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V-Mart's first homer an encouraging sign

MLB.com @beckjason

DETROIT -- Victor Martinez has hit plenty of pitches harder this year than he did David Robertson's first pitch of the ninth inning. But they didn't resound like his ninth-inning homer Saturday.

It ended up a hollow homer in the final result, a 6-4 Tigers loss to the White Sox. But Martinez's drive to right ignited a game-tying two-run ninth out of a Detroit offense that has been limited to six runs in four games, including a couple of RBI singles through eight innings Saturday. Martinez's first homer of the season came against a closer who had allowed a run on three hits with no homers in eight appearances previously this season.

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DETROIT -- Victor Martinez has hit plenty of pitches harder this year than he did David Robertson's first pitch of the ninth inning. But they didn't resound like his ninth-inning homer Saturday.

It ended up a hollow homer in the final result, a 6-4 Tigers loss to the White Sox. But Martinez's drive to right ignited a game-tying two-run ninth out of a Detroit offense that has been limited to six runs in four games, including a couple of RBI singles through eight innings Saturday. Martinez's first homer of the season came against a closer who had allowed a run on three hits with no homers in eight appearances previously this season.

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Martinez also had one of Saturday's RBI singles. But aside from a couple gap doubles, he hadn't flashed his usual extra-base power this season, hitting balls hard either on the ground or in locations in the park where his legs aren't fast enough anymore to beat the defense to second base or beyond.

"We control what we can control," Martinez said. "We can control going out there and putting up a fight, get good at-bats, put up good swings. After that, you can't control what's going to happen."

He could control his approach against Robertson, off whom he was 2-for-9 with a pair of singles and walks in his career. Robertson has been throwing first-pitch curveballs to half the hitters he has faced this season. When he places it, he gets good results, but Robertson left it over the plate Saturday for Martinez to loft.

Video: CWS@DET: Martinez flares an RBI single to center

"I've been facing him for a while now," Martinez said. "It's a battle between him and myself. I know him, and he knows me well, too. It's just a battle. I just got a mistake and put a good swing."

The resulting drive to right had an exit velocity of 95.4 mph according to Statcast™, one of the slower home runs hit by a Tiger this season. For that matter, it's slow for Martinez, who has at least a dozen balls with an exit velocity or 100 mph or harder. But he hit it to the right part of the park, a 375-foot drive out.

"He's still managed to get some RBIs here or there, but the home run was good to see," manager Brad Ausmus said. "Even the last out of the game was hit pretty well."

That one, with the Tigers again down by a couple runs, wasn't hit much slower, again off a pitch that Robertson left over the plate. Martinez hit it with a 94.2 mph exit velocity, according to Statcast™, but toward the vast expanse of left-center field instead of right, landing harmlessly in Melky Cabrera's glove for the final out.

"I hit it pretty decent," said Martinez, his voice trailing, "pretty decent."

He had just his second game all season with multiple RBI hits, both coming this week. He has raised his average from .190 to .229 during the 8-for-25, five RBI stretch. It's not enough to counteract the loss of Miguel Cabrera, on the disabled list until at least the middle of next week with a right groin strain. But it's enough to quiet some of the concerns about Martinez's hitting at age 38.

"I have seen a lot of guys hitting .400 in the first half and then at the end of the season end up hitting .230, .240," Martinez said. "And it's not the first time that I start like this. We have another 500 at-bats."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Detroit Tigers, Victor Martinez