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Martinez surges, Nathan skids; both integral

8/20/2014

Detroit Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez seems to be showing signs of breaking out of the three-week slump that caught him right out of the All-Star break.

J.D. Martinez

Martinez

Martinez hit another late-game homer in the Tigers' extra-inning win over the Tampa Bay Rays, this one a go-ahead solo shot in the top of the eighth inning.

The Rays would eventually come back against the Tigers bullpen, but Detroit would scratch out a win and survive another dicey closing effort from reliever Joe Nathan.

Martinez is hitting .355 with 11 hits and four extra-base hits in his last eight games.

His homer on Tuesday night came on a pitch on the inside corner, which Martinez crushed to straightaway center field.

Martinez has nine homers and a .626 slugging percentage against pitches on the inner-third of the plate or off the inside corner. The latter ranks sixth best in the majors.

Late-game penchant

Martinez has hit 11 of his 17 home runs in the seventh inning or later this season. That’s tied for the most homers that late in a game with Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins and Lucas Duda of the New York Mets.

Six of his 11 late-game homers have come when the score was within two runs either way.

How Nathan saved it

It was a rough 11th inning for Nathan, who earned his 26th save of the season despite allowing a run.

It was the sixth time this season Nathan allowed at least one run in a save, the most such saves in the American League. Addison Reed is the major league leader with seven.

Nathan actually had a good run for about three weeks (coincidentally, it was when Martinez was struggling), in which he allowed no earned runs in 11 of his 12 appearances. He’s since allowed three earned runs and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings over his last five appearances.

Nathan’s pitches have lost a little extra oomph from a few weeks ago. He hasn’t gotten a swing and a miss against the 40 fastballs he’s thrown in those last five games. Opposing hitters didn’t get any hits against his fastball from July 20 to Aug. 8 but have five hits against it since then.