Martinez’s mad dash home, and other gems
Two days after the Tigers’ four-error debacle against the Royals, they might have played their best overall defensive game Tuesday, with at least four standout defensive plays. And it began on a play that probably should’ve been a disaster.
Brad Penny knew he should’ve been covering home plate as soon as he saw Josh Hamilton take off from third on Adrian Beltre’s popout to Brandon Inge in foul territory. At that point, of course, there was nothing he could do.
“I was standing on the mound and I saw [Hamilton] go,” Penny said after the game. “And I was like, ‘[Crap], I supposed to be there.'”
Fortunately for them, Victor Martinez realized it was uncovered immediately. And for a 32-year-old who has caught for almost his entire career, he still has some wheels. He had enough speed to beat Hamilton to the plate and apply the tag as he slid in.
“That was a huge play,” manager Jim Leyland said. “Penny and probably Miguel both should’ve been there. That turned out to be a huge play.”
It was a devastating one for the Rangers. Hamilton suffered a non-displaced fracture of the humerus bone below his right shoulder, sidelining him for 6-8 weeks.
The obvious highlight, of course, was Ryan Raburn’s catch to rob Michael Young of a third-inning three-run home run. Instead of a blast to break open a Rangers lead, it became a mere go-ahead sacrifice fly. For someone whose defensive exploits have ranged from good to bad to ugly, it was another big play for him.
“I think the wind held it up more than anything,” Raburn said. “It gave me time to get underneath it. I don’t think it was anything special. I just went up and I was able to come down with it. I felt [the ball] when I jumped up. I was just hoping it would stay in there.”
What might have gone overlooked between those plays, though, was the relay work necessary to throw out Beltre trying to stretch a double into a triple leading off the fourth. Specifically, Ramon Santiago took Austin Jackson’s throw in shallow right-center field and fired a strike to Brandon Inge, who applied the tag at third.
It’s a very difficult throw, Inge said, because of the angle involved.
“It’s usually a no-win situation,” Inge said, “because the runner once he’s past second base, the angle that he’s coming in is directly in line with where the throw’s in. So it’s probably a 10 percent chance that ball’s going to get close enough to actually put a tag on.
“Santiago started that ball right off the shoulder and it worked its way off to the left side, but he kept it close enough to him where I could get a tag on him real quick.”
Said Santiago: “I tried to throw it to the left side of the glove. When the runner is going in the same direction as the throw, it’s tough.”