Tigers' big bats do heavy work in win over Orioles

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — It was Victor Martinez who stood up after the Tigers' third straight loss in Minnesota last week and put all the cards on the table.

“Play better,” he said. “Hit better, pitch better, play better defense. If there is going to be anything for us to win, especially another (division) championship, we have to play better. We can’t win the way we are playing now.”

It was Martinez before Friday's game again voicing to the mission.

“Nothing is given in this game,” he said. “We have to start playing better baseball.”

BOX SCORE: Tigers 7, Orioles 3

And, it was Martinez who got the Tigers off and running against the Orioles. His two-run home in the first set the tone and the Tigers started their climb back into contention in the AL Central with a 7-3 win over the Orioles.

“You get that two-run lead and everyone is kind of able to relax,” catcher James McCann said. “No one is pressing, you make pitches, you make plays — you just get on a roll.”

The Tigers hit three home runs off Orioles right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez. Jose Iglesias hit a three-run shot fourth and J.D. Martinez rapped his 26th of the season in the fifth. It was the ninth time this season the Tigers have hit at least three homers in a game, the fifth time they’ve done it since June 21.

“Victor’s homer put us on the board, but Iglesias had the big blow,” manager Brad Ausmus said.

It was only Iglesias’ second home run this season, but he got his money’s worth. He began his home run trot immediately and had big fun celebrating in the dugout afterward.

“That’s why we have him,” Ausmus said, straining to keep a straight face, “to hit home runs.”

Iglesias countered: “Yeah, he’s right. You never look for one. You just try to have a quality at-bat and put good swings consistently and eventually, it’s going to happen.”

The offensive burst took some of the burden off Anibal Sanchez (9-7), who labored through six innings.

“Early in the game I felt really uncomfortable with my location,” said Sanchez, whose last start was 10 days ago in Seattle. “But, once I got to the fifth and sixth innings, I started to make my pitches. I just tried to make the right pitch in the right situation.”

Sanchez, who won for the sixth straight time, allowed single runs in the second and fourth innings, but managed to escape serious damage.

Chris Davis and Matt Wieters singled to put runners on the corners in the second. Sanchez got J.J. Hardy and Travis Snider to pop out, but Jonathan Schoop singled to rescue one run.

In the third, J.D. Martinez leaped at the wall in right and took a two-run homer away from Davis.

“It was up in the air for a while and it gave me time to get to the wall,” he said. “I just timed it up, and I was able to jump up and catch it.”

You make it sound easy, he was told.

“You don’t see me do that too many times,” he said. “That’s not my game.”

He made another run-saving catch in the fourth. With the bases loaded and one run already in, he was able to leap and snare a sailing line drive heading for the gap by Jimmy Paredes to end the inning.

“J.D. made the game today,” Sanchez said. “J.D. made the whole game. That’s a ball (Davis’) that if he doesn’t catch it, it’s a different score. If he doesn’t catch the line drive, it’s a totally different game.”

As it was, Sanchez was able to grind his way through six innings, allowing eight hits and two walks, but only the two runs.

“A lot of times the difference between a good outing and a bad outing is you have a little bit of luck on your side,” Ausmus said. “Generally speaking, though, the last five or six starts he’s been really good. He needed a little help from his teammates tonight but he was able to get through it.”

The Orioles, who scored a run in the seventh aided by an error by Ian Kinsler, left 11 runners on base, six in scoring position.

“This was a good start,” Ausmus said. “But it’s just one game.”