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Torre expresses faith in Martin

Torre expresses faith in Martin

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Day game after night game and catcher Russell Martin was back in the lineup Wednesday as the Dodgers went for the series sweep against the Giants.

Martin's offensive drop this season -- he entered the game batting .267 with three homers and 33 RBIs -- has been the fodder of much fan chatter. But manager Joe Torre's pregame discussion with the media supported his catcher.

"Maybe hitting up in the lineup [second during this series] helps him," suggested Torre. "He knows he'll get strikes to hit. He's been more level, not too long in his swing. He still feels he should be doing more. He's a good hitter. He has all the attributes of being a .300 hitter. But when you've hit home runs, it puts you in the situation that when you don't, you think you should hit them."

Martin hit 10 homers with a .282 average in 121 games his rookie season of 2006, jumped to 19 homers and .292 in 2007 when he won the Silver Slugger for catchers, then slipped to 13 and .280 last year. He's on a pace for only four homers this year.

"He's the type of hitter who should hit home runs almost by mistake," said Torre. "He should hit a line drive and it just keeps going. But he should knock in runs and hit .300. The long ball is not necessary. He just hasn't had a consistent approach this year. I go back to one swing in the playoffs last year, it was so natural, against the Cubs, a line drive to left-center. The swing was short and quick and the ball jumped off the bat."

Martin is only 1-for-9 in the two games with the Giants, but he's batting .315 in the past 15 games and .311 over the last 32, ranking second on the club on the season with a .371 on-base percentage. He came into Wednesday's game 0-for-7 lifetime against Giants starter Tim Lincecum with four strikeouts.

Defensively, Torre said the catcher has been much improved from what he saw last year from Martin, who won the Gold Glove the previous year. More days off could be a reason. His catcher's ERA is 3.53 and he's thrown out 23 percent of potential basestealers compared to 19.5 percent last year.

"His consistency behind the plate is really different," Torre said. "Like night and day. And he's been a little beat up. He has a little knee stuff, a little elbow stuff. He's had issues. But you saw the quick release the other night, with the pitch in the dirt and he got rid of the ball well [to throw out Fred Lewis trying to advance to second base]. He's athletic. He does his pregame work [preparing with the starting pitcher]. That's commendable for me."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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