Martinez's game-tying HR:
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NEW YORK -- They say that truth is stranger than fiction, and Tino Martinez is living proof. After all, if anybody had the audacity to imagine what Martinez actually did, you'd probably call them crazy.
|Tino Martinez now has three World Series home runs during his career.
On Wednesday night, Martinez provided a major sporting miracle for the memory banks. In Game 4 of the World Series, with the Yankees down to their final out, Tino launched a two-run homer to tie the game. New York eventually won, as a result of a 10th-inning homer by Derek Jeter. Without Martinez's timely power surge, though, the game never would've gotten that far.
"Surprising things happen," Joe Torre said. "Yet when you really think about it, it doesn't surprise you. This ballclub never quits. I know it's an old cliche but I've lived it for six years."
Here's the amazing part -- prior to that big-time swing, Martinez had been held hitless on his sport's biggest stage. In four games, he had only reached base safely two times, both of them after a walk.
Of course, after a game-changing shot like that, all the statistics get thrown out the window. Who cares if he's only hitting .100 in the Fall Classic? That one hit saved the game for the Yankees, and perhaps the Series as well.
"The beauty of the postseason is it really makes no difference what you've done up to a certain point," Jeter said. "Every time you are at the plate or every time you are in the field, you have an opportunity to do something special. You never know when your opportunity will come."
Martinez may not have known when he would get his shot at redemption, but he certainly knew that time was getting short.
"It's remarkable. I can't tell you any more. Tino has been here for six years, and I know he's hit some big home runs. This one is probably the biggest he's ever hit."
"Obviously, I had struggled in the postseason," Martinez said. "I tried to press and make up for it. I just felt confident in this at-bat, and to get a hit obviously boosts the team."
Did it ever.
The Yankees had scored only one run in eight innings, before Martinez doubled that output with one swing. As if that's not impressive enough, Martinez was facing a pitcher he had never seen before.
Byung-Hyun Kim was on the mound, and he was throwing some serious gas. Kim came in during the eighth inning and struck out the first three batters he faced. While that was happening, Martinez was doing his own version of advance scouting.
"I came in (during) the eighth inning, into the clubhouse, to watch him face the hitters that hit before me," Martinez said. "I just saw a fastball and slider."
That's all he saw, because that's all Kim was throwing. The right-handed reliever was sticking to his top two pitches, but he was having plenty of success with that limited repertoire.
In the ninth inning, Kim retired Jeter on one pitch. He gave up a single to Paul O'Neill, but then came back to strike out Bernie Williams.
With the entire audience on their feet, Martinez approached the plate. He said he definitely had a gameplan: look for a fastball and swing for the fences.
"I went up there in that situation looking for a fastball, something over the middle of the plate that I could just try to drive out," Martinez said. "Just try to take a big hack at it."
When he got a pitch he could handle, Martinez did exactly that. He drove the ball over the wall in short right field, sending the entire stadium into mass hysterics. Jeter and Clay Bellinger, who had been standing on the top step of the dugout, vaulted over the short wall to greet Martinez at the plate.
David Justice, who is 1-for-9 in the World Series, said he knew that Tino was about to hit a homer. Even so, when it actually happened, Justice said the entire team was caught off-guard.
"We went crazy," Justice said. "I called it. I told everyone Tino was going deep right there, because they were throwing him a lot of first-pitch fastballs tonight. It was awesome."
The emotion caught nearly everyone who saw it happen, with the notable exception of the Diamondbacks.
Paul O'Neill, who was on base at the time, jumped in the air and made a public show of appreciation.
"There is a lot of emotion involved in the World Series," O'Neill said. "You root so much for guys on your team, and Tino's been really hard on himself. It's a great feeling."
Especially since that hit gave the team new life. If Tino's shot fell a few feet short, ending up as just another long fly ball to right field, the Yankees would be staring elimination straight in the face.
Down three games to one, with Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling slated to pitch again, the situation would be desperate indeed.
"Obviously, it's a huge boost," Jeter said. "I mean, 3-1, that's a pretty deep hole for us. We were able to tie the series, (but) this win means absolutely nothing unless we come out ready tomorrow and we play well."
Even if they don't, it can never erase the improbable success story that Martinez penned on Wednesday night. The homer heroics will be remembered for as long as they play baseball -- or at least as long as Joe Torre has a say in things.
"It's remarkable. I can't tell you any more," Torre said. "Tino has been here for six years, and I know he's hit some big home runs. This one is probably the biggest he's ever hit."
Spencer Fordin is the site manager for Yankees.com.