Detroit Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez, right, sits in the dugout with his son Victor before Game 5. (Ben Margot / Associated Press)
Oakland, Calif. — He stayed calm when he had to, which was most of the time.
And he got upset when there were times to get upset, such as during his verbal scuffle with Oakland closer Grant Balfour.
But for every step of the way in the American League Division Series, Victor Martinez provided the kind of leadership the Tigers thought he would.
More than that, he was the leader they expected him to be, on and off the field.
On the field, there was no bigger hit for the Tigers in Game 4 than the home run Martinez belted in the seventh off left-hander Sean Doolittle to tie the game after the A’s had taken a 4-3 lead off Max Scherzer.
That was the reviewed home run which was examined every which way by ESPN and other sports networks on Wednesday’s off day.
“I don’t get it,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said Thursday. “That ball was clearly over the yellow line.”
When the umpires emerged from their review, they gave the sign Martinez thought they would, but he was relieved they did all the same.
“It definitely felt great,” he said. “It was a run we really, really needed.”
Nobody on either team grinds out at-bats like Martinez, a master at fouling off pitches until he gets one he likes.
“When people talk about professional hitters, they might not know it, but they’re talking about Victor,” Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter said earlier this season.
Intensity always has been one of his trademarks.
Balfour saw it while Martinez was staring at him on the mound in Game 3. The A’s reliever called it a “death stare.”
It’s with that same serious look, however, Martinez approaches every at-bat, whether during the Division Series or spring training.
He’s a a serious player with serious determination.
But after missing last season because of knee surgery, it took Martinez every ounce of that character trait to weather the challenge the early season was.
And to emerge again as the hitter he’s always been.
Keep in mind Martinez didn’t see the last of the .220s until June 29, when a three-hit game enabled his average to climb to. 231.
From that point on — his last 82 games, to be precise— Martinez hit .370 with eight home runs and 43 RBIs.
In the realm of grinding out at-bats, though, he struck out 27 times in his last 316 at-bats.
“I always say that when you put in a good swing, anything can happen,” he said.
While taking care of his own business — and doing it so well he ended up hitting .301 — Martinez has been low-key enough to assist the Tigers in deflecting the pressure of expectations.
Even now, when asked if others were trying to step up with a hobbling Miguel Cabrera not being as productive through the first four games as a healthy Cabrera would have been, Martinez said, “We don’t think it about that way. We all know that Miguel, by himself, he won’t win every game. We need everybody to step up.”
The benefit of experience lies in the ability to turn a page, not just to say it has to be done, but to actually do it while making sure hope doesn’t dim.
Hunter certainly helps in that regard. But the return of Martinez’s perspective also helped.
“If you don’t have hope, just throw in the towel,” Martinez said.
That’s something he’s never done, though, nor would allow any teammate to do.
They’d get the death stare if they did.