June 25th, 2014
As promised, both Torii Hunter and J.D. Martinez are in the lineup. That meant one of the outfielders had to sit, and while Austin Jackson is hitting lefties better this season, he’s 1-for-7 with three strikeouts for his career off Joe Saunders. Thus, he sits. Rajai Davis starts in center field.
Reminder: Tonight is an ESPN2 game if you’re outside the Detroit TV market and the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.
TIGERS (career numbers off Joe Saunders)
- Rajai Davis, CF (12-for-39, 4 doubles, 3 walks, 4 K’s)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (13-for-38, 3 doubles, 4 HR, 5 walks, K)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (6-for-17, 2 doubles, 5 walks, 4 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, DH (5-for-18, double, 2 K’s)
- J.D. Martinez, LF (1-for-8, double, 2 K’s)
- Torii Hunter, RF (4-for-9, K)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B
- Bryan Holaday, C
- Eugenio Suarez, SS
P: Anibal Sanchez
RANGERS (career numbers against Sanchez)
- Leonys Martin, CF (1-for-4, 2 K’s)
- Elvis Andrus, SS (3-for-13, triple, 3 K’s)
- Shin-Soo Choo, LF (4-for-14, walk, 3 K’s)
- Adrian Beltre, 3B (6-for-8, double, K)
- Alex Rios, RF (2-for-8, double, walk, 2 K’s)
- Carlos Pena, 1B (3-for-13, HR, 2 walks, 5 K’s)
- Michael Choice, DH (0-for-2)
- Robinson Chirinos, C (1-for-4, K)
- Rougned Odor, 2B (0-for-2)
P: Joe Saunders
At what point in a baseball schedule does a hot streak become something more?
That’s the question the Tigers might well face if J.D. Martinez keeps doing this.
It’s not something coming up yet. Martinez has taken this tear into a second week, but plenty of hitting tears have gone longer than a week. When Brad Ausmus and Torii Hunter have talked about Martinez sticking in the lineup, it’s been about playing the hot hand.
“J.D.’s swinging the bat very well,” Ausmus said after Martinez’s double and go-ahead homer Tuesday night. “And as long as he’s swinging the bat like he is, we’re going to continue to get him in there.”
He’s not going to hit like THIS the rest of the year. But nobody knows what he will hit like on his way back to earth. Is he this year’s version of Matt Tuiasosopo, who blistered baseballs for the first few months for a 1.070 OPS in the season’s first half and then hit for just a .429 OPS after the All-Star break?
Is he this year’s version of Brennan Boesch, who fell off after the All-Star break in his rookie season but still had key hits in him?
Is he this year’s version of Marcus Thames, who turned a hot stretch into a second chance at a Major League career that lasted well beyond his standout first season? Remember, Martinez is just 26 years old.
Plenty of people have their ideas. Nobody seems to know.
“I’d be foolish to think J.D. is going to hit like this the rest of the year,” Ausmus said, “but I’m not going to take him out of the lineup right now just in case he hits like this the rest of the year.”
When asked if the prolonged stretch could suggest something more than a hot streak, Ausmus said, “I hope you’re right. I hope it’s more than just a hot streak. I hope he’s confident.
“He’s clearly a guy people thought had the potential to be a power hitter at the Major League level at a young age. Maybe he’s gotten more experience under his belt and he’s kind of revamped his swing. Maybe he is that player they thought he was and maybe he is coming into that. I hope he is.”
He’s definitely confident. But he also isn’t at the point where he considers this recent stretch a hot streak for him.
“To me, I just feel like I’m not missing as many pitches as I was earlier,” Martinez said. “To me, a hot streak is [when] you’re going 4-for-4, 3-for-4, 4-for-4, 3-for-4, 2-for-4, 3-for-4. When you’re doing that for a week, now you’re hot. I definitely hit the ball well for a week, but it’s just another week, another day. Now you’ve just got to go out there and look at the next guy tomorrow, worry about hitting him. …
“I honestly just feel I can cover more pitches. I can cover the inside pitch and I can cover the outside pitch more. When you’re going through one of those things, it doesn’t feel like a pitch is too in or too far.”
If it was one homer, maybe the term “just” applies. He has homered five times in eight games since the start of last week, and he’s 14-for-31 with 11 RBIs in that stretch. He has a 13-game hitting streak in which he’s 21-for-51 with seven doubles, 15 RBIs and eight runs scored.
He’s centering everything right now, and he’s hitting it up the middle. He isn’t pull-heavy, and he hasn’t gotten much benefit by going opposite-field.
“When I’m going good, I’m hitting a lot of balls in the air to center, right-center, left-center,” Martinez said. “When I’m not, I’m hitting a lot of balls on the ground. That’s just my swing. If you ask any hitter, they’re usually trying to hit everything back up the middle. That’s just my approach. That’s all I’m trying to do every time I go up there.”