Two big multi-homer games for The Big Apple

NEW YORK — It’s early, but Yankees catcher Russell Martin and Mets right fielder Carlos Beltran — two once-elite players trying to find themselves after injury woes — came through with multi-homer games that keyed victories and offered promise on Saturday.

Beltran’s was his 28th career multi-homer game and it came in an 8-4 win over the Nationals at Citi Field. Martin’s was his first since Aug. 15, 2007, and it came in a 9-4 win over the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

This is a big season for both of these guys, each of whom will be a free agent in the fall.

For Beltran, it had been a frustrating start to season No. 14. The 33-year-old was coming off right knee surgery, then suffered tendinitis in his left one, then tried to adjust to playing somewhere other than center field, then was off to a slow start at the plate.

But he began to feel good in the cages, and manager Terry Collins felt a breakout was coming.

Then, at last, it came.

“It felt great,” said Beltran after hitting his first two homers of the season and moving his batting average from .190 to .240.

“I feel like all the time that I put into Spring Training, working in the cage and getting to the ballpark, doing the rehab and trying to work my legs, it’s paying off. … The season is just beginning. I understand that I’m going to be able to have good times and I’ll also go through bad times. It’s all going to the cage and sticking with the plan.”

Martin, plagued by injury and inconsistency the last two seasons and coming off a broken hip, has looked good behind the plate since signing a $4 million contract with the Yankees this offseason. An effective Martin is critical for the Yankees, because it allows them to keep Jesus Montero and Austin Romine down in the Minors to get extra seasoning — and perhaps give general manager Brian Cashman the freedom to spin one of those for a starting pitcher.

So far, Martin has answered the bell by starting off the season 9-for-28 (a .321 batting average) with three homers and eight RBIs while playing in all eight games.

“I love the intensity,” Martin told reporters about playing for the Yankees. “It’s really what I’m all about. It’s going to be a fun year from that standpoint.”


** What I wrote this week: It was a weird first week of the season; the Marlins’ real Opening Day will come in 2012; Black Crackers were the mysterious first baseball champs in Atlanta.

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