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Tigers' resilient J.D. Martinez rolls with the punches

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News


Baltimore — Losing games, big games, particularly on the national stage, is almost always an experience in the morose, as it was Friday in the Tigers clubhouse at Camden Yards following their 7-6 loss to the Orioles in Game 2 of the American League division series.

J.D. Martinez was in a somber spirit as he buttoned a lavender shirt and dressed for the team's charter flight to Detroit.

He had done his part. Martinez hit his second home run in two ALDS games when in the fourth inning he mashed a Wei-Yin Chen slider high and deep into the left-field seats for a three-run homer that gave the Tigers a 4-2 lead.

But four innings later, the lead was gone. And what might have been an upbeat gang of Tigers had instead turned into Friday's downcast postgame crew.

"You try to win, that's the goal," Martinez said, explaining why there could be no solace taken in his ALDS power surge.

"Professionally, it sucks to lose. All I can do is everything in my power to help. But unfortunately, sometimes it feels like it's not enough."

Martinez remains the holiday gift that keeps giving to the Tigers in 2014. Six months ago, he was playing Triple A ball in the chill at Fifth Third Field in Toledo, and about to hit 17 home runs in the season's first three weeks.

Then, a phone call from Detroit: Martinez was headed to Comerica Park, where he continued to bash homers, 23 of them, while batting .316, with 76 RBIs and a .912 OPS.

His adoption after being cut by the Astros in March became one of the season's best rescue stories. His bat became indispensable to a lineup that saw him, in the first two games of the ALDS, carry on with his game-busting ways that in each instance were undone by later bullpen crashes.

Martinez had talked about his 2014 makeover during an earlier media session Friday. He is an amiable gent, raised in south Florida's Cuban-American culture.

And he cannot always believe what has happened in six months.

"I mean, like I say all the time, it's truly a blessing from God," said Martinez, whose initials stand for Julio Daniel. "If somebody would have told me a year ago (when he was with the Astros) that I would be here talking to you guys about the postseason, I would have kinda laughed at 'em."

He also spoke in words that were somewhat prophetic. They were a preface to a script that saw the Orioles topple the Tigers and take a two-games-to-none lead in the best-of-five ALDS.

"I think the one thing I have learned the most from all the veteran guys is not to dwell on a loss or a bad day," said Martinez, whose team was about to experience just that.

"There will be days where we got our face kicked in, and it will be a big game, and we're on the bus and the veteran guys act like we've never even lost.

"Of course, everybody is feeling it. But how they turn the page and move forward was something that I really learned and picked up. It was pretty awesome."

Martinez has at least one more game to keep his bat alive, and hope his team can, too.

lynn.henning@detroitnews.com

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