DETROIT -- It wasn't technically necessary, but J.D. Martinez purposely got himself caught in a rundown on the bases Monday night. The move allowed Victor Martinez to score the go-ahead run for the Detroit Tigers, en route to a 2-1 win over the New York Yankees. And in the eighth inning, one pitch saved not only the tying run against Detroit, but possibly more.
Victor Martinez, battling through knee discomfort, isn't fast to begin with, but Tigers manager Brad Ausmus wanted him in the game in case the offense wasn't able to come through. In the seventh, there was no way Martinez was coming out, not when he would have been on-deck in the ninth inning. So, as important as Victor's bat was, getting the go-ahead run in first was the key.
"Victor, we all know he's dealing with an injury right now and on top of that, he's not the fastest guy,"J.D. Martinez said. "Especially late in a ballgame like that, talking to Omar (Vizquel) about it when I was at first, I said, 'If they send him, are we going?' He said, 'Yeah, go, get in a pickle.' Pickle, rundown. As soon as he hit it, and late in the game like that, it's almost worth the trade."
Yoenis Cespedes, accountable for seven of the last 11 runs driven in by the Tigers in the last two games, hit a 78 mph curveball that leaked into left-center field. Before Jacoby Ellsbury had even fielded the ball, Victor was rounding third base. But Victor, further slowed by knee soreness lately, needed insurance and J.D.'s decision not only ensured the run would score, but gave the Tigers a lead they would not relinquish.
A lead, that nearly disappeared in the eighth inning, however. At 98 pitches headed into the eighth, Alfredo Simon allowed his fourth leadoff hit of the night -- a single. After a sacrifice bunt and a second single put runners on the corners, Ausmus opted to pull Simon with a lead and 7 1/3 strong innings.
Joba Chamberlain, who finished the 2014 season at polar opposites to his dominant first-half, has been the subject of hesitance among Tigers fans. Chamberlain hasn't given any hints that he's going to turn back into the light's out reliever that was present at the start of last year, but he hasn't blown up, either. Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good, but there's a little bit of both so far this year.
"(Chamberlain's) had decent success against Ellsbury in the past," Ausmus said. "I think pitching in a tight situation like that is a little bit different, he's had experience, he's pitched in the eighth inning for us last year -- and the vast majority did it very well. I knew he could handle it.
"Ellsbury hit the ball pretty hard. We were fortunate in the sense that it went towards Kins (Kinsler), the upside of him hitting it hard is, if it's hit slower it's tough to double them up. We were a little fortunate but I felt good about Joba (Chamberlain) in that situation."
Chamberlain has a spotless record through 1 2/3 innings-pitched, allowing three hits while striking out two. Yes, it's a freakishly small sample size, and Ausmus acknowledged that he has gone to Chamberlain on all three occasions partially because of last year's results. But part of it is because of what he's seen from Chamberlain to start this year.
The ninth inning has become, in a way, a sure thing if the team can hand a lead to Tigers closer Joakim Soria. Soria has automatically rolled through opposing hitters with such ease that it seems unfair. And while you're wondering, CC Sabathia had his own thoughts about the Tigers' lineup.
"After the first inning, I went back to the dugout and told Chris Young that their lineup should be illegal," Sabathia said. "Every time you think you have a chance to take a breath, they've got another hitter up there."
But for Chamberlain or whomever takes over for the starting pitcher of the day, however, it's another story, and Ausmus took that tight-game situation into consideration. Chamberlain, for his part, has been no stranger to high pressure situations, ones that, hopefully will be more of a rarity than the norm due to dominant starting pitching.
"Yeah, I'm definitely an adrenaline junkie, that's for sure," Chamberlain said. "The other day, when I came in 12-3, that was hard for me, because I live for this stuff, for these situations. That's what's fun about this game. You get to face one of the best players in the league, and get a chance to go do your thing. It's always fun when you've got a guy that went seven strong, and you get to save their game, and obviously give the ball to Soria. It's just fun watching him pitch, because he makes it look way too easy."