Martin struggles as Blue Jays lose 3-2 to Rays
TORONTO (AP) — Russell Martin insists he isn’t trying to live up to the $82 million, five-year contract he signed with the Toronto Blue Jays over the winter.
Whatever the reason, the veteran catcher is off to a slow start with his new team.
Martin committed a throwing error that helped set up the winning run in the eighth inning of Toronto’s 3-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night.
“Any time you don’t help the team win, it’s not a good feeling,” he said. “But it’s over with. I’m not going to be down on myself. I’m trying my best out there and I’m going to keep trying my best.”
Martin went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts and is hitless in 21 at-bats. His throwing error on Steven Souza’s stolen base in the eighth allowed Souza to advance to third, where he scored on Desmond Jennings’ sacrifice fly.
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, who already has dropped Martin from second in the order to seventh, said it is human nature to press a little after switching teams or signing a rich deal.
“I don’t care how long you’ve been playing,” Gibbons said. “You get traded or you’re a free agent, these guys are human, so naturally everybody wants to get off to a good start, they’re in a new place, things like that.”
Martin is 1 for 23 on the year and has struck out 10 times.
“I feel like I’m going out there hunting for a good pitch to hit,” Martin said. “I feel like I can still hit. I feel I’m a dangerous player.”
Souza opened the scoring in the first with a drive off the facing of the third deck in center.
“I’ve seen a lot of baseball games here, and that has got to be the furthest ball I’ve ever seen hit,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash, whose playing career started with the Blue Jays.
The drive was measured at 463 feet. It was the longest home run for the Rays since Carlos Pena’s 466-foot shot against Washington on June 13, 2009.
The blast came on the first pitch Souza saw from rookie left-hander Daniel Norris.
“He hit it about 700 feet,” Norris said.
Souza needed less than 60 feet to make an impact with his next hit. With the score 2-all, Souza reached on a bunt single off Miguel Castro (0-1) leading off the eighth.
One out later, Souza stole second and advanced to third on Martin’s error. Evan Longoria was intentionally walked before Jennings drove an 0-2 pitch to center, scoring Souza.
Steve Geltz (1-0) pitched 1 1-3 innings for his first major league win. Grant Balfour and Kevin Jepsen each pitched an inning of hitless relief, with Jepsen getting his first save this year.
Kevin Kiermaier made a spectacular catch to retire Devon Travis for the second out of the ninth, leaping against the scoreboard in right-center.
“I feel like if it’s in the air, I’m going to catch it,” Kiermaier said. “The only way I’m not going to catch it is if it goes out.”
Tim Beckham made it 2-0 with a sacrifice fly in the second, and Toronto chased rookie Matt Andriese with a two-run fourth. Kevin Pillar hit an RBI single and Andriese left after the Rays couldn’t turn the double play on Travis’ grounder, with Pillar sliding into Beckham at second base. Kirby Yates came on and gave up an RBI double to Jose Reyes.
Making his first career start, Andriese allowed two runs and five hits in 3 2-3 innings. Norris gave up two runs and two hits in five innings.
CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR
The Blue Jays have lost nine of their past 10 and 11 of their past 13 one-run games. They are 0-3 in such games this season.
RISP VS. REWARD
The Rays are 0 for 13 with runners in scoring position through the first two games of this series but have won twice.
Blue Jays: OF Michael Saunders (left knee) sat for the second straight day. He left Sunday’s game for Class A Dunedin after one inning with a sore right hamstring. Saunders is expected to return to Dunedin’s lineup Wednesday.
Blue Jays LHP Mark Buehrle (1-0) went 2-0 with a 2.66 ERA in six starts against the Rays in 2014. Buehrle got his 200th win last Friday against Baltimore. Tampa Bay’s starting rotation has combined for 102 career wins. Ramirez will come out of the bullpen to start for the Rays.