Kansas City, Mo. — Talk about an emotional whirlwind.
The Tigers found out less than two hours before game time Tuesday that J.D. Martinez had been traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks. There were hugs, tears and farewells, as well as the realization that the long-dreaded sell-off had officially begun.
“Everybody in here is a professional,” said Nick Castellanos. “You just have to do what you’ve got to do. Obviously, we’re all sad that J.D. is gone. He’s been on my team my whole big-league career.
“But he has an opportunity now to go over to a different team that’s in contention. Just wish him the best.”
Before the Tigers could even settle into the game, though, they were in a 3-0 hole.
Their response? They erupted for five runs in the top of the second inning and proceeded to beat the Kansas City Royals, 9-3, their season-high tying fourth straight win.
“Where we are at right now, as a team, we are coming together,” Castellanos said. “We all want to win. Everybody is counting us out, so we’re playing right now with a chip on our shoulder.”
Castellanos, as he has all month, put the club on top of that chip on his shoulder and carried it. He tripled in two runs in the second, whacked a pair of 400-plus-foot home runs and added an RBI single in the eighth — a career-high four hits, 12 total bases, and a career-high five RBIs.
“It’s the same thing as at the beginning of the year,” he said. “Stuff is just falling now. No adjustment, no secret, no nothing. It’s just baseball — underlined.”
His solo homer in the fifth went 407 feet down the line in left. His solo blast leading off the seventh went 413 feet just to the left-field side of the batter’s eye. They were his 13th and 14th home runs on the season — and his third and fourth home runs in four games.
“I think the law of averages plays into it,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “You can’t keep hitting balls constantly hard like he was and continue to get nothing to show for it.”
In the month of July, Castellanos is 18 for 53 (.339) with two doubles three triples, five home runs and 15 RBIs.
“The cruelty of baseball is that things like this can happen,” Ausmus said, referring to the Martinez trade. “Most of the guys in this clubhouse, and certainly the coaches, have been through it before. … It’s always tough but the reality is, as a player, you learn to say your goodbyes and move on.
“Because you have to.”
With Martinez gone, Ausmus said most likely Alex Presley and Jim Adduci (recalled from Toledo) will share right field.
“We are not a better team without J.D. Martinez, there is no question about that,” Ausmus said. “As a manager, it probably affects me more than anybody. But we also have to look ourselves in the mirror. If we were in first place it wouldn’t have happened. We have to be accountable, too, and I have to be accountable as the manager.
“If we were 10 games over .500 we would not be in this position. In some ways, we forced Al (Avila, general manager) to make a move.”
The Tigers’ five-run rally took left-hander Matthew Boyd off the hook.
Making his first start after an eight-game stint at Triple-A Toledo, Boyd hit Whit Merrifield to start the first inning. Four singles later and the Tigers were in a 3-0 hole.
“Just didn’t execute my pitches,” Boyd said. “Really, there were three pitches I didn’t execute and a couple I did execute the way I wanted that got hit. I just stuck to my routine.”
Boyd was unfazed. Effectively keeping the Royals off-balance with a mixture of sliders, change-ups and curve balls, he put up zeros from the second inning through the sixth. He allowed just three singles after the first inning.
He was starting in place of Daniel Norris, who made a rehab start at Toledo. Norris’ line wasn’t pretty — he gave up five runs (four earned) on three hits and two walks in two innings. The Tigers have not indicated whether Boyd will remain in the rotation — though he made a good case for it Tuesday.
Afterward, while the music was bumping and the players were enjoying a four-game winning streak, there was still a somber undercurrent with Martinez’s locker vacant.
“It’s part of the business,” Alex Avila said. “Guys in here are pros and things like this are going to happen. Over the course of a year, guys are going to get traded or get hurt or sent back to the minors — you deal with it. You go out and play your game.
“Whatever you feel emotionally toward whatever person is gone, once you get between the lines, you have to do your job.”
As for playing with a chip on their collective shoulder — Avila isn’t quite buying that.
“In my view, if you need a chip on your shoulder, it’s too late,” he said. “You should’ve had a chip on your shoulder from the beginning. For me, it’s just about continuing to do your job regardless of what is going on because the other stuff is out of your control.”