June 14, 2014 at 11:40 pm

In slightly smaller ballpark, Victor Martinez might have had four-homer game

Detroit — Had Saturday’s game not been at Comerica Park, but somewhere with a bit friendlier dimensions, then we might all be talking about Victor Martinez making history Saturday.

Martinez did, after all, homer once — and then hit three more balls to at least the warning track.

Conservatively, the Tigers DH might’ve been 20-25 feet, total, from a rare four-homer game.

“I still get nothing for that,” Martinez said after the Tigers’ 12-9 win, brushing off the notion of becoming just the 17th man to homer four times in a single game.

“The most important thing is we got the W.”

As with most Tigers victories, it was largely thanks to Martinez.

In the third inning, he hit a shot off Twins starter Sam Deduno toward the wall in right field. It ricocheted and bounced back into play, leading to an umpires’ call of a double.

Manager Brad Ausmus was quick to challenge, though, and the umps were even quicker (42 seconds) to overturn it and call it a home run.

Then, his next two times up, Martinez — the 35-year-old free-agent-to-be — hit towering fly balls that were caught on the warning track. Then in the seventh inning, he doubled off the wall in left field.

So close to a magical game, but just another ho-hum effort for Martinez, who now has 17 homers — already more than he’d ever hit in a full season with the Tigers — and a .329 batting average.

“I’ve said this a couple dozen times, his focus on every pitch is better than the focus of any hitter I’ve ever seen,” Ausmus said. “That’s every single pitch. A lot of hitters have the ability to focus on the majority of pitches, or nine out of 10 pitches, but he’s focused for every single pitch for 162 games.

“It’s just remarkable how he can concentrate that much, all the time.”

ERA of omission

Were the Tigers trying to protect their closer Joe Nathan by not showing his bloated ERA on the scoreboard when he pitched Friday night?

The team says no.

“Told unintentionally omitted,” said Ron Colangelo, vice president of communications.

Still, it opened some eyes.

When Nathan was called in for the ninth inning Friday night, he carried a 7.04 ERA — a sore spot among Tigers fans not thrilled with the production they’re getting from their $20 million closer.

Typically, on the strip scoreboard underneath the big scoreboard in left field, the current pitcher’s ERA is shown on the far right – next to strikes, balls, total pitches and strikeouts.

Instead, the Olde English D was on the far right when Nathan was in, and not his ERA.

Near miss

Eugenio Suarez could’ve gotten his cycle.

Really. All he had to do when he came up in the eighth inning Saturday, with history on the line, was lay a bunt down the third-base line. Eduardo Nunez was playing nearly on the outfield grass.

But, of course, that’s a no-no — one of those unwritten rules. If you’re gonna make history, you don’t do it with a bunt.

“Can’t do that. That’s cheap,” Torii Hunter said, laughing. “You’ve seen it maybe three or four times in a decade. And then the next time you face (the pitcher) again, he gets hit in the neck and he’s got a Major League Baseball tattoo right there.”

Around the horn

What did Anibal Sanchez do during the Tigers’ big third inning — a half-hour third inning — to stay loose? He played catch down in the tunnel.

And, no, in case you’re wondering, he was not itching for his teammates to hurry up and get things over with so he could pitch again.

“No, no,” Sanchez said, laughing. “I prefer they score a lot of runs. I don’t care. I’ll wait one hour.”

… With his homer and double in the third, Suarez became the first Tiger to have two extra-base hits in the same inning since Magglio Ordonez on Aug. 12, 2007. And Ordonez was in attendance Saturday.

… In light of his big night, Ausmus has no immediate plans of moving Suarez up from ninth in the order.

… At three hours, 48 minutes, Saturday’s game was the Tigers’ longest nine-inning affair of the season.

tpaul@detroitnews.com
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Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez doubles in the seventh inning. He had homered earlier. / Robin Buckson / Detroit News