Victor Martinez’s 999th career RBI Tuesday night was a first for him, bases-loaded hit-by-pitch. His 1000th RBI looked a little more familiar, a line drive single into the gap with two outs and two strikes in a close game on the road.
It wasn’t electrifying, but it was efficient, going with an offspeed pitch and sending it to the opposite field. And as the stoic Martinez admitted later, it meant something for him.
“You know what? No lie, I think it means a lot,” he admitted. “Never thought I was going to make it, first of all, to the big leagues, and then to get to this point. Proud for everything I’ve done in my career. But I think the most important thing tonight is we were able to put a good win. Those guys over there are tough.”
As he was saying this, his teammate, Miguel Cabrera, was one locker over in the clubhouse, making a bigger deal of it.
“Oooh, a thousand RBIs,” Cabrera said. “That’s a lot of RBIs. Venezuelan power.”
Indeed, Martinez is the fifth Venezuelan-born player to drive in 1000 runs in the big leagues. Cabrera tops the list with 1449, just ahead of Andres Galarraga (1425). After Bobby Abreu (1363) sits former Tiger Magglio Ordonez with 1236.
“It’s an honor to be on that list with all those names, you know,” Martinez said. “Those are the little things that make you still hungry for the ballpark. All four great baseball players, no doubt. Great. I mean legends.”
Then he turned to Cabrera.
“This one right here is a future Hall of Famer.”
Martinez is in another group, too, as one of three active switch-hitters with 1000 RBIs. Carlos Beltran (1451) and Mark Teixeira (1262) are the others.
Give Francisco Rodriguez credit: He’s not going to pretend he’s not struggling. He’s not going to pretend that the end result is all that matters for him. And after what had been a 3-0 lead he inherited in the ninth became a 3-2 win he finished off with the tying and winning runs on base, he wasn’t going to keep his self-criticism to, well, himself.
“You have to be able to make pitches early in the count and try to put hitters away quick. I’m totally pitching the opposite,” he said Wednesday night. “Even though I still got the job done, it’s quite embarrassing. Simple as that. I have to pitch a lot better now, just get first-pitch strikes and put hitters away. Stop messing around.”
The three-run lead became a one-run lead on back-to-back homers with one out, both on second pitches. Alex Gordon turned on a fastball and sent it out to right-center. Two pitches later, Salvador Perez did the same on a changeup, sending it deep to left-center.
It marked just the fourth two-homer outing for Rodriguez in 866 career appearances. None of the previous three, however, had come in a save situation. The only one that changed a result was his previous on Sept. 9, 2014, and he entered that contest in a tie game.
More frustrating for him, though, seemed to be the back-to-back two-out walks that followed. He hadn’t walked multiple batters in a save situation since June 8, 2014, and that came in a four-out performance.
Rodriguez had a 2-2 count on Jarrod Dyson before trying to get him to chase a fastball. With the count full, he threw a changeup in the dirt that put Dyson on. Rodriguez got ahead of Alcides Escobar with a strike, but the curveball gave Dyson an easy pitch on which to steal second base. After missing with a curveball to run the count even, Rodriguez threw three consecutive fastballs out of the zone, putting Escobar on the open base and bringing up Mike Moustakas with a chance to win it on an extra-base hit.
At that point, it was Rodriguez’s inning to finish, one way or the other. Nobody was warming up, though manager Brad Ausmus said the rising pitch count became a concern.
Rodriguez fell behind on a 2-1 count on Moustakas, who fouled off a changeup to run the count even. On his 29th and final pitch, Rodriguez went back to the changeup, which Moustakas went after and missed to end it.
It was a win. And for Rodriguez, it was his 390th save, tying him with Dennis Eckersley for sixth in Major League history. But Rodriguez couldn’t get too charged up about it.
“It’s just giving way too much credit to the hitters, second-guessing myself,” Rodriguez said. “Walking the tying and go-ahead run is something that you as closer cannot let happen. You cannot do it. Simple as that. So I’ve just got to make some adjustments quick and start pitching better.”
The regulars are in on both sides. The top third of the Tigers order is a combined 11-for-22 against Royals starter Ian Kennedy, who will face Detroit for the third time since he was part of the Max Scherzer/Curtis Granderson three-way trade at the 2009 Winter Meetings. Victor Martinez is back in the lineup after taking Kelvin Herrera’s slider off his right knee last night.
“It could’ve been a lot worse,” Martinez said today.
With the Pistons resuming their Eastern Conference playoff series in Cleveland tonight, the Tigers are back on Fox Sports Detroit Plus. They’re also on ESPN outside of the Detroit market. However, they’re back on 97.1 FM for a night.
TIGERS (career numbers off Kennedy)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (5-for-7, 3 doubles)
- Justin Upton, LF (3-for-8, HR, 3 walks, K)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (3-for-7, double, triple, walk)
- Victor Martinez, DH (2-for-6, K)
- J.D. Martinez, RF
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (0-for-3, K)
- Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C (0-for-4, walk, 3 K’s)
- Anthony Gose, CF
- Jose Iglesias, SS
P: Jordan Zimmermann
ROYALS (career numbers vs. Zimmermann)
- Alcides Escobar, SS (1-for-3)
- Mike Moustakas, 3B (1-for-3)
- Lorenzo Cain, CF
- Eric Hosmer, 1B (1-for-4, K)
- Kendrys Morales, DH (2-for-3)
- Alex Gordon, LF (0-for-4)
- Salvador Perez, C
- Omar Infante, 2B (3-for-17, triple, HR)
- Jarrod Dyson, RF
P: Ian Kennedy
Justin Upton seemingly threw Shane Greene a lifeline with his second-inning throw from left field. With one hop, it became an anchor.
In the scorebook, it goes down as an RBI single from Royals ninth hitter Jarrod Dyson, who advanced to second on the non-errant throw. Yet it was a play that effectively turned the game in an eventual 8-6 Tigers loss to open a three-game divisional clash at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals, never shy about testing defenses with their baserunning, made it clear from the outset they would test Upton, whose nine assists last season were a career high. The first to test was slow-footed Kendrys Morales, who got the wave home from third-base coach Mike Jirschele as Upton charged at Dyson’s liner into left. Upton’s throw seemingly had him passing that test until it hit ground.
At first glance, it looked like a whiff on the part of catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The throw not only beat Morales home, it had enough arc on it that Morales couldn’t block Saltalamacchia’s view of it. A slow-motion replay from one angle, though, showed the ball bouncing higher than the angle would suggest, while also angling towards behind home plate.
“It definitely took a weird hop,” Saltalamacchia said afterward. “You’re taught to stay down, stay low, and it’s like it hit the dirt and bounced over my head. Obviously you want to make that play, and nine times out of 10 you do, so I’m frustrated I wasn’t able to kind of grab onto it.”
Said manager Brad Ausmus: “It kind of was a short hop, and it looked like it hopped up. I don’t know if it skipped on the dirt, but it obviously caught Salty by surprise the way it hopped up.”
Morales scored. More importantly, the inning continued with two outs for Tiger killer Alcides Escobar, who drove in two more runs to turn an opening run into a three-run rally and a clear advantage early. Dyson, who reached second on Upton’s first throw, tested Upton on Escobar’s hit and drew a much less accurate throw. Greene, with or without the extra pitches, struggled to thrwo strikes with the fastball and lasted 4 1/3 innings.
Saltalamacchia made up the run differential with his three-run homer in the seventh inning.
The Tigers are coming off an off-day, but Nick Castellanos is 1-for-11 lifetime against Yordano Ventura. That provides some reason behind him being out of the lineup despite his hot start. He took ground balls from infield coach Omar Vizquel this afternoon, so it’s not injury. Mike Aviles gets his first start since April 9. It’s more of a day-on for Aviles, Ausmus said, than a day off for Castellanos.
“We have such a set lineup that, especially now with all the off-days we’ve had and the rainout, it’s tough right now to find these guys spots to play,” Ausmus said. “Especially when at some of the positions the regulars are swinging the bat well, it makes you pause and go, ‘Well, do I want to take him out?’ But I can’t have Mike Aviles sit on the bench for two weeks and then ask him to pinch-hit in a game to win it. He’s got to get some at-bats.”
The Royals recalled Jarrod Dyson today and put him in the lineup in right field. Add in Terrence Gore on the bench, and Kansas City has enough speed to test Jarrod Saltalamacchia and the Tigers bullpen late.
Note that with the Red Wings back at it tonight, the Tigers telecast moves to FSD Plus. The radio broadcast moves to WWJ AM 950.
TIGERS (career numbers vs. Ventura)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (5-for-13, double, walk, 3 K’s)
- Justin Upton, LF
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (2-for-7, walk, 2 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, DH (4-for-13, 2 HR, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
- J.D. Martinez, RF (4-for-11, 2 doubles, 4 walks, 3 K’s)
- Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
- Mike Aviles, 3B (1-for-5, walk, K)
- Anthony Gose, CF (4-for-10, 2 walks, 6 K’s)
- Jose Iglesias, SS (2-for-9, K)
P: Shane Greene
ROYALS (career numbers off Greene)
- Alcides Escobar, SS (1-for-6, K)
- Mike Moustakas, 3B (1-for-2)
- Lorenzo Cain, CF (0-for-3)
- Eric Hosmer, 1B (2-for-5)
- Kendrys Morales, DH (1-for-3, double, K)
- Alex Gordon, LF (1-for-5, double, walk, K)
- Salvador Perez, C (0-for-6, K)
- Omar Infante, 2B (0-for-6, 2 K’s)
- Jarrod Dyson, RF
P: Yordano Ventura
In case you missed it, Jim Leyland is returning to managing one more time, albeit for country rather than for a big-league team. USA Baseball named him Friday as the manager for Team USA in next spring’s World Baseball Classic.
From Jon Morosi’s story currently live on MLB.com:
“I’ll definitely be ready,” Leyland told MLB.com during a telephone interview. “I’m never going to manage again after this. I didn’t think I’d manage this, either. But when I was asked, I could not turn this down. Not from an ego standpoint, but it’s the honor of being asked to manage for your country.
“This is probably going to take me a little time, to start thinking about game situations, to sharpen up again. Contrary to what a lot of people think, I don’t try to manage the game anymore. I just watch the Tigers, watch the game, watch the players. I don’t think too much about the strategy. That’s not my business anymore, not my job anymore.
“I’m not going to be a manager anymore, but this is a special thing that came up. I agreed to it right away. I’m very honored.”
He’s the second Tigers official in as many months named to a managerial post for the World Baseball Classic. Tigers first-base coach Omar Vizquel will manage for his native Venezuela.
Though Leyland is 71, age shouldn’t be a factor in what is a relatively short tournament, far different from the daily grind of the Major League season. Joe Torre managed the U.S. team three years ago at age 72.
Nor should Leyland have any problem connecting with superstars, considering the level of respect for him in the game. More interesting to follow will be how he handles playing time. He was lukewarm about this event when it first started because of the timing, taking players away from camps for much of Spring Training and ramping up their playing time more aggressively than if they were in their regular camp. It’ll also be interesting if Leyland takes a utility player or two (no, not Ryan Raburn) to provide some late-game versatility.
In any case, it’s a great honor for him, and it’ll be good to see him managing one more time in search of a title. The Americans have yet to make it to the championship game.
The quotes about Jordan Zimmermann being a bulldog are starting to run together by now. So here’s some reaction to Zimmermann’s reaction to being in a jam:
- “He’s one of the best pitchers in the game for a reason over the last six, seven years,” Ian Kinsler said. “You expect a guy like that, one of the best pitchers in the game, to get himself out of trouble.”
- “He doesn’t scare often,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “I don’t think the situation bothers him, regardless of the inning or the baserunning situation. He’s going to keep coming after you. He’s going to do whatever he can to get you out. And whatever happens, happens.”
- “[The demeanor] definitely doesn’t let the offense feel like they’re in charge, even when they might be,” Nick Castellanos said. “That just goes back to how much of a competitor he is.
- “You don’t see any difference with him, whether it’s the first inning or bases loaded,” catcher Bobby Wilson said. “I didn’t feel any panic. When we go over scouting reports, we have a pretty good idea of what we’re trying to do. So it’s just executing pitches at that point. It’s just making a pitch.”
Zimmermann faced two bases-loaded jam — one with two outs, the other with one out. He had three-ball counts to back-to-back hitters in the latter. But there’s a reason he hasn’t given up a bases-loaded walk since Aug. 28, 2011, and has just two bases-loaded walks in his career.
At the same time, there’s also a reason opponents are just 12-for-50 against him for his career in bases-loaded situations.
“Early in my career, I’d get in a jam like that, three balls, no strikes or one strike, and I’m coming with the fastball,” Zimmermann said. “But now, I’ve gotten a little wiser I guess over the years, knowing that you can throw an offspeed in there. The hitters are definitely geared up for the fastball, so if you can throw an offspeed in for a strike, you pretty much got them where you want them.”
Zimmermann believes in his offspeed when he has to make a pitch, and he had a lot of those occasions Thursday. He escapes the bases-loaded, one-out jam with sliders — 3-2 to Starling Marte, 3-1 to Gregory Polanco.
“I couldn’t locate the fastball for whatever reason and fell behind,” Zimmermann said. “My slider was good and I can throw it whenever I want. I went with that [to Marte]. And then 3-1, bases loaded [to Polanco], I went with a backdoor slider and got him to pop up.
“Most guys, the heater’s coming 3-1, and they go with their best pitch. But when you’re comfortable throwing your slider and you can throw it for strikes when you want, why not go with it?”
Beautiful day for a matinee in Pittsburgh, where a chilly morning is expected to warm up by midday. It’s also a lineup reminiscent lineup of a day game after a night game, with a few guys getting a break. Andrew Romine gets his first start of the season, while Bobby Wilson makes his first start as a Tiger, avoiding a quick turnaround for Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Wilson caught Jordan Zimmermann in his bullpen session a couple days ago, so it sounds like this plan was in the works before Saltalamacchia hit a grand slam last night. Meanwhile, Anthony Gose and Jose Iglesias are a combined 0-for-12 against Gerrit Cole.
Cole had a rough season debut last week, but he was nasty against the Tigers last year.
TIGERS (career numbers off Cole)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (1-for-10, double, 3 K’s)
- Justin Upton, LF (2-for-5, walk, K)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (2-for-6, K)
- J.D. Martinez, RF (2-for-5, walk, 2 K’s)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (3-for-5, K)
- Tyler Collins, CF
- Bobby Wilson, C
- Andrew Romine, SS
- Jordan Zimmermann, P
PIRATES (career numbers vs. Zimmermann)
- John Jaso, 1B
- Andrew McCutchen, CF (2-for-6, 2 HR)
- David Freese, 3B (3-for-7, 2 doubles, HR, walk, 2 K’s)
- Starling Marte, LF (0-for-3)
- Gregory Polanco, RF
- Josh Harrison, 2B (2-for-6)
- Jordy Mercer, SS
- Chris Stewart, C (0-for-3)
- Gerrit Cole, P
With no designated hitter slot, Victor Martinez returns to last week’s role as a pinch-hitter. The bottom half of the lineup moves up. Shane Greene, 0-for-5 with five strikeouts as a hitter last season, gets to bat in his first start of the season.
The Pirates were originally scheduled to start Francisco Liriano tonight, but he was scratched with hamstring discomfort yesterday. Ryan Vogelsong gets the start in his place. Thus, the Tigers miss out on a matchup against a left-hander, but a tough lefty who has fared well against them the last few years.
Note below the station changes for tonight, both TV and radio.
TIGERS (career numbers vs. Vogelsong)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (0-for-4)
- Justin Upton, LF (9-for-28, 3 doubles, triples, 3 walks, 11 K’s)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (2-for-8, walk, 2 K’s)
- J.D. Martinez, RF (2-for-7, 2 doubles, K)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B
- Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C (0-for-1, 2 walks, K)
- Jose Iglesias, SS
- Anthony Gose, CF
- Shane Greene, P
PIRATES (career numbers against Greene)
- John Jaso, 1B
- Andrew McCutchen, CF (0-for-3)
- David Freese, 3B (0-for-1)
- Starling Marte, LF
- Francisco Cervelli, C (1-for-3, K)
- Gregory Polanco, RF (0-for-3)
- Josh Harrison, 2B (1-for-3)
- Jordy Mercer, SS (0-for-3)
- Ryan Vogelsong, P
Jarrod Saltalamacchia begins what should be a stretch of 2-4 weeks as the Tigers’ regular catcher. Bobby Wilson will get some starts, but the bulk of the work falls on Saltalamacchia, who has worked with the pitching staff since spring training. Thus, it’s pretty much a regular lineup for the Tigers against Pirates starter Juan Nicasio.
On the Pirates’ side, Matt Joyce not only gets another start at DH, he’s leading off against Anibal Sanchez. Michael Morse gets a start at first base over John Jaso, while David Freese slots in at third.
TIGERS (career numbers vs. Nicasio)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B
- Justin Upton, LF (5-for-11, 3 doubles, 4 walks, 3 K’s)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B
- Victor Martinez, DH
- J.D. Martinez, RF (3-for-9, 3 K’s)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B
- Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C (0-for-5, 5 K’s)
- Anthony Gose, CF
- Jose Iglesias, SS (1-for-2)
P: Anibal Sanchez
PIRATES (career numbers off Sanchez)
- Matt Joyce, DH (5-for-18, double, 2 triples, HR, 5 K’s)
- Andrew McCutchen, CF (4-for-16, walk, 7 K’s)
- David Freese, 3B (3-for-8, 2 doubles, walk, 2 K’s)
- Starling Marte, LF (1-for-7, 3 K’s)
- Francisco Cervelli, C (1-for-3, K)
- Gregory Polanco, RF (1-for-3, double, K)
- Josh Harrison, 2B (2-for-6, HR)
- Michael Morse, 1B (4-for-18, double, 8 K’s)
- Jordy Mercer, SS (3-for-8, double, 2 K’s)
P: Juan Nicasio