SEATTLE (AP) Brad Ausmus watches the intensity and concentration of Detroit’s Victor Martinez at the plate and is continually impressed.
The only time Detroit’s first-year manager has noticed a difference is when opponents decide to pitch around Miguel Cabrera and take their chances with the leading hitter in the American League.
”The only time I see his concentration go up even higher is when someone gets walked in front of him,” Ausmus said.
Martinez broke a 2-2 tie with a three-run homer in the fifth inning capping a 10-pitch at-bat, Justin Verlander threw 7 2-3 strong innings and the Tigers beat the Seattle Mariners 6-3 on Friday night.
Martinez watched as Seattle starter Hisashi Iwakuma issued a two-out intentional walk to Cabrera in the fifth. It was probably the right move after Cabrera hit a two-run homer off Iwakuma in the third inning to give Detroit the lead.
Martinez then made Iwakuma work, fouling off pitch after pitch and extending the at-bat. On the 10th pitch, Iwakuma left a slider hanging chest-high and Martinez lifted his 13th homer of the season out to right field.
”I thought I did pretty well until that last pitch,” Iwakuma said through an interpreter.
Martinez finished with two hits raising his AL-leading average to .347. He’s come to understand hitting behind Cabrera there will be times that he’s considered the better option to face.
”Early in my career, I used to get mad … when they were walking people in front of me. I’d get mad at the plate and be swinging at anything,” Martinez said. ”Now I understand. Hey, if I’m a manager, I’d do the same thing. It is what it is. (Cabrera) the best hitter in the game, and you can’t let the best hitter in the game beat you. I understand it.”
Cabrera’s homer in the third came on the first pitch from Iwakuma. Both home runs Iwakuma allowed came with two outs and led to his shortest outing of the season. Iwakuma (3-2) lasted just six innings and took his second straight loss.
Rajai Davis added a solo shot on the first pitch from reliever Charlie Furbush in the seventh, his fourth homer of the season.
The homers provided plenty of support for Verlander (6-4), who had lost three of his previous four starts and gave up 11 hits in each of his last two outings. He allowed five hits, struck out seven and walked one.
Verlander was on the cusp of getting through the eighth for just the second time this season, but James Jones’ two-out single forced a change. Verlander threw a season-high 120 pitches.
The outing was more what the Tigers have come to expect from Verlander.
”I think my rhythm was much better, my consistency was much better and my stuff was a lot better,” Verlander said. ”That’s a good sign in and of itself.”
Verlander’s only troubles came with Seattle’s Kyle Seager, who doubled in his first at-bat and hit a two-run homer in the fourth to pull the Mariners even. Seager was thrown out at home trying to score on an infield groundball in the second, but made up for it with his eighth homer of the season in the fourth.
The Mariners had a chance in the fifth after Endy Chavez’s two-out double, but second baseman Ian Kinsler swallowed Jones’ hard one-hopper and threw him out to save a run.
Joba Chamberlain pitched the ninth for his second save.
Seattle played without second baseman Robinson Cano for the second straight night, sitting out with a minor contusion on his hand. Cano was a late scratch from Thursday’s lineup, but said before Friday’s game that he was feeling better. He has played at least 159 games in each of the past seven seasons.
NOTES: It was the first time for Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon facing the Tigers. McClendon was on Jim Leyland’s coaching staff in Detroit from 2006-13 before getting the Seattle job. … Cabrera’s homer snapped Iwakuma’s streak of scoreless innings against AL Central teams at 50 1-3.