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Martin making his hits count for LA

Martin making his hits count for LA

CHICAGO -- Russell Martin is hitting .222 with three strikeouts through two games. So, why is he smiling?

Other than the Dodgers' 2-0 lead in the National League Division Series, Martin can take pride in his batting line: two hits in nine at-bats, but they were big ones. After hitting his first career postseason homer in Game 1, the All-Star catcher gapped a bases-clearing double to cap a five-run second inning in the Dodgers' 10-3 drubbing of the Cubs in Game 2.

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"I think that was basically the back breaker," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said of the double.

The Dodgers had already gone up, 2-0, in the second inning, loading the bases for Martin with two outs. Cubs right-hander Carlos Zambrano ran the count to 3-1. Martin figured a heater was coming. He guessed right and saw a 95-mph pitch out over the plate and laced it to left-center.

"I got in a favorable count, and he had no room to put me [on base]," said Martin, who came in 8-for-13 in his career against Zambrano. "So, he had to throw a fastball, and I was ready for it, and it was hittable pitch. I did the best I could, and it found an alley."

That let the air out of Wrigley Field. Los Angeles went up, 5-0, and strolled to its second straight win.

Martin's work behind the plate shouldn't go unnoticed, either. He caught Chad Billingsley's first playoff start, helping his pitcher fight nerves. Or did he?

"[Billingsley] was pretty calm from the get-go," Martin said. "I'm sure he had pregame jitters, like everybody has. But it's how you handle it. He did a great job of handling the pressure. Derek [Lowe], by getting that first [win] out of the way, took a little pressure off. But you've still got to give him credit. He pitched a tremendous ballgame today."

Martin's calming abilities came into play in the ninth, when he visited reliever Jonathan Broxton after a walk to Felix Pie to keep the Cubs' rally flowing with no outs.

"I told him, 'Right here, we've just got to get the ball down, and we've got to get outs,'" said Martin, who offered Broxton a hearty pat on the back. "We've got to make them earn it. That's been our motto all year."

Broxton responded by retiring the next three batters, including the final two with strikeouts. Martin then made the media rounds. He's got two hits in two days, and his Dodgers are up, 2-0. Why not be happy?

"I've been feeling pretty good, I had a few tough at-bats, but I came through when it counted," he said. "That's all that matters. You've got to get those timely hits if you want to win."

Nick Zaccardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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