The Detroit Tigers know maintaining their lead in the AL Central likely won’t be easy. It would get even tougher without their leading hitter in the mix.
Martinez went 3 for 4 with two RBIs in Saturday’s 4-3 victory but suffered a sprained left knee during a play at the plate late in the game. Batting a team-high .323 with 64 RBIs in his first season with Detroit (61-52), Martinez will be evaluated Sunday but is optimistic the injury is not serious.
“I felt a sharp pain in my knee,” Martinez told the Tigers’ official website. “On the way up (to the clubhouse), I felt the pain go away. I just iced it, and we’ll see how it feels. Everything looks pretty good so we’ll see how it looks (Sunday).”
That sounds like good news for a Tigers club that has won five of six to open a four-game lead over second-place Cleveland.
“You never want to see (an injury) this late in the season, especially to a guy that has been a big part of the season,” said center fielder Austin Jackson(notes), whose leaping catch robbed Kansas City’s Alex Gordon(notes) of a leadoff homer Saturday.
Justin Verlander(notes) tied New York’s CC Sabathia(notes) for the major league lead with his 16th win as Detroit won for the fifth time in six games at Kansas City (48-65). The Tigers last swept a series at Kauffman Stadium from July 21-23, 2008.
Scheduled starter Max Scherzer(notes) (11-6, 4.23 ERA) looks to help the Tigers accomplish that feat again while trying a third time to match his career-high win total from last season. The right-hander has a 2.14 ERA in his last five starts but is just 2-2 during that span.
He began that stretch July 7 by allowing one run over 6 2-3 innings of a 3-1 win at Kauffman Stadium to improve to 4-2 with a 2.34 ERA in seven starts versus Kansas City. Scherzer has surrendered two runs in 20 1-3 innings to win his last three against the Royals.
Scherzer has allowed two runs and six hits over six innings in each of his last two starts overall, the latest during Detroit’s 6-5 win over Texas on Tuesday.
Scheduled Royals starter Bruce Chen(notes) (5-5, 4.37) is 0-3 with a 7.48 ERA in four starts since beating the White Sox on July 6. He allowed 10 runs in four innings of a 12-5 loss at Boston on July 27, then lasted just 4 2-3 innings Tuesday and gave up three runs on 115 pitches in an 8-2 loss to Baltimore.
“I’m really trying,” Chen told the Royals’ official website. “I’m trying to make good pitches, trying to help this team win, and it hasn’t happened.”
The left-hander was able to do that when he gave up three hits and fanned seven in six scoreless innings during a 3-1 win at Detroit on April 9.