Russell Martin braced himself for impact. After all, it is the playoffs.
The Yankees catcher could see Alex Avila quickly gaining ground as he charged toward home plate. But Martin could only focus on the ball and its near-perfect trajectory out of Derek Jeter's right hand.
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"We're in the playoffs. If you're going to get hit, you're going to get hit. That's the way it is. So I was just zeroing in on the baseball, and luckily it got there before he did."
The score was tied at 1 in the top of the fifth when Avila walked with one out and Ryan Raburn singled to right. Jhonny Peralta then ripped a 92-mph two-seamer from Ivan Nova to centerfield, where it one-hopped in front of Curtis Granderson.
A flurry of crisp, efficient tosses ensued. Granderson launched the ball to Jeter -- who was standing to the first-base side of second, just a few feet away from Robinson Cano -- and the shortstop wasted no time firing the ball to Martin.
As this was occurring, Tigers third-base coach Gene Lamont hurriedly waved his arm in a windmill-type motion, signaling Avila to make the turn at third base and head home.
Though Jeter's throw wasn't perfect, it was good enough.
"The first thing I did was, the bat was in the way so I kind of pushed the bat out of my way and the throw ended up being right where I was at," said Martin, who caught the ball and made a sweeping tag in one motion.
"The ball kind of took me towards third base a little bit and I had time to catch the ball and I went with the contact and I was able to hold on to the ball."
Said Joe Girardi: "It was a great relay. Grandy hits Jeet in the chest, Jeet makes a good throw and I thought he was out. You wonder if [Avila] slides is he safe. I don't know. I didn't get real caught up in it because he was called out."
Jeter said he wasn't the cut-off man in that situation, but he felt he had a chance to make the play work.
"Peralta hit it hard and Curtis sort of had to wait for it and couldn't charge it," Jeter said. "So I thought if I stepped in we'd have a chance to get him."
Asked if the first baseman usually assumes the cutoff responsibilities on that type of play, Martin said: "In that situation, yeah, I guess so. But Curtis just saw [Jeter]. [Curtis] was a little bit deeper than usual. Normally that play, that guy scores no problem, but I think Avila wasn't sure if Granderson was going to catch it or not, so he kind of held up a little bit. So it gave enough time for Jeter to make a relay home."
Martin said the last thing he was worried about was the impact of the collision. "It's the playoffs. I'm ready for anything," he said with a smile. "The only way I'm dropping that ball is if I get knocked out. And even then, maybe I hold on to it."
And if there's a play to be made at the plate, he's confident his teammates will help make it happen.
"Those guys have been money all year with the relays," he said. "So I know if I feel like there's going to be a play, I know that the throw is going to be pretty much around the plate."