SEATTLE — For the past few years, Lloyd McClendon got to watch opposing managers gnash their teeth and develop ulcers at the thought of dealing with Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. As the longtime Detroit Tigers’ hitting coach, McClendon got to enjoy watching Cabrera and Martinez pummel pitches.
On Friday night, he got to experience the other side of the hitting barrage. Cabrera blasted a mammoth two-run homer in the third inning and Martinez lined a three-run homer over the wall in right field in the fifth inning, leading the Tigers to a 6-3 win over the Mariners at Safeco Field.
Cabrera and Martinez found their old hitting coach before the game and engulfed him in a dual bear hug behind the batting cages. McClendon’s fondness and respect for both hitters has been evident since he was hired by the Mariners. He has used both players as models for their approach, effort and diligence in preparing for games. They offered a first-hand example on Friday. Both players singled off Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma in the first inning.
In the third inning, Iwakuma gave up a two-out single to Torii Hunter to bring up Cabrera, the reigning two-time American League MVP to the plate. Iwakuma tried to sneak a fastball on the inside part of the plate past Cabrera. It didn’t happen. Cabrera was ready for it and crushed a towering fly ball into the Mariners’ bullpen for his ninth homer of the season. The distance was estimated at just under 400 feet.
The Mariners (26-28) were able to answer against Justin Verlander, the Tigers’ ace and former Cy Young award winner, in the fourth inning. Justin Smoak drew a two-out walk and Kyle Seager followed with a homer, launching a 95 mph fastball from Verlander deep into the right-field seats to tie the game at 2-2. It was his team-leading eighth homer of the season.
The score didn’t stay tied for long.
Iwakuma found more trouble in the fifth inning. With two outs and Ian Kinsler on second base, McClendon opted to intentionally walk Cabrera and face Martinez. The American League’s leading hitter made that decision hurt. Martinez, who came into the game hitting .344, battled Iwakuma, fouling off five straight pitches on a 2-2 count. And on the 10th pitch, Iwakuma made the mistake of hanging a slider that Martinez didn’t miss, driving a low liner over the wall in right field. It was his team-high 13th homer of the season
Iwakuma (3-2) was saddled with his second straight loss, pitching six innings and giving up the five runs on eight hits with two walks (one intentional) and five strikeouts.