Will Tigers play it by ear with V-Mart?
The Tigers have a plan with Victor Martinez and his left knee. It did not include pinch-running for Martinez in the seventh inning of a close game, even though he represented the go-ahead run.
“I don’t want that bat out of the lineup in the seventh,” manager Brad Ausmus said afterward. “As a matter of fact, when the seventh was over, I think if he went 1-2-3 (the next inning), then in the ninth we would’ve had Victor on deck (if somebody got on base). That’s a huge difference when Miguel Cabrera’s hitting.”
Nor, however, did the plan involve leaving Martinez as an easy out at the plate if Yoenis Cespedes could follow J.D. Martinez with a single.
“Victor, we all know he’s dealing with an injury right now and on top of that, he’s not the fastest guy,” J.D. Martinez said. “Talking to [first-base coach] Omar [Vizquel] about it when I was at first, I said, ‘If they send him, are we going?’ He said, ‘Yeah, go, get in a pickle.’ Pickle, rundown.”
In an inning with a couple different examples of smart baserunning, that was a good one.
When asked if he was confident he’d score, Victor Martinez said, “I don’t know about confident, but I know that it was going to be a good run for us late in the game, especially the way those two guys were pitching. It was a good play by J.D., though. He did the best thing to stay in the rundown and make sure that I score.”
Ausmus did not want to take Victor Martinez’s bat out of the lineup with the potential to have him up in a tie game in the ninth. Whether and when he’s taking Martinez out of the lineup is going to be worth following the next few days.
“There’s a plan in place, and I won’t get into specifics, but hopefully it works,” Ausmus said.
Monday marked Martinez’s third consecutive start against a left-handed pitcher. Tuesday marks the first of three consecutive right-handed starting pitchers for the Yankees against Detroit, beginning with Nathan Eovaldi.
Batting left-handed has been troublesome for Martinez and his left knee. It was a point of discussion for Ausmus and others Monday.
“There have been some times when we’ve had to tell him not to hit left-handed,” Ausmus said, “and then there are days when he’s felt strong enough to do it, and we let him take some swings.”
He has swings that look ugly batting left-handed, that look agonizing on the surgically repaired knee. He also has swings that produce base hits, six of them (all singles) in 22 at-bats against righties. He has good days and bad, but they have to determine whether the bad ones are playable.
“We’re going to play it by ear, see how he is,” Ausmus said. “I don’t know how much we can dive into it with Victor. He’s not 100 percent. He’s got the ability to hit. We hope that it heals while we’re doing this, but if it gets to a point where it’s not healing anymore, then we’ll do something else.”
Even playing it by ear, it would seem to be a major surprise if Martinez plays three games in a throw batting primarily left-handed. It would be more shocking if Martinez didn’t play at all the next few games. The trick the Tigers have to figure out, or outline, is where they could sit in between.
Play of the game: Since there’s already a defensive category below, the play goes to Rajai Davis tagging up from first base in the seventh inning on Ian Kinsler’s fly ball into the left-field corner, a play Davis said he was confident he could make. “I would challenge anyone on that one, no matter who they were,” Davis said. “As deep as that ball was, he’d have to make a perfect throw.”
Out of the game: Iglesias’ play and throw across his body on a hop to rob Brett Gardner on a ground ball in the hole in the sixth inning is the highlight defensive play of the Tigers’ homestand so far. “That’s a tough play, especially with Gardner running,” Ausmus said, “because he’s a legitimate speed guy, a Major League steal threat type guy. And I know Iglesias was playing him a little bit in because of his speed, but to make that play and get a runner like Gardner was pretty impressive. That’s probably the best play we’ve seen from him all season.
Strategery: J.D. Martinez induced the rundown between second and third that left no play on Victor Martinez at the plate with the go-ahead run. “Talking to [first-base coach] Omar [Vizquel] about it when I was at first, I said, ‘If they send him, are we going?’ He said, ‘Yeah, go, get in a pickle.'”
Line of the game: Alfredo Simon improved to 3-0 by tossing 7 1/3 innings of one-run ball on seven hits, walking none and striking out seven.
Stat of the game: Alfredo Simon induced 11 ground-ball outs and no fly-ball outs, according to MLB.com Gameday.