DETROIT -- Hours after Tigers manager Brad Ausmus shook up his batting order, his offense broke out of its mid-April funk to tie its season high in runs, turning what could have been a Justin Verlander-Sonny Gray pitchers' duel decidedly in Detroit's favor en route to a 9-4 Tigers win on Wednesday night at Comerica Park.
J.D. Martinez and Victor Martinez each hit a three-run homer to power a Detroit offense that had been held to three runs or fewer in six of its previous seven games. Nearly half of the damage, including J.D. Martinez's homer, came off Gray (3-2), whose 40-pitch second inning led to his early exit after two innings and 65 pitches.
"Everyone talks about, when you're not hitting, how there's no energy," Ausmus said. "It's kind of the chicken or the egg. What comes first? Do you have a lot of energy and you start hitting, or do you start hitting and end up having a lot of energy? Usually there's a hit that triggers the energy, and today there was a lot of good energy in the dugout, really, from the get-go."
"Obviously, we got the win, so that's what matters," Verlander said. "I would've liked to have gone out there in the seventh and had a quick, clean inning, get us back in there with no harm, but it didn't work out that way. I went out for that inning, and it was tough to get loose. Really, before I got in rhythm, you look up and there's a runner on base and a run in."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Just Delivering at No. 2: J.D. Martinez, mired in a 3-for-26 skid entering the game, moved up to second in Detroit's batting order and stepped to the plate with two outs and two on in the second inning, with Gray's command looking wobbly. Martinez connected with a fastball for a classic opposite-field home run over the high wall in right-center field to give the Tigers a 4-0 lead. The drive was projected by Statcast™ to land 409 feet from the plate.
"I've been grinding, man," J.D. Martinez said. "I've been grinding since the beginning of the season. … I feel like I'll find it and then I'll lose it, find it and lose it. It's very frustrating. It's very energy consuming, putting so much energy, so much thought into it. But I know I'm close." More >
A gloomy night for Gray: Gray's two-inning outing was the shortest start of his career. Gray, whose previous low for a start was three-plus innings against the White Sox on Sept. 14, 2015, surrendered four runs in his final frame on Wednesday. Gray did work a pair of two-inning relief outings in his first two Major League appearances, back in 2013.
"It's no secret I've been a little more out of the zone than I would like to be early in the year," Gray said. "This is really the first time it's hurt me. You look at all my starts leading into this one, I've had some close calls. I've been a little wild and been able to pitch out of it. Today, I was, once again, a little wild and not throwing a lot of strikes. J.D. hit the big three-run homer, which hadn't happened to me yet. It was two very long innings I brought upon myself."
Said Ausmus: "We did a nice job against him, but let's be honest: If Sonny Gray was on his game, he would've been a lot tougher for us." More >
V-Mart puts it away: Victor Martinez didn't hit his fourth home run last season until July 10. He didn't have to wait until the end of April for his fourth this year, crushing a Liam Hendriks pitch into the right-field seats for a homer in the sixth inning. It was Martinez's second homer in three days.
"He looks strong," Ausmus said, "much more similar to the 2014 V-Mart than he did in 2015. Not even close for me."
Davis nearly hits the statue: Khris Davis hit a moonshot off Verlander to lead off the fourth inning, a solo home run projected by Statcast™ to land 449 feet from the plate. It nearly hit the statue of Al Kaline in center field, instead hitting the railing in front of the statue.
"Just another solo home run," Davis said. "Solo home runs don't beat other teams. It was a great swing, but it didn't hurt them." More >
"I did tell him to hit J.D. second, right?" -- Tigers general manager Al Avila, joking to coaches as he walked by Ausmus' postgame interview session
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Verlander moved into ninth place on the Tigers' all-time list with 2,141 innings for his career. He passed "Wild" Bill Donovan, who threw complete games in all 34 of his starts in his first season as a Tiger, 1903.
WHAT'S NEXT A's:Chris Bassitt (0-1, 4.44 ERA) gets the start in Thursday's 10:10 a.m. PT series finale at Comerica Park. The right-hander allowed six runs over five innings at Toronto in his last start, after allowing a total of six earned runs in his first three outings.
Tigers:Anibal Sanchez (2-2, 7.00 ERA) will take the mound in Thursday's series finale looking to rebound from one of the shortest outings of his Tigers tenure and find more consistency out of his quieter, more efficient delivery.