V-Mart sets mark with 2 pinch-hit HRs in first 2 games

April 7th, 2016

MIAMI -- The first player in modern Major League history to hit a pinch-hit home run in his team's first two regular-season games is an American Leaguer. He isn't a pinch-hitting specialist, either.

"I'm going to be honest with you, I don't like pinch-hitting," Victor Martinez said after his second pinch-hit home run in as many days helped the Tigers to a 7-3 win over the Marlins on Wednesday. "I just don't like it. You have only that one chance. I don't think it's easy to come into the middle of the game, at the end of the game. It helps when you know what you need to do to stay loose."

The preparation, Martinez said, isn't all that different from what he does as a designated hitter. The opportunity is a one-shot deal. For the last two days, he made the most of it.

According to Tigers media relations, Martinez became the first Major Leaguer with a pinch-hit homer in each of his club's first two games since at least 1914, as far back as research goes. According to baseball-reference, he became the first Tiger since at least 1913 with pinch-hit home runs on back-to-back days, and the eighth to do so in consecutive appearances.

"It's pretty cool," Martinez said, "but you know what, we're here to win ballgames. I'm just happy I was able to help the team to win these first two games."

The Tigers thought they were at a disadvantage by opening their season with Interleague Play in a National League ballpark. But while they lost their designated hitter for two games against the Marlins, they got a key hit Monday from pitcher Justin Verlander -- the first AL hurler to get a base hit on Opening Day since 1972 -- and two drives from Martinez, the reluctant pinch-hitting weapon.

Martinez, who stepped off the bench and batted left-handed for a ninth-inning solo shot in Tuesday's season opener, got his chance from the right side in the seventh inning Wednesday against lefty Chris Narveson. Martinez hit a drive into nearly the same spot as Tuesday, deep to left-center field.

While Tuesday's drive carried well with the roof open and warm air around the park, he wasn't so sure about this one with the roof closed and air conditioning on cool. "That ball got in on me a little bit," Martinez said. "But I think I got the contact just in front. I was just hoping that it had enough to leave, which it did. It was a good swing."

The Tigers had one home run in 74 pinch-hit at-bats last season. Tyler Collins hit a go-ahead solo shot off Reds reliever Ryan Mattheus on June 17 in Cincinnati.

The Tigers had been considering using Martinez at first base to open the season, moving Miguel Cabrera to third base, until Martinez strained his left hamstring in mid-March. The DH will return to the starting lineup when the Tigers return home Friday under American League rules, but he will be back on the bench for the back half of next week's home-and-home four-game series against the Pirates in Pittsburgh.