DETROIT -- Victor Martinez has powered home runs during a lot of unlikely situations this season. His latest on Saturday, however, was impressive, even for him.
At first, it looked like a potential strikeout pitch for Twins starter Samuel Deduno, who induced the disciplined Martinez to chase an 0-2 pitch down below the knees. When Martinez golfed the ball, it looked like a double off the right-field fence. After a replay review, it was a two-run homer, powering a seven-run third inning for a Tigers lineup that desperately needed a big frame.
Martinez's 17th home run of the year is eight off his career high, set back in 2007. The 35-year-old is just three away from his first 20-homer season since 2010.
It put him back to even on his strikeout-to-homer ratio for the year as he tries to become the first player in a decade to pull off the feat for a full season.
"I haven't changed anything," Martinez said. "I just try to be myself, the guy I've been my whole career. I know my game. I'm not trying to hit home runs, especially here. But like I always say, I control what I can control, and what I can control is every time I go out there, just put a good swing on the ball."
More to the point, Martinez now has as many home runs on 0-2 counts as he has strikeouts -- three apiece. In a count when many hitters simply try to survive, he's thriving.
"His focus on every pitch is better than any hitter I've ever seen in my entire career," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "That's every single pitch. A lot of hitters have the ability to focus on the majority of pitches, or nine out of 10 pitches. He's focused every single pitch for 162 games. It's just remarkable how he can concentrate that much, all the time, regardless of the score."
A review of a home run remains an umpire's decision, not a manager's challenge. Though Ausmus was on his way out of the dugout to see about it, crew chief Jim Reynolds was already conferring with his crew about Martinez's line drive.
Martinez watched the shot as if he thought it was heading out, then took off as it bounced back.
"I saw it, because it bounced back pretty hard," Martinez said. "And you can see the difference."
Replay confirmed what he saw, and reversed what the umpires ruled. Video showed the ball hit the railing above the right-field fence, well over the home run line. The review took just 42 seconds. Instead of runners at second and third with nobody out in a 3-1 game, the Tigers had a 5-1 lead, and they added two more runs by inning's end.
Martinez nearly found the right-field seats again in the next inning. That ball off Anthony Swarzak, however, was lofted more than lined, and it fell at the warning track to right fielder Oswaldo Arcia. He nearly homered from the other side of the plate in the seventh, lining a Brian Duensing pitch deep before it bounced off the left-field fence for a double.
As a catcher, Ausmus had to come up with ways to for his staff to pitch against Barry Bonds during the 2004 season, which Bonds finished with 45 home runs and just 41 strikeouts. Bonds walked 232 times that year, 120 of them intentional.
Now in his first season as a manager, Ausmus is watching Martinez try to show the same plate discipline.
"There are some differences, though, between the two," Ausmus said. "Bonds would basically spit on anything outside the strike zone, because he had a great eye, and then take advantage of the one that stayed over the plate. Victor has the ability to go outside the strike zone and foul off pitchers' pitches until one comes in."
Martinez, however, said that's never his goal.
"You know what, every time I want to swing the bat, I want to hit the ball somewhere," Martinez said. "I don't try to hit foul balls, especially with two strikes."