It's a bit ironic, really. On the night that the Detroit Tigers were officially eliminated from the 2015 AL Central Division race -- Kansas City beat Cleveland at Progressive Field, their 85th win of the season -- they put together one of their better efforts in recent weeks in a 5-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins.
Led by none other than the left-for-dead Victor Martinez, the Tigers scored two runs in the top of the first inning. Martinez hit a slow roller past second baseman Brian Dozier for the first run of the game, then was thrown out between second and third base when Nick Castellanos singled home J.D. Martinez in the next at-bat. The Tigers added to their tally in the second inning when Anthony Gose singled home James McCann.
The Twins plated just one run off starter Alfredo Simon in the early innings, but they had plenty of chances to score. Nearly every ball put in play against Simon was a bullet, but many were turned into outs. He stranded five runners in the first three innings, and seven runners overall before departing with runners on first and third in the seventh. After Blaine Hardy walked Joe Mauer, Miguel Sano singled home two runs to cut the Tigers' lead to 4-3.
While the Tigers offense combined for nine hits, Zombie Victor Martinez was the star of the show. V-Mart was 3-for-3 to begin the game, including a pair of RBI singles in the first and sixth innings. He sprayed the ball to all fields, lining each of his hits to a different outfielder. He hit another liner in his fourth at-bat, but it traveled straight into Brian Dozier's mitt in shallow right field, dispelling the quickly popularizing myth that Martinez had sold his soul to the St. Louis Cardinals.
After a scoreless eighth inning from Alex Wilson, the Tigers added an insurance run in the ninth. With runners on the corners and no outs, Andrew Romine executed a textbook safety squeeze, extending the Tigers' lead to 5-3. Bruce Rondon did his best to make me rewrite this recap when he allowed a run in the ninth, but he struck out Sano on three consecutive sliders to end the game and earn his fifth save of the season.
Victor Martinez: See above. Martinez showed flashes of his usual swing tonight, collecting a trio of hits. A strong finish to the year -- and a healthy offseason! -- could bode well for 2016.
Alfredo Simon: The big righthander has flummoxed the Twins throughout his career, and tonight was no different. Simon allowed several hard-hit balls early on, but settled down to work 6 1/3 innings. Two of the three runs he was charged with scored after he departed in the seventh, and his defense did him no favors along the way.
Miguel Cabrera: He hit a sharp liner in his first at-bat, but Cabrera went 0-for-4 tonight, extending his hitless streak to 19 at-bats. He is 1-for-20 with three walks in his last five games.
Nick Castellanos: He drove in a run in the first, but Castellanos had a rough night in the field. He whiffed on a high chopper in the seventh, which resulted in a Byron Buxton "double."
STREAKS AND STATS:
- Victor Martinez's RBI single in the first inning was his first run driven in since August 20. This was his first two-RBI game since August 12.
- The last time Victor Martinez collected three hits in a game was on July 6, when he went 4-for-5 against the Seattle Mariners.
- Victor Martinez raised his September batting average from .189 to .244 in tonight's game.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH: