Tigers outfielders step up in Victor Martinez’s absence

Victor Martinez's teammates -- especially the oft-maligned outfield crew -- step up in his absence against the Athletics.

Rick Osentoski

DETROIT — If someone said that the Tigers would be without Victor Martinez the entire Oakland A’s series yet would still manage to sweep them, you’d say that person was crazy.

But that’s exactly what happened.

The Tigers got a 9-3 victory over the A’s Wednesday afternoon, completing their first three-game home sweep of the A’s since May 15-17, 2009.

Martinez missed the three games because of some soreness in his back near the rib cage, which affects him more when he’s swinging from the left side.

Martinez, batting .323 with 20 home runs and 52 RBI, tried to talk his way into the lineup every day but Tigers manager Brad Ausmus didn’t want to risk losing him for an extended period.

As it turned out, Martinez’s teammates — especially the oft-maligned outfield crew — stepped up in his absence.

First there was Rajai Davis, coming through with a walk-off grand slam in the first game of the series.

"The first game until Rajai’s grand slam, we were a little flat offensively," Ausmus said. "But it seemed that from the grand slam on, I thought we had good at-bats."

Davis also had a two-run single in the Tigers’ six-run sixth inning Wednesday. He was happy to provide the spark for the series.

"When you’re down 4-1 your game is over," Davis said. "Most teams, that game’s over, especially at this level. Coming back from that deficit, especially a closer (Sean Doolittle) that’s been as exceptional, especially in the month of June, but unfortunately it didn’t work out for them."

It hadn’t worked out much for Torii Hunter as of late, either. 

Hunter came into the series in a bit of a slump and was 0-for-9 before breaking out with three hits, all RBI singles, on Wednesday.

"He’s always had the knack of getting the big hit against us," A’s catcher Derek Norris said. "He’s almost 40 years old and still one of the best hitters in the lineup."

Hunter drove in the Tigers’ first two runs, including the one that tied the game at 2 in the third.

"He did tell me he made a little mechanical adjustment, too," Ausmus said. "That single to right was vintage Torii, when he drove in the run, the line drive to right. That’s how Torii, when he’s right, that’s how he swings the bat."

Austin Jackson came into Wednesday’s game in an 0-for-18 skid, which ended at 0-for-19.

Batting leadoff for the second straight day, Jackson went 3-for-5 with two runs scored and an RBI.

His RBI single gave the Tigers a 3-2 lead in the fourth.

"He looked good. He looked really good," Ausmus said. "Even that last at-bat, he hit that ball hard at the first baseman. So he’ll be back there again (Thursday)."

It was Jackson’s fourth three-hit game of the season and first since June 7 against Boston.

Then there’s last week’s AL Player of the Week, J.D. Martinez. 

In the absence of Victor Martinez, J.D. has batted fourth. He finished the series 3-for-10, which included his two-run home run in Tuesday’s 3-0 win.

"It’s no secret. He’s really gotten us rolling, offensively," Justin Verlander said. "You look at a guy we just got, he’s hitting behind Miguel Cabrera in the four-hole, and doing a great job of it, when Victor went down. That’s huge for him, that’s huge for us."