There was one glaring difference between the Boston Red Sox’s series opener against the Chicago White Sox and the middle contest of the three-game set at Fenway Park.
J.D. Martinez was out of the lineup Friday night, which ended in the Red Sox getting shut out by the White Sox, squandering a dazzling outing from Chris Sale. But the veteran slugger was back in the starting nine Saturday, and his reinsertion paid dividends in a big way.
Martinez went 2-for-4 in Boston’s 4-2 win, including a go-ahead, two-run home run in the fifth inning. After the game, manager Alex Cora acknowledged how much of a difference it makes when Martinez is in the lineup.
“It’s a different lineup, obviously, with him,” Cora said, as seen on NESN’s Red Sox postgame coverage. “Everybody benefits. I’m not saying he protects other guys, but they know that they don’t have to try to do too much. I’m not saying that was the case yesterday, but he’s a game-changer. He’s done it throughout his career with Detroit and Arizona, and he’s doing it with us.”
The 30-year-old currently leads Major League Baseball with 21 home runs. While expectations were high when he signed as a free agent in late February, not many expected Martinez to be this dominant at the plate. Cora has reiterated Martinez’s work ethic throughout the season, and he went back to the well after Saturday’s win.
“It is impressive,” Cora said. “He’s consistent at it. We always talk about his preparation and how he goes about his business. He has a plan in every at-bat. I hope we don’t do that, but it would be cool to put a camera in the cage in between at-bats. There’s a lot of work there and he knows what he’s looking for. There are a few sore arms down there from the coaching staff just throwing during the game. We’re happy. He understands hitting.”
Cora continued: “We signed this guy to do what he’s doing offensively, but there’s other stuff that comes in when you sign a contract like that. He’s doing it.”
Not only is Martinez a near shoe-in for this year’s MLB All-Star Game, he’ll legitimately contend for the American League MVP award if he keeps up this pace.
Here are some other notes from Red Sox-White Sox:
— Martinez wasn’t the only Red Sox hitter to homer in the win. Jackie Bradley Jr. knotted the score at two in the second inning with his third home run of the season. The outfielder has looked good at the plate as of late, but he’s not satisfied with where he’s at.
“Alright,” Bradley told NESN’s Guerin Austin when asked about how he feels at the dish. “Work in progress and I’ll continue to keep on working.”
— David Price turned in a quality start, tossing six innings in which he allowed two runs on five hits with six strikeouts. Boston has won in each of his last six starts.
— Joe Kelly turned 30 years old Saturday and celebrated his birthday with a terrific outing. The hard-throwing right-hander pitched a flawless seventh inning with two strikeouts. Kelly has held opponents scoreless in his last 11 outings at Fenway Park.
— Christian Vazquez (2-for-4) joined Martinez as the lone Red Sox starters with multi-hit games. The backstop has logged five hits in his last 11 at-bats, and Boston has won each of his last 10 starts behind the plate.
— The Red Sox currently own the best record in the big leagues at 44-21. It’s the fourth time in franchise history the team has won 44 of its first 65 games.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports
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