PITTSBURGH -- The perceived value of a catcher's familiarity with his pitcher took a beating Wednesday night -- along with the Cubs.
When Wandy Rodriguez threw two-hit ball for 6 2/3 innings of the Pirates' 3-0 victory at PNC Park, he was throwing to Russell Martin for the first time, with the exception of sideline bullpen sessions early in Spring Training.
"Shows you how important that is," Martin said with a chuckle Thursday morning.
Before Rodriguez departed preseason camp for World Baseball Classic play, Martin was nursing a sore shoulder. Upon his return, Rodriguez's game appearances were limited to Minor League games at the Pirate City complex, so he and Martin never got together in a game until Wednesday night.
More attention was paid Martin's similar separation from A.J. Burnett -- but they had a previous connection as members of the 2011 Yankees.
Rodriguez, however, was a complete mystery to Russell -- partly explaining why the catcher chose to pay him a mound visit in the most critical point of the game. Trailing, 2-0, the Cubs had the bases loaded with one out in the seventh, and Rodriguez had a full-count on Brent Lillibridge when Russell came to him to ask what pitch he wanted to throw.
"I thought it was awesome that Russell went out there," manager Clint Hurdle said. "As much as you want to just hit the 'play' button, it was important to get it right. Then -- boom! -- he threw it. It was pretty impressive."
"I wanted to make sure we were on the same page. It was a big moment in the game," said Martin, who returned to his crouch knowing the curve was coming.
The breaking ball caught Lillibridge looking at strike three.
"Great pitch," Martin said. "He was looking for something else. Buckled his knees."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.