Detroit — Never a doubt. Not this time.
Detroit Tigers center fielder Leonys Martin has had grand slam home runs pulled out of the stands by leaping outfielders twice in his career. George Springer denied him in 2015 and Mike Trout in 2016.
On Thursday, though, after blasting a 421-foot triple the previous inning – a ball that traveled as far as one can and still stay inside Comerica Park – he knew the one he hit with the bases loaded in the fifth inning was going to reach the left-center-field seats.
“That’s a good feeling,” he said. “I’ve been robbed a couple of times. But as soon as I hit that one, I knew it was gone. And that was a really good feeling at that moment.”
Martin and Jeimer Candelario, the first two batters in the Tigers’ lineup, combined for seven hits and seven RBIs, igniting the Tigers series-sweeping 13-8 win over the faltering Orioles.
“We have a great team with a lot of hungry guys,” Martin said. “Every day they go out and do their best. Everybody is on the same page. This team, we go out and fight every single day.”
Candelario matched Martin hit for hit, reaching base five times – three singles, a walk, and a two-run homer to right field in the fourth inning.
“He’s not impressing me,” Martin said of Candelario.
Really? Going back to his eighth-inning home run against the Yankees Friday, Candelario has gone 9-for-14 with three homers and six RBIs.
“No, I know he’s going to hit,” Martin said, perhaps confusing the word impressed with surprised. “He can hit. He’s a good hitter. What I’m seeing now, man, is special. He’s not afraid. He enjoys the game and he has so much confidence.
“But I am not impressed. I know it’s going to happen.”
Candelario said he knew it was going to be a good day when he came to the park and saw the sun was shining. Temperatures climbed over 50 degrees.
“Yeah, we saw that and said, ‘Oh, it’s going to be nice,’” he said. “The weather was very good and we took advantage of it.”
He’s hitting .530 with three homers and six RBIs in the last four games, but you’d never know whether he hot or in a slump by his post-game demeanor.
“I am just sticking with my routine every game,” he said. “We’re going to have ups and downs, but you just keep grinding and continue to get yourself in a good position to hit the ball.
“It’s a long season. You have to continue to work hard whether you are doing good or bad. I always stick with my routine. It helps me a lot.”
It’s as if he took a page from manager Ron Gardenhire’s post-game quote book. Because the skipper was equally low-key about the Tigers’ sweep of the Orioles.
“There’s a lot of baseball left,” Gardenhire said. “We just want to be consistent. That’s what we want to do. Be consistent with everything we do. This was a fun series, we did well.
“Just keep taking baby steps and keep on working.”
The Tigers banged out 18 hits and batted around in the second inning (four runs) and the fifth (five). They bounced Orioles starter Alex Cobb out of the game in the fourth inning. In his two starts this season, Cobb, the former Tampa Bay Ray, has allowed 15 runs and 20 hits.
“We’ve got some hitters in this lineup,” Candelario said. “Everybody can swing the bat. I knew this was coming, it was coming – we’ve been working hard for it.”
Miguel Cabrera had three hits – two singles and a double. Jose Iglesias also had three hits – single, double and triple. JaCoby Jones and Victor Martinez (double, RBI) each had two hits. Martinez has reached base in 12 straight games.
“If I could break it down to one word, it would be ‘fun,’” Tigers starter Jordan Zimmermann said. “These guys are fun to be around and fun to watch on the field. We can swing it, we can run the bases – we’re young and exciting. I am excited to see how it plays out.”
Zimmermann, making his first start since taking a liner to the face in Cleveland on April 11, gave up four runs in 5.1 innings, yielding home runs to Chris Davis and two to Manny Machado.
“He gave us an opportunity to win,” Gardenhire said. “He held them off good enough and got through some innings for us. We’ll take it.”
The only real drama left at the end was whether or not Martin would hit for the cycle. No Tiger has done so since Carlos Guillen in 2006. A double was all he needed.
“I was pressing a little bit,” Martin said. “I’ve been in that situation before a few times and never got it done. Walking to the batter’s box I just completely relaxed and tried to think about it as just another at-bat.”
Still searching for a cycle. He flew out to left.