J.D.'s back: Martinez homers twice as Tigers top Angels

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
The Detroit Tigers' Victor Martinez, left, greets J.D. Martinez after J.D. Martinez hit a two-run home run during the second inning.

Anaheim, Calif. — All those nights J.D. Martinez was stuck down in Florida, injured, helplessly watching his teammates battling in games much like this one Saturday night — awful feeling — this is what he dreamed of.

“Yeah, down there just watching the team and wishing I could do something every time we’d lose a game,” he said. “Just one of those frustrating things. I’m happy to be back, happy to help us win a game.”

He’s back alright. Martinez, in just his second game since coming off the disabled list, hit a pair of home runs Saturday, the second one into the seats in right field in the top of the ninth, nudging the Tigers past the Los Angeles Angels 4-3.

“Awesome,” he said. “I still feel like I’m just trying to feel it out still. I was just able to run into a couple tonight.”

BOX SCORE: Tigers 4, Angels 3

His first home run was a two-run shot to left in the second inning.

“You can tell how much we missed him, just from this one game,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “It’s good to have him back in the lineup. It lengthens our lineup and makes it more potent.”

Justin Wilson, in his first save opportunity since being handed the closer's role, struck out Danny Espinoza, Martin Maldonado and Cliff Pennington to end the night. He did not need to be reminded the ever-dangerous Mike Trout was hitting fourth that inning.

“You don’t want to get to him,” said Wilson, whose fastball was sitting at 97 mph. “The guy is who is he for a reason; he’s a great hitter. I didn’t have to face him. Once I got two outs and Pennington was up, I am going right after him.

“He’s a big-leaguer, but Mike Trout was behind him. If I get that guy out, the game is over.”

Tigers' Alex Avila sees good things coming for J-Zimm

The Tigers have taken two of the first three games in the series, which is significant for two reasons. One, despite those two walk-off losses in Oakland, the Tigers have a chance to survive this nine-game West Coast trip with a winning record. They are 4-4 entering the finale Sunday and they have ace Justin Verlander on the mound.

Also, it was the first time the Tigers won more than one game in Anaheim since 2010. If they win Sunday, it will be their first four-game series win here since 1994.

The teams had traded home runs in the sixth and seventh innings.

Justin Upton’s shortest home run of the season, a 361-foot fence-scraper just inside the left-field foul pole in the sixth, put the Tigers ahead 3-2.

Trout answered with a no-doubter to left field off reliever Shane Greene in the bottom of the seventh — 3-3. It was the first run allowed by Greene in 8 1/3 innings.

Alex Wilson pitched a snappy 1-2-3 eighth to set the stage for Martinez.

Still, you can see why it’s been so tough for the Tigers to win at Angel Stadium. Stuff happens here.

Take the fifth inning Saturday night.

Starter Daniel Norris was up 2-0 and cruising. He got the first two batters to ground out.

Que the "Twilight Zone" music.

Martin Maldonado, the Angels No. 9 hitter, hit a bloop that fell in front of center fielder Tyler Collins. Yunel Escobar then hit a ground ball into the hole at shortstop that Jose Iglesias fielded on a dive but had no play.

That brought up Mike Trout. Norris got ahead of him 1-2 and then thought he had him struck out on a belt-high fastball. Norris did not get the call and on the next pitch, his fastball barely grazed Trout’s arm, which was extended over the plate.

“We talked about it,” Ausmus said. “But I don’t know if he’s intentionally trying to get hit. I think Mike Trout would rather hit than be hit.”

The Tigers checked the replay to see if the ball did hit him.

“We looked,” Ausmus said. “But we couldn’t tell if it hit him or not, so we didn’t challenge.”

Bases were loaded for Albert Pujols.

Norris got ahead of him 1-2, throwing 94-mph fastballs by him. But on a 1-2 pitch, he left a curveball up in the zone and Pujols dropped it down the left field line.

Game tied.

“That’s the only pitch I am worrying about right now,” said Norris, who allowed the two runs in 5 2/3 innings. “That’s the only curveball all night that I didn’t finish. … I didn’t second-guess the pitch, just the location.

“I just didn’t throw it with as much conviction as the other ones. I was trying to get it down and in and I left it up. You are going to make mistakes and that guy has capitalized on a lot of mistakes.”

The Tigers had a chance to break the game open before that. In the fourth inning, up 2-0, they loaded the bases with one out. Angels starter Ricky Nolasco struck out Tyler Collins, who is in an 0-for-26 skid.

James McCann followed with a ground ball that appeared headed into right field, but former Tiger Jefry Marte made a diving stop, saving two runs.

Still, it was an important win for the Tigers.

“This is a tough place for us to win,” Ausmus said. “But we still have one game left here, so ask me about it tomorrow.”

After the game, Martinez took treatment on his right foot for nearly 30 minutes.

“It’s sore; it’s going to be sore all year,” he said. “It’s something I have in my mind that I have to deal with. The doctors said it’s normal. It’s not going to do anything wrong to it, playing on it won’t hurt it. He said if I want it to get better, I have to rest it.

“We have a season to play, so there’s no time to rest.” @cmccosky