The first five months of the 2012 season couldn’t have been much worse offensively for New York Yankees catcher Russell Martin. When he woke up on Sept. 1, he was hitting a woeful .198 (66-for-333) with 14 home runs and 36 RBI. His triple-slash line was .198/.301/.366.

Martin was never going to be confused with Mike Piazza when it came to his prowess as an offensive catcher. Coming into the season, he was a lifetime .267/.359/.398 hitter with 72 homers and 365 RBI in five seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers and one with the Yankees.

He was also coming off career-lows in 2011 with his .237 average and .324 on-base percentage, marking the fourth straight season his batting average had tailed off from his career-high .293 mark in 2007 with the Dodgers.

Martin belted a three-run home run Friday night in the sixth inning to give the Yankees a 6-1 lead in a game they would eventually win over the Toronto Blue Jays, 11-4. Martin was 2-for-4 on the night, improving his September batting marks to .274/.369/.562 with six homers and 16 RBI.

Over his last three games, Martin is 6-for-12 with two homers and four RBI and his triple-slash is up to .212/.313/.401—hardly the stuff of legend, but hugely improved over where he was four weeks ago.

With the win, the Yankees maintained their one-game lead in the American League East over the Baltimore Orioles and reduced their magic number for clinching the AL East to five and just two to clinch a playoff berth.

Martin’s surge couldn’t have come at a better time for New York. With Mark Teixeira limited to one game and four at-bats this September because of a calf injury, the Yankees needed some other bats to step up as they try to close in on their 17th playoff appearance in the last 18 seasons.

The American League playoff scenario is still a jumble, as no team has clinched a spot with just five days left in the regular season. But the Yankees are very close and could lock up a spot as soon as tonight with a win and a loss by the Los Angeles Angels.

Russell Martin’s offensive revival this month is a significant reason why they’re in this position.

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