Chicago — Here it is, the last day of August and that batting average is still hanging at high altitude.
With three hits, including a double, in Friday night’s Tigers victory, 7-1, over the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field, J.D. Martinez is batting .312 during what continues to be a remarkable season for an outfielder no one last spring seemed to know very well or want very much.
The Tigers were different. They gobbled up Martinez after he was released by the Astros and he has done nothing but patch an enormous sinkhole in the Tigers outfield, all while hitting vibrantly.
He has 17 home runs and 58 RBIs to go with that .312 average. It is all a product, Martinez says, of his dedicated work last offseason on rebuilding a swing that refuses to revisit its old, inconsistent ways.
“Knock on wood,” said Martinez, picking up a stained, J.D. Martinez-model bat, which he has been swinging with such aplomb since the Tigers signed him last March. “Now, I’m a little quicker to the ball, just trying to put the barrel of the bat on it.”
Friday night’s testament to his reconstructed swing saw Martinez slash a single to right in the second inning against White Sox starter Scott Carroll. In the fourth, he drove in a run with a double to left, all before stroking another single in the fifth.
“Definitely, I’m happy where I’m at right now,” Martinez said. “I’ve just got to keep doing what I’m doing. I’ve still found myself the last few weeks letting some old habits creep in – rolling over some pitches a little.”
But then he returns to that re-tooled swing. And once again the Tigers are left to contemplate where they might have been minus one of the season’s more remarkable acquisitions.