BOSTON – For the Red Sox, the pre-All-Star break part of the season ends pretty much just as it started: With JD Martinez on fire.
After his epic April (1,175 OPS) Martinez dipped a little in May and a little more for much of June as he described himself in “grind-it-out” mode.
Now he is back to what he does best – grinding the pitcher in the ground.
By leading the Sox to an 1
Although Martinez is one of the most complex hitters in the game – to the point that every swing he takes in punch training is recorded on an iPad – the right-handed mask believes the key to his recent resurgence has been to simplify his approach sig.
“Just trying to keep it simple,” Martinez said. “Use my hands. And that sounds a little silly, but go up there and just play pepper with the ball with my hands right now. Just it calms my body and I just try to go out there and see how I can really put the barrel on the ball. ”
Before Martinez started emptying baseball again, he needed to regain his plate discipline.
“It starts with controlling the strike zone,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “At one point he only had one trip in 70 bats. He started to get his walks, he started to drive the ball to the right field. He is still probably the most respected hitter in our lineup.
“The opposition, they see him, and it’s still JD Martinez. He had some good bats. Even home runs, he controls swings, and that’s a bad ball. He kept soiling places, soiling places. He gets a good pitch and drives it to the right-center. That’s who JD is. I’m just glad he’s who he is. He is relentless. ”
Martinez demonstrated his relentless approach perfectly in his 11-pitch meeting against Enyel De Los Santos in the third. It was Martinez’s longest record appearance since June 29, 2017 and the longest record appearance for an extra basic hit of his career.
“It was a good match,” Martinez said. “Like I said, just up there and just trying to find a barrel on the ball and not trying to chase. Just try to stay within the strike zone. I do not know. I was really just trying to be short to the ball the whole batsman. ”
The All-Star slugger has now reached base in each of his last 26 games – the longest current streak in the Majors. In his last 11 fights, Martinez hits .316 with a 1,203 OPS (12-for-38, 10 runs, three doubles, triples, four homers, 10 walks).
Aside from the strong swings and relentless at-bats of Martinez, there were a few other interesting takeaways from Friday’s win in which the Red Sox improved their record to 55-34.
Kiké’s latest leadoff explosion
It took Kiké Hernández a while to find his place in the Boston slogan, but the vet has officially found his niche.
His thing is to hit leadoff homers. He did it again Friday night, tearing Vince Velasquez’s third pitch – a 93.7 mph heater – over the Green Monster.
Of Hernández ’11 homers this season, five have led the first half. Four of these leading homers have come since June 27th. All but three of his homers this season have led by an inning.
“Good turn,” Cora said. “Of course, the first inning did not go our way with Garrett [Richards], but immediate offense. That’s what we’re looking for – for him to chase fastballs and injury, and he’s done that for the last two home games. He is in a good place, he controls the strike zone and puts good swings on the ball. ”
Another mixed bag for Richards
In the first few innings on Friday, it looked like Richards was in for another tough night. But since he has made it a habit to do so recently, he found the right one in the middle of the start.
After giving up three runs and five hits during the first two innings, Richards ended his performance with three pointless innings that snapped an eight-start winless streak in the process.
“I have started to find out some things. Sequentially, grip and hand position wise, ”Richards said. “Starting to figure out some really good stuff.”
Richards also looks to be why he gets hit hard early in games.
“I have filled the zone a lot and thrown many strikes. I think it has been a blessing and a curse to begin with, ”Richards said. “I want guys to have some kind of ambush early in the game, you know, with balls that might necessarily be in the middle of the plate because I try to fill the zone so much. I think I just need to do a better job of hitting quality strikes early in the count instead of having that mindset of just filling the zone. ”