J.D. Martinez's hot streak helping carry Detroit
Outfielder's three-run shot on Friday his fourth home run of the week
CLEVELAND -- J.D. Martinez's week began with Royals outfielders making highlight catches to rob him of base hits. Now, it's taking heroic efforts just to get him out.
"You see occasionally players get on a hot streak like this," manager Brad Ausmus said after Martinez's fourth home run of the week highlighted his three-hit night in a 6-4 win over the Indians. "Hope he's hot tomorrow."
The Tigers signed Martinez hours after the Astros released him in Spring Training because they lacked impact bats in their system. They called him up to Detroit in late April in no small part because he roughed up the Columbus Clippers, Cleveland's Triple-A affiliate, for five home runs in two days, giving him 10 homers in 17 games for Triple-A Toledo.
He's on another one of those streaks, thanks in part to Cleveland's big club. In the process, he's helping ignite the Tigers' offense and turning Torii Hunter's hamstring injury into a non-issue.
"Even when I come back, hopefully he stays in there," Hunter said. "Keep him in there. Keep him hot. Always play the hot hand. If I was the manager, that's what I would do."
Martinez singled off Corey Kluber in the second inning, then barely missed a home run when he drilled a Kluber curveball off the center-field fence in the sixth. His eighth-inning at-bat, though, was the game-changer.
With Miguel Cabrera on first base and two outs, Indians manager Terry Francona elected to walk Victor Martinez and bring up J.D. Martinez. In essence, he was walking the hitter who has been hot all year for the hitter who has heated up.
A first-pitch fastball over the plate from John Axford helped the latter stay hot.
"As hot as J.D. Martinez is, which he is, he's such a first-ball fastball hitter," Francona said. "He got one that caught way too much of the plate."
The home run to right field turned a 2-0 duel into a 5-0 game. Once the Indians scored four in the bottom half, the decision to walk Victor Martinez was essentially the difference on the scoreboard.
"It's really the power that stands out," Ausmus said of J.D. Martinez. "He's the one guy that I've seen here, other than Miggy, that can drive the ball out to anywhere in the ballpark. Even to center at Comerica Park, he can hit it out."
That power didn't show as consistently in the stats he put up the past few years with the Astros. He hit 24 home runs in a Houston uniform in 899 at-bats over three years, but 12 over 446 plate appearances at hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park.
He changed his swing over the offseason to give himself a chance at more solid contact. It's paying off, albeit in streaks.
After his 10-homer tear as a Mud Hen, he hit three homers over his first 86 at-bats as a Tiger. He started playing regularly a week ago -- first for Rajai Davis with an injured shoulder, then this week for Hunter.
So far this week, he's 10-for-18 with two doubles, four home runs and nine RBIs. Three of his nine outs were highlight catches from Royals outfielders in the last series.