DETROIT -- Leonys Martin had a couple of chances at his first career grand slam earlier in his career, only to be denied by highlight catches to bring them back. Mike Trout robbed him when he was in Seattle a couple of years ago; George Springer took a walk-off away from him in Texas the year before that.
"Not a good feeling," Martin said.
So when Orioles right fielder Anthony Santander had to turn and watch Martin's fifth-inning drive clear the right-field fence, and clear the bases in the process Thursday, the sense of relief could be seen on Martin's face as he rounded first base. The smile he was sporting was unmistakable as he rounded third, putting the Tigers into double digits on the scoreboard. The slam broke the game open, and paved the way to a 13-8 win and a three-game series sweep of the Orioles at Comerica Park.
"He gets so excited, you can't understand him when he starts yelling in the dugout when he came back," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I think he enjoyed it. I'm pretty sure he did. He was talking really fast.
"But it was good. All the guys were excited. He's an entertaining guy and an entertaining player."
He was still smiling after the game upon receiving the ball. The fan who retrieved it offered it back to him in exchange for an autographed one. Martin signed a ball and thanked the fan for bringing it back, no pun intended.
Martin fell a hit shy of the cycle for the second time in as many weeks, but he'll take this. The way he's hitting and running, he'll have more chances this season. Not only is he an entertaining player, he's becoming a leadoff catalyst for a Tigers offense that might finally be heating up along with the spring weather in Michigan.
"I just go out there and try to put a good swing on the baseball, man. Try to swing at strikes," Martin said. "That's the only thing that I can control. It's good to hit the ball in the gap, hit triples and stuff like that, but the only thing that I go to home plate thinking about is to hit the ball hard and put a good swing on it."
Add Jeimer Candelario's first career four-hit games to three-hit efforts for Martin and Miguel Cabrera, and the top third of the Tigers lineup combined for 10 of Detroit's 18 hits in roughing up Alex Cobb and the Orioles.
Martin needed a triple for the cycle last Wednesday in Cleveland, but his three hits were the only ones the Tigers put up against Carlos Carrasco in his complete game. Martin picked up his triple early on Thursday, a 421-foot loft over Adam Jones' head and to the depths of right-center, but finished a double short.
Compared to the triple, Martin's grand slam was a short poke, an estimated 390-foot drive off Mike Wright Jr. into the right-field seats according to Statcast™.
Martin had one at-bat to try for what would've been the Tigers' first cycle since Carlos Guillen on Aug. 1, 2006. His opposite-field fly ball in the seventh had some carry to left, but Trey Mancini needed only retreat a few steps for the catch.
"I felt pressure a little bit," Martin admitted. "I've been in this situation a few times and never got it done. But when I went to the batter's box, I tried to relax and think about how this is another at-bat. I think I put a good swing on it, but it's all luck."
At least for the grand slam, it was in his favor this time.
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Iglesias puts Tigers up for good: Detroit moved ahead with a four-run second inning on four hits, all of them on the ground. The only one for extra bases was Jose Iglesias' two-run triple, a grounder he pulled just inside the third-base line and down into the left-field corner, scoring James McCann and JaCoby Jones.
All four series the Tigers have completed without a game lost to postponement have been sweeps. The Pirates swept a three-game series at Comerica Park to open the season. The Tigers swept the White Sox in three games at Chicago, then were swept in four games at Cleveland before playing only one of three scheduled games here against the Yankees last weekend.
HE SAID IT
"This was a fun series. We did really well. This is a Baltimore team that's a really good offensive team, and our guys came out pretty good out of it. So, let's just take baby steps, and you keep working." -- Gardenhire on sweeping the Orioles
The Tigers welcome the Royals for their second visit to Comerica Park this month, this time for a four-day weekend series that begins with a day-night doubleheader on Friday. Michael Fulmer (1-2, 3.86) and Daniel Norris (0-1, 7.11) will get the starts at 1:10 p.m. and 7:10 p.m. ET, respectively, as Detroit tries to extend its three-game winning streak with a chance to get back to .500 with a sweep.