Detroit — Victor Martinez wasn’t annoyed by the question; more like exasperated.
His three-run home run, his second three-run shot in two games, propelled the Tigers to a 4-0 victory and a three-game sweep of the Rockies Sunday. Before Saturday, he hadn’t hit a home run since July 3.
So, first question from the media — does it feel good to get your power back.
Martinez, who has 23 home runs, put his hand over his face and shook his head.
“Do you know how many home runs I would hit if I kept that pace?” he said. “It’d be over 100. It happens. I’ve been in the game for a long time and you just need to stay focused when you hit the bumps.”
Maybe Martinez just wants to keep everything, the home runs, the three-game sweep of the woeful Rockies, in perspective. Playing without their best hitters — Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez — and in the midst of a dreadful 2-18 road skid, the Rockies put up very little resistance all weekend.
And the Tigers merely did what a championship contender is supposed to do against an inferior opponent.
“Every time when you win it’s good, especially getting our momentum at this time of the season,” Martinez said. “But there is still a lot of season left. We just worry about day to day, game to game. We never get ahead; just play the game and see what happens.”
The task will get considerably harder starting Monday with a nine-game road trip through New York, Toronto and Pittsburgh, but they left town in good spirits, thanks to another dominant performance from their starting rotation.
After being stymied by Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello Friday and Saturday, the Rockies were mostly overwhelmed by Anibal Sanchez Sunday. Porcello struck out 10 in eight innings Saturday night; Sanchez had 10 through six innings. A one-out single by Brandon Barnes and a dropped pop up by shortstop Eugenio Sanchez were the only two baserunners against him through six.
“He used his fastball perfectly today,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “He threw it for strikes, he threw it in and out and all his other pitches as a result were much better. He used his fastball as well as I’ve ever seen him…That should be a blueprint, with slight variations depending on the lineup he’s facing, for how he attacks lineups in the future.”
Sanchez even vanquished the demons that have tormented him the seventh inning all season. His ERA in the seventh this season before Sunday was 14.73.
“That was the key today,” said Sanchez, whose record improves to 8-5. “When I came to the seventh inning I say I need to keep the ball down and I need to keep strong like I used to do so I can stay longer in the game. That was a big game for me today.”
He struck out the Rockies’ No. 3 and No. 4 hitters, Nolan Arenado and Justin Morneau — giving him 12 on the day. But he gave up his second hit of the game, to Drew Stubbs, and his pitch count was climbing toward 117.
“That’s funny,” he said. “I didn’t think I had that kind of pitch count. When I saw the scoreboard after Stubbs got the hit I say, wow, I’ve got a lot of pitches. I have to get the next guy out or I am coming out of the game.”
He did get the next hitter, Jason Pridie, on a tapper in front of the plate.
“Today I just put everything in order,” said Sanchez, who pounded his glove and left to a standing ovation – leaving relievers Joba Chamberlain and Joakim Soria to pitch the eighth and ninth and preserve the shutout.
Tigers pitchers fanned 32 Rockies batters in the series, which came on the heels of losing two out of three to the White Sox and three of four to the Angels.
“It’s going to happen like that sometimes,” Martinez said. “You’d like to go 162-0 but sometimes you are going to go down and sometimes you are going to go up. That’s why you have veterans and experienced guys in the clubhouse. When you are doing good you have to stay (level), same when you are struggling. You have to keep at the same level. We’ve been here before.”