One of the most overused phrases on BYB this season has been "Victor Martinez's slow start." Thankfully, it looks like those days are over. Martinez had three hits tonight, including his second home run in as many days, to lead the Tigers to a 7-5 victory over the Cleveland Indians.
Even more encouraging was how Martinez came about getting those three hits. The phrase "vintage" gets thrown around like crazy these days, but this offensive outburst was exactly that: vintage Victor Martinez.
Before we get to tonight's highlights, I'm going to Tarantino this beast and take us back to April 21. This may seem random, but to many it was the low point of Martinez's season. With the Tigers and Los Angeles Angels tied at three in the top of the ninth inning, Martinez stepped in to face Angels closer Ernesto Frieri with the bases loaded. What happened next wasn't pretty.
As you can see, Martinez was extremely late on a pair of belt-high fastballs. He eventually flied out weakly to left field -- because he was late on another fastball -- and the Tigers lost 4-3 in extra innings.
Fast foward to yesterday's game. Martinez got a similar belt-high fastball from Tampa Bay Rays starter Roberto Hernandez and deposited it into the right field seats.
Tonight, Martinez got another belt-high fastball. Same result as yesterday.
The biggest difference? Martinez's lower half begins moving much quicker in the June highlights. Rod Allen talked about "clearing the hips" on the Fox Sports Detroit broadcast, and this is exactly what Martinez is doing. By beginning his swing with his legs, hips, and pelvis earlier, he is able to turn on hard fastballs and drive them to right field.
Another example of this came later in the game. Martinez got an elevated fastball from Indians righty Brian Shaw and ripped a line drive down the right field line.
FSD had a great camera angle of the play, which shows a perfect view of Martinez's swing mechanics.
This type of rhythm is what many people, myself included, weren't sure about heading into the season. Would Martinez be ready out of the gate? Would it take some time to get back into "game shape?" We can't be entirely sure, but it looks like Martinez has finally shaken off all the rust from not playing in 2012.
Finally, here's his opposite-field single because opposite-field singles are pretty to watch.
Martinez is back, folks. Enjoy the ride.