June 23rd, 2014
Not only is J.D. Martinez earning more playing time with the way he’s hitting, he’s now earning awards. The Tigers’ suddenly surging, slugging outfielder was named the American League Player of the Week on Monday after hitting Royals and Indians pitching for a 12-for-27 tear with four homers, three doubles and 11 RBIs.
He’s the first Player of the Week for the Tigers this season. And for now, he’s about to become part of an outfield rotation as the Tigers’ road trip heads to Texas for the week.
Martinez didn’t have the playing time to earn consideration for any such honor until injuries hit Detroit’s outfield, starting with a few days out of the lineup for Rajai Davis last homestand and then continuing then Torii Hunter tweaked his left hamstring a week ago. He homered in three straight games between Thursday’s series finale against KC and the first two games of the Cleveland series, and he put up three multi-hit games in a four-day stretch.
Amazingly, he would have done even more damage if not for three highlight catches in as many nights from Royals outfielders, including a diving catch by Lorenzo Cain in the gap and another at the right-field fence.
He heads to Texas on a 12-game hitting streak, during which he’s hitting 19-for-47 (.404) with the four homers, six doubles and 13 RBIs. He’s not only playing regularly, he’s batting fifth behind the dynamic duo of Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, a setup that figures to continue this week.
Three months have passed since the ESPN The Magazine article in which Ian Kinsler was quoted hoping the Rangers lost 162 games. The Rangers have lost just 40 games so far, five games under .500, but they’ve lost Prince Fielder for the season to neck surgery. The Tigers have won 40 games in no small part thanks to Kinsler and his spark, both at second base and the leadoff spot.
Now, for the first time since the Fielder-for-Kinsler trade last offseason, Kinsler has a game in Texas, where he was a popular player and a sparkplug for years before the situation changed and the Rangers transitioned. And when asked what kind of reception he’s anticipating from his old home crowd, he isn’t completely sure. But he isn’t going to be blown away if he’s booed.
“Yeah, we’ll see what happens,” Kinsler said Sunday. “I think that whole ESPN article kind of blew some things out of proportion. If people actually read the article, I never said anything bad about the fans or my teammates or my coaching staff. It was all directed towards the front office.”
This is true. There’s no reference either way to the Texas fan base.
“So if people want to boo me for saying something bad about the front office, that’s their prerogative,” Kinsler continued. “I guess we’ll see. I don’t know.”
Even so, you might remember fellow ex-Ranger Josh Hamilton’s Spring Training quote to the Orange County Register’s Jeff Fletcher: “At least I won’t be the only villain in Texas now.”
That said, Hamilton called the Dallas-Fort Worth area a football town, something Kinsler did not.
“There were a couple times in my tenure that I wondered where they were, because playing in front of an exciting crowd, it just makes everything easier,” Kinsler admitted. “There were a couple times that I said something publicly, but I always loved my time there. I loved playing in that stadium in front of those fans. I guess we’ll see how it all goes down.”
The series starts Tuesday night.