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.”


Look how high he had to jump for that ball. Some guys can’t make that jump. Maybe the ball did hang up there for awhile but it was still a thing of beauty and so was the pickoff at first base for the 3rd out. That shocked and surprised me.

Was it luck or much better defense? I can’t believe it was luck on 4 different plays. When Penny did not cover home plate on the foul pop-up, Martinez made an excellent play catching Inge’s throw on the run and tagging Hamilton out.
And he’s out for 6-8 weeks! Of course his replacement will be David Murphy, the left-handed hitting left fielder who I thought the Tigers should have gone after in a winter trade.
Next there was the amazing catch by Raburn to rob Young
of a 3-run homer. It certainly would be great to see Raburn play some other balls that well. Then the relay from Jackson to Santiago to Inge to cut down Beltre’s attempt to stretch a double into a triple. If that doesn’t prove the value of Ramon, what will? I’m not sure Peralta, Rhymes, Guillen, or Sizemore could have make such an outstanding throw. Last but not least would be Villarreal’s surprising pick-off at first base without making a single pitch.
Now if only much of this type of play will stick on the team. Certainly this victory has to be an incentive that playing better defense has its rewards.

Just got done watching the hi-lights. I see my guys Ryan and Ramon did what they are capable of doing on a regular basis…. hit and field. Of course after a taxing game like that they probably should both rest tomorrow. Wouldn’t want to risk tiring them out this early in the season. You know how one can wear down.
I bet all you Raburn bashers are beside yourselves after this one. Hee Hee.
Wow! What’s gotten’ into ol’ Lead Foot Santiago, plodding through Lamont’s stop sign like that. Come on Ramon. You want to win games or win starts? You got to get your priorities straight. Don’t be playing outside the box.
What few games I’ve been able to watch, I do like this young pitcher Villarreal. He’s one of those wiry Rigetti types. He puts every bit of his body into his pitches and fields the position well. Brings a lot of energy to the mound. Entertaining to watch. Dan was it you who thought he could develop into being the 7th inning guy? I would agree, or at least it would be interesting to see him develop into that role.
It’s nice to see a win.

It was a very entertaining game so I’m glad we were able to win it too. Win or lose, I just want to see good baseball. I would have been just as upset on Sunday if we’d have won that one.
I think nearly all of Raburn’s outfield gaffes are ones of aggression. I’ve heard him say that. He’ll go after ones he shouldn’t and we end up with very good plays and some very bad ones. I still think he can settle into the position more if given the chance. His hitting ability is beyond doubt.
My Villarreal story takes place on March 5th in Dunedin. Jacob Turner had just left the game and I was telling my wife how impressed I was with his compact delivery and calm demeanor on the mound. Just then Villarreal comes in and I say “As opposed to this guy, for example. What a spaz.” Brayan has all the components to become a successful reliever, including his “spaz-icity.” A no pitch hold. How often do you see that?

I guess you see that about as often as you see a thirdbaseman throw a down and out pattern to a catcher who takes the ball into the endzone for the out at the plate.
Too bad about Hamilton, though.

I am an unabashed Alex Avila fan.
Anybody else notice the clutch sac bunt in the 9th?
How often does this team do that?

They show bunt, but don’t execute it very often and he did make a good one. Made it easy like he had been practicing.

funny how the good plays come into focus after a win, while the little things that go wrong in a loss are magnified. santiago did have a couple of chances to knock in an insurance or winning run, but couldn’t. raburn and jackson had nice abs for walks before cabrera’s game winner.

will be interesting to see how Leyland uses his bullpen tomorrow with Benoit resting after 30+ pitches today

Well I just watched the game! Well I hate to poopoo on a win it seemed to me Penny was bailed out quite a bit. So I guess what I am saying is that I am not sold. Yes I know there can always be some bailing out of the pitcher, you need that, but there was a lot of that! Nice play by Raburn and Santiago. A win is a win is a win no matter how you get ’em.

Heard Hamilton on the radio this morning bashing the 3rd base coach for sending him. I am sure the coach told him to slide head first. I think all pitchers all the time need great defense. Little league, “make em a hitter”. Maybe Wells does catch that flyball that went over Magg’s head. All the talk on the “ticket 97.1” in Detroit yesterday was the terrible start and we have never won more than 84 games. Sparky always said you need 40 games to see where your team is at. Go Tigers, 2011. –Dave

Thought Hamilton hanging out his 3rd base coach to dry was bush league. It was a freak accident. Too bad because I like Hamilton.
Encouraging game for the Tigers. They will need Penny to pitch well and yesterday was much better than the previous 2 starts. Agree with the Avalia bunt, excellent. And I just think we need to play Raburn regularly, the guy can hit quality pitchers.
I will be glad to see Texas leave, that team can rake.

I thought the same about Hamilton’s comments. I’m sure he was frustrated, but keep it to yourself. Not cool. And you decided to slide head first, Josh. I don’t recommend that under any circumstance. If these guys would take the time to learn the hook and fall away slides, they wouldn’t need to risk injuries. Old school? Yes. Effective? Yes.

Too bad for Hamilton, but I agree he handled the press wrong with what he said about disagreeing with his coach. The talk shows are all going nuts over the poor decision, but enough pouring salt in the wound, he is out for a while and paying the price for it. If we want to blame anyone it would be our pitcher for not covering home in the first place! Things happen all the time, guys slide wrong, etc. Tremendous play by VMart to get to Hamilton.

All the talk today reminded me though of good old Chet Lemon and his head first slides into first base – must have drove the coach’s batty with that!

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