Thanks in large part to a rookie who joined the team for the first time on Friday, the Lexington Legends are headed back to the postseason for the first time in more than a decade.
Marcelo Martinez was called up to Lexington from rookie-league Burlington on Friday and was thrown straight into the fire in the final stages of a playoff chase. The 22-year-old left-hander from Mexico drew the start for the visiting Legends against the Greenville Drive, one of two teams tied for second place in the SAL second-half standings.
Martinez gave up a lead-off home run but settled down after that, allowing the Legends to build a four-run lead before hanging on for a 5-4 win, eliminating Greenville from the playoffs. Less than an hour later the Rome Braves eliminated the Asheville Tourists from the hunt with an 11-7 victory to send the Legends to the SAL playoffs for the first time since 2006.
Those same Rome Braves will be the Legends’ opponent in the best-of-three, first-round series that will begin at Whitaker Bank Ballpark on Wednesday, Sept. 5, at 7:05 p.m. Rome, the SAL first-half champion, will host the second and, if necessary, third games.
Martinez went six innings in the win, allowing four hits and three runs while striking out nine. In the top of the seventh, he gave up a single and walk to start the inning then was pulled in favor of Janser Lara, who promptly gave up a three-run home run. But Lara was solid after that, striking out three in two innings of relief. Tad Ratliff struck out two in the ninth inning to pick up the save.
The Legends took the lead with a three-run third inning that included a two-run homer by Brewer Hicklen, who pushed the lead to 5-1 with an RBI double to center field in the top of the seventh.
Fans can purchase playoff tickets at Lexingtonlegends.com/playoffs.