By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York Yankees have already clinched the American League East title but catcher Russell Martin has another goal in mind, knocking down the bid by arch-rival Boston Red Sox to reach the postseason.
The slumping Red Sox come to the Bronx for a three-game series starting on Friday.
Martin told reporters he would love to heap more misery on the Red Sox, whose lead in the race for the wildcard playoff berth over the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Angels has shrunk after a September swoon produced 16 losses in 21 games.
"Anything to get the Red Sox out would be awesome for me," Martin told reporters on Thursday in the Yankees clubhouse ahead of a game against the Rays.
Asked why, Martin said: "Because I hate the Red Sox."
That kind of sentiment is sure to endear Martin to the boisterous Yankee Stadium crowds that revel in the bitter rivalry between the long-time adversaries.
Less so to Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who cringed when he was told about Martin's remarks. "I don't ever like to fuel anything. But boys will be boys."
"We know there's a lot at stake whenever we play those guys and a lot of pride on the line, and there's a lot expectations when these two teams play."
The 28-year-old Martin has only been with the Yankees one season after being signed as a free agent from the Los Angeles Dodgers. But the hard-nosed catcher has gotten caught up in the intense rivalry and buzz of added excitement the games bring.
"They are fun to play against because they have a quality team and they are gritty and they play hard and stuff, but I would love to see them lose," Martin said.
The Red Sox have beaten the Yankees 11 of 15 games this season.
"They have given us a hard time all year, but I don't think we are scared of them or anything," said Martin, who felt it was natural to fall under the spell of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry.
"I guess it just comes with the territory ... When you wear the pinstripes, you just kind of learn to be that way."
(Editing by Frank Pingue)