Experienced V-Mart shows signs of offensive life
CHICAGO -- The numbers on Victor Martinez through his first 25 games were ugly: A .212 batting average, .263 slugging percentage, no home runs and a .542 OPS.
His numbers when he crossed 100 plate appearances were even uglier, batting .198 with a .514 OPS.
Those numbers were actually from 2013, when Martinez was working his way back from his previous knee surgery. He didn't hit his first home run until his 28th game and his 125th plate appearance. He kept on playing, and he kept on batting fifth behind Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. He ended up batting .319 with 14 home runs, 73 RBIs and an .837 OPS the rest of the way.
It doesn't mean he's in for that kind of turnaround this year. It does mean he'll get the benefit of the doubt to try. Wednesday's matchup against Chris Sale was a good place to start.
"That's a good thing that I have on my side, that I've been here before," Martinez said after his first four-RBI game of the season in a 7-6 loss to the White Sox. "I kind of know what I have to keep doing, just to get the strength back, to try to go out there and be myself."
As Martinez slowly rounded the bases on his third-inning home run, his first of the year, there was serious question whether he was trotting against Sale -- who got into an argument with him last season over accusations of sign stealing -- or simply going at the speed he can on his surgically repaired left knee.
"I think it felt better just to give the team the lead," Martinez said, "especially when you're facing one of the best pitchers in the game."
He had looked silly swinging and missing badly on a Sale breaking ball a couple of pitches earlier. He was ready when Sale hung a changeup.
"The [breaking ball] he threw me, I didn't see at all," Martinez said. "I didn't know what I swung [at]. I didn't see that pitch at all. Thank God he didn't throw it again. I just got that mistake up and put a good swing."
It was his first home run since last Sept. 25, and it followed up his first-inning sacrifice fly for his first RBI since April 26. He went 1-for-2 against Sale to improve to 16-for-34 off him. He was also batting right-handed, which puts less pressure on his bad knee.
He was batting left-handed for his final RBI, an eighth-inning single off Zach Putnam to build a 6-3 lead.
"It's always big when you get a big hit to drive in a run and help the team," Martinez said. "It's always great."
Martinez's four RBIs Wednesday put him into double digits. He had nine going in.