over my head."
Stoddard threw a fast ball right down the middle. "It was either that or walk in a run," Stoddard said. "As it turned out, that would have been a better thing to do."
The last time Martinez hit a grand slam was in 1967. He was still an amateur then. He didn't watch this one go out and he didn't go into his home run trot. "Don't have one," he said.