Tigers’ Martinez bids farewell to Cleveland

CLEVELAND — Victor Martinez’s first major league at bat came at age 23 as a member of the Cleveland Indians on Sept. 10, 2002, in what was known as Jacobs Field.

On Sunday, Martinez, 39, will take his last at-bat at what is known as Progressive Field in the final meeting of the season between the Detroit Tigers and the Cleveland Indians.

Martinez, a five-time All-Star and runner-up to Mike Trout in the 2014 MVP voting, is retiring at the end of the season. Martinez spent the first eight years of his major league career as a catcher with the Indians. He was traded to Boston, where he played two years under manager Terry Francona, who is now the Indians’ manager.

“He’s one of the nicest guys in the game, one of the most professional hitters, and one of the best switch-hitters you’ll ever see,” Francona said.

Martinez is a .295 career hitter and has amassed 2,148 hits in his 16-year major league career — 1,028 as a member of the Tigers.

“He was the perfect batter to hit behind Miggy,” said Francona of Martinez, who typically hit behind the now-injured Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera. “Nobody wanted to face Miggy, but if you didn’t, then you had to face Victor.”

Martinez was a .306 career hitter through the 2014 season, but age and injuries caught up to him in the last four years, during which he has hit .262. Before Saturday’s game, a 15-0 Indians victory that clinched their third consecutive American League Central title, the Indians presented Martinez with a plaque during a pregame ceremony.

On Sunday, Martinez will face Cleveland right-hander Shane Bieber (10-3, 4.32 ERA). Martinez is 0-for-3 versus the rookie. Bieber is second among AL rookies in wins and strikeouts.

In Bieber’s last start, a 10-3 victory over Tampa Bay on Tuesday, he set a career high for strikeouts. He pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing three hits, with 11 strikeouts and three walks.

Bieber’s rookie season has had three distinct stages. In his first four starts, he was 3-0 with a 2.22 ERA. In his next five starts he was 2-2 with a 7.33 ERA, and in his last eight starts he is 5-1 with a 3.66 ERA.

Bieber’s only career appearance against Detroit was a 10-0 victory June 22, in which he pitched seven scoreless innings on four hits, with nine strikeouts and one walk.

Detroit’s Sunday starter will be 34-year-old left-hander Francisco Liriano (4-10, 4.58), who has only won one game since April 28. In 18 starts since, Liriano is 1-9 with a 4.97 ERA.

His last start was a 3-2 loss to Houston on Monday in which he pitched six innings and allowed three runs (zero earned) and four hits, with seven strikeouts and four walks.

Liriano’s last start against the Indians came June 23, a 4-1 loss in which he pitched four innings, giving up three runs (two earned) and four hits, with three strikeouts and three walks.

In four appearances (three starts) against the Indians this year, Liriano is 0-2 with a 4.96 ERA. In his career, he has made 24 appearances (18 starts) against Cleveland and is 5-8 with a 4.31 ERA.