Tigers pick up slack with Miggy out of lineup
J.D. Martinez goes yard in four-run first; Kinsler, Cespedes combine for six hits
DETROIT -- J.D. Martinez smiled Friday night when he was asked how Tigers hitters can avoid putting too much pressure on themselves to replace injured Miguel Cabrera's production.
"You tell me," Martinez said with a laugh a night before Detroit's 8-3 win over Toronto, "because that's one thing we don't know.
"We just go up there. Whoever's hitting in front of you or behind you is going to determine how you get pitched, but there's nothing you can do. You have to go up there, and it's you vs. the pitcher. No one's there to help you. That's how I go about it. I go up there and it's me against [R.A.] Dickey."
On Saturday, it was Martinez against Dickey with a runner on and one out in the opening inning, a run already in. One pitch later, it was a three-run Tigers lead on their way to a victory.
For one game, it looked easy. It won't stay that way. For one thing, the Tigers probably won't face any other knuckleballing starters unless they go up against Dickey in Toronto in August. Beyond that, Detroit had its share of struggles against pitchers even with Cabrera going.
If Martinez can stay hot, he's as close as the Tigers are going to come to Cabrera's game-changing bat. Saturday's homer was his ninth in 11 games, and his 20th RBI in that span. He has 13 homers and 32 RBIs in his last 22 games, during which he's batting .360 (31-for-86). It's a small sample size, but with Cabrera expected out for six weeks, that's the type of sample they need.
In terms of offensive production, though, the Tigers are trying to focus on the lineup as a whole. The same batting order that was reconfigured to create as many RBI opportunities for Cabrera as possible now has to spread the weight.
"It's always tough when you lose a guy who's supposed to be in the middle of the lineup," new leadoff batter Ian Kinsler said. "But at the same time, we have a lot of players that are capable in this lineup to drive in runs, get on base, cause problems. Hopefully we can pick up the slack."
Saturday's game reflected that. Kinsler and new No. 2 batter Yoenis Cespedes each had three-hit games, going 6-for-9 combined. They also drove in three of Detroit's eight runs. J.D. and Victor Martinez produced three RBIs.
"I've always said this is not a one-man sport," said Victor Martinez, who's now batting in Cabrera's usual third spot. "Everybody has to do their part for us to keep winning."
Even so, the expectations are tempered, and the sights are set towards the time when Cabrera would be expected to return.
"It's gonna be tough without him, no secret about it," said Alex Avila, who made his first Major League start at first base in Cabrera's absence and hit fifth. "In the past, in the short stretches we have played well without him knowing that we have to pick it up a little bit. With him being gone for an extended period of time, we've just got to make sure to try and keep it as close as we can until he gets back."