Tigers outfielder takes Tanaka deep twice, adds 3-run shot off reliever Burawa
By Alden Woods
NEW YORK -- Just underneath Yankee Stadium before a 12-4 win on Sunday, a group of Tigers players took batting practice as they negotiated with assistant hitting coach David Newhan. They wanted Newhan to shave his head, and he was willing -- but they had to earn it.
Win 10 in a row, he told them. But J.D. Martinez didn't want to wait that long, so he came up with another idea.
"What about if I hit more than one home run, have a multi-home run game?" he asked. "I've never had one."
Newhan said that wouldn't be enough, but Martinez went out and did it anyway, hitting three home runs and driving in a career-high six runs. It was the first multi-home run game of his career.
"It was just one of those days where you take swings and you're actually hitting the ball how you want to hit it," Martinez said. "There's not too many of those days, so you've just got to take advantage of them."
He started early, hitting the second pitch he saw from Masahiro Tanaka over the wall in left-center field. Tanaka left a sinker too high, where Martinez likes to swing.
Martinez struck out in the third, but came back aggressively at Tanaka, hitting the first pitch of the fifth inning to nearly the same spot as his first home run.
Martinez, who hit three homers in a game for Triple-A Toledo last season, blasted a three-run shot off Yankees reliever Danny Burawa in the sixth for his third homer of the game.
When he stepped in the batter's box again in the eighth, of course Martinez was thinking of hitting a fourth, he said. That would tie the Major League record and provide a fitting cap to his day. So he went to the plate looking for another pitch to hit out. But it never came.
"I don't think he threw me one strike, to be honest with you," he said.
Yankees reliever Jose De Paula stayed away from Martinez, pitching him low and outside. Martinez had to settle for a low-sitting curveball, hitting a fly ball to right field that carried promise but fell into Garrett Jones's glove.
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said he wasn't surprised by his outfielder's output. Barring Miguel Cabrera, Martinez has the most power of any player he's worked with, Ausmus said. It just all came out at once Sunday.
"It's something you always dream about, but to do it is a different thing," Martinez said.
Even though it's still not enough to shave Newhan's head.
"He said he'll let me do the sides," Martinez said.
Alden Woods is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.