First it was Kevin Youkilis. Then David Ortiz and J.D. Drew were the next two hitters embedded in the heart of the Red Sox lineup to shake off the doldrums and come alive. Adrian Beltre also got hot around the same time.
Now, as the ebb and flow of the baseball season takes some of his teammates back to earth, Red Sox catcher Victor Martinez has finally taken off, and his latest effort leaves no doubt that he has joined the party.
On Tuesday, Martinez matched a Major League record with a career-high four doubles. He also tied a career high with five hits to pace Boston’s 14-hit attack in a 9-4 win over the Oakland A’s.
The performance lifted his average to a season-high .279 and was the eighth multihit effort in the last 10 games that Martinez has started.
“I’m definitely feeling a lot better,” Martinez said.
When Martinez is feeling well, the hits not only come in bunches, as they did against Oakland, but they find real estate all over the park. On Tuesday he started things off innocently enough with a single to center in the first.
Leading off the third, Martinez doubled to left. In the fifth he doubled to center. In the sixth it went to right-center, bouncing one into the Red Sox bullpen. And in the eighth he lined one down the right-field line for his ninth double in the last 10 games.
It was a welcome sight for manager Terry Francona, who once witnessed such batting prowess from the other side when Martinez was with Cleveland.
“I used to hate it,” Francona said when asked about seeing Martinez break out. “He’s a good hitter though … you could see he was right on it tonight.”
Youkilis was hitting just .234 with two home runs entering play on April 24. He had eight hits in his next three games and sits at .303 after Tuesday’s 2-for-4 effort.
Ortiz notably hit .143 with one home run in April before exploding in May to the tune of 10 home runs and 27 RBIs. Drew didn’t cross .200 for good until May 1 but was flirting with .290 less than three weeks into the month.
Even Beltre, who hit .338 in April, has hit all of his six home runs since May 3, including a three-run shot that started the Sox’ rally from a 4-0 deficit Tuesday night.
Martinez, however, continued to have his ups and downs well into last month. Entering a two-game series in New York two weeks ago, his average was at .226 and the backstop was the last remaining big bat yet to get going.
“I’ve been in a big hole since the start of the season but I never lose my confidence,” Martinez said. “I always come to the ball park ready to play every day, and just prepare myself the way I’ve been preparing my whole career. Fortunately, things started coming around a little better.”
They did, despite a bruised toe that robbed Martinez of a few games just as he was getting warm.
The fact that he still feels the bruise likely prevented Martinez from stretching one of the doubles into a triple Tuesday.
“[I'm] Still sore,” Martinez said. “But I can go out there and be competitive and play and try to help my team win.”
He can also join some exclusive company.
When his double in the eighth fell in and then bounced into the stands near the Pesky Pole for a grounds-rule double, Martinez became the fifth player in Red Sox history to record four doubles in a game. He is the first Boston catcher to accomplish the feat. And he is the first major league catcher to rip four two-baggers in a game since Cleveland’s Sandy Alomar did so on June 6, 1997, also at Fenway Park.
More important than any milestones, however, is the fact that Martinez is hitting .462 (18-for-39) with four home runs, nine doubles, nine RBIs and 10 runs scored since the beginning of that two-game set in the Bronx.
And with the surge, it appears as if everyone who was invited to the party in the middle of the Red Sox lineup has now arrived.
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