In the 2004 season, Tampa native Tino Martinez returned to his hometown and played first base for the Devil Rays. While Martinez’s career had seen its better days during his time with the New York Yankees, where he helped lead the Yankees to four World Series victories in 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2000, the hitter gave the D-Rays a little magic of their own on May 4, 2004. With his two homeruns that night, the former 1997 Homerun Derby winner helped the D-Rays defeat the Texas Rangers 5-4.
The game began as a pitcher’s duel between Tampa Bay’s starting pitcher Victor Zambrano and Texas’ Chan Ho Park. Julio Lugo started the night’s offensive action for the D-Rays with a solo homerun, followed by a single to right field hit by Aubrey Huff. Park finished the inning by striking out Jose Cruze. Victor Zambrano messed with Texas in the bottom of the inning by striking out two of the Rangers’ three batters.
Tino Marinez began the second inning by drawing a walk from Park but was later caught stealing third base after Brook Fordyce struck out. Park finished the inning strong by recording another out against Geoff Blum. The bottom of the inning got off to a rough start for Zambrano, who gave up a solo homerun to Mark Teixeira then walked Kevin Mench. But, Zambrano escaped the inning by striking out Laynce Nix. The Rangers continued to put pressure on Zambrano in the third inning. Young singled to left field and scored in the following play off of Hank Blalock’s ground ball. Zambrano finished the inning by striking out Alfonso Soriano.
Tino Martinez could not deliver for the D-Rays in the fourth inning as he hit a flyball to left field, but the Rangers kept up their offensive action as Zambrano struggled in the bottom of the inning. The pitcher loaded the bases after walking Teixeira, giving up a single to Mench, and walking Nix. Both Teixeira and Nix scored off of Laird’s single to center field.
However, Geoff Blum gave Tampa Bay’s offense a boost in the top of the fifth inning with a leadoff homerun. The sixth inning showed promise for the D-Rays as Park began the inning by walking Cruz. But, Park struck out Robert Fick, and Cruz was thrown out at second base. The double play did not worry Martinez, as he stepped up to the plate and hit his first solo shot of the night. The trend continued for Tampa Bay as Blum hit another one run homerun off of Texas reliever Erasmo Ramirez in the seventh inning, tying the score 4-4.
Martinez put the D-Rays ahead in the top of the ninth inning with a leadoff homerun, making it his second homerun of the night. Rangers reliever Jeff Nelson went on to strike out Perez and Crawford in the inning. Nix tried to keep the Rangers in the game in the bottom of the ninth as he hit a double to left field. However, Tampa Bay’s reliever Danys Baez recorded the final strike out of the night against Blalock.
Martinez had 23 homeruns, 76 RBIs, and a .262 batting average in the 2004 season. He returned to New York in 2005 and retired after the end of the season. On February 3, 2012, Tino Martinez was inducted into the Ted Williams Hitters Hall of Fame at Tropicana Field.