6/12/2014 11:33 P.M. ET
V-Mart not willing to concede with two strikes
By Joe Popely / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- At age 35, it's highly unlikely Victor Martinez can keep up his first-half power surge. With 16 home runs through 62 games, Martinez is on pace to hit 41 homers. His career high is 25, set in 2007 with the Indians.
"I mean, he's not going to hit 40 home runs as far as what he's on pace for," said bench coach Gene Lamont. "But he's just hitting the ball so solid, he's going to hit quite a few more home runs. Before, it seemed like he hit line drives in the alleys. Now, he's getting the ball both left and right."
One thing you can count on, however, is that Martinez won't often strike out.
Martinez has a career strikeout rate of 10.6 percent, and has struck out less than 10 percent of the time each of the last four seasons. This season, he's struck out a remarkably low 6.2 percent of the time, well below the MLB average of 17.8 percent.
"Well, to me, he's the best two-strike hitter in our league," Lamont said. "He's probably the best two-strike hitter I've seen. He's always been very, very good. This year it just seems to be even better."
While strikeouts are up across the game, Martinez is part of a dying breed of hitters who can hit for decent power without whiffing often. As Lamont said, some hitters today seem to accept strikeouts as just another out -- after all, it would likely result in the same outcome as a routine roller to short.
That sort of mentality simply doesn't register with the 12-year vet.
"I always say whenever you put the ball in play, anything can happen," Martinez said. "They can make an error, they can make something that helps your team win. Errors are part of the game. Strikeouts are part of the game, but whoever thinks like that -- that's their thinking, but not for me. Definitely not for me."
Martinez has more walks (23) than strikeouts (16). He's finished with more walks than strikeouts in a full season only once in his career, in 2009, with 75 walks to 74 K's.
Martinez's ability to put the ball in play with two strikes on a consistent basis is as much about his mentality as anything he does mechanically.
"He just doesn't accept it. He struck out last night, I think, but he doesn't want to accept it," Lamont said. "So if you have that mindset and have the ability he has, you're surely going to strike out less."
Miggy at first; Jackson rests against Sale
CHICAGO -- Miguel Cabrera returned to first base Thursday night after a two-game stint as designated hitter. Cabrera had been nursing a tight left hamstring, but showed he was back to full mobility in Wednesday's game.
Cabrera led off the fourth with a double, tagged up on Victor Martinez's flyout to right and beat Dayan Viciedo's strong throw to third with aggressive baserunning.
Showing no signs of discomfort, he lobbied Tigers manager Brad Ausmus to put him back at first for Thursday's series finale.
"I think everyone saw how he moved last night. After the game, he looked at me and went like this," Ausmus said while raising his index finger," which meant first base. And I said, 'Yeah.'"
One other move Ausmus made was sitting Austin Jackson, who has struggled in his career against White Sox starter Chris Sale. Jackson is 2-for-30 (.067) with 12 strikeouts against Sale.
"It's just, Jax, really it's a good time to give him a day off. You want to give guys a day off against pitchers they don't do as well against," Ausmus said. "It's good policy just strategy-wise, and I think it's just good for the player."
Ray, Perez guide Triple-A Toledo to shutout victory
Left-hander Robbie Ray, the Tigers' No. 1 prospect, returned from the disabled list to throw four scoreless innings Thursday and shortstop Hernan Perez, the club's No. 9 prospect, chipped in four hits and four runs to lead Triple-A Toledo to an 11-0 victory against Buffalo.
Ray, ranked No. 83 on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list, was making his first start since June 1, when a blister forced him to leave the game after four innings. He had no such problems Thursday night. He threw 78 pitches, struck out four batters and allowed four hits and two walks.
Perez went 4-for-5 with two doubles and an RBI. He set a career high for runs, while delivering his fourth four-hit game of the season. He is hitting .280 with 10 stolen bases and 34 runs.
In nine games with the Mud Hens, Ray is 3-3 with a 2.21 ERA. He has struck out 33 batters and walked 12 in 40 2/3 innings. He also made four appearances for the Tigers, including a couple of turns in the rotation while Anibal Sanchez was injured earlier this season.
Between Toledo and Detroit, Ray is 4-4 with a 2.89 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP in his first season in the Tigers organization. He was part of the package acquired from the Nationals in December in exchange for Doug Fister.
• Ausmus said that injured outfielder Andy Dirks (back surgery in March) has started to ratchet up his baseball activities.
"He's been throwing, he's been running bases, some soft toss. Tee work, soft toss, batting practice," Ausmus said. "I don't think he's got the live batting practice, but that's gotta be somewhere here in the near future."
• On Thursday the White Sox signed former Tigers outfielder Matt Tuiasosopo to a Minor League deal. Tuiasosopo hit .244/.351/.415 with seven homers and 30 RBIs in 81 games last season for Detroit.
• Martinez has owned Sale in his career. Entering play Thursday, he was 12-for-22 (.520) with an .818 slugging percentage against the lefty. He then went 1-for-3 with a homer against him in the 4-0 victory.
• Entering Thursday's game, the Tigers led the American League with 126 doubles.
Joe Popely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.