Anyone who put stock in J.D. Martinez’s down 2020 season probably is feeling pretty foolish at this point.
Martinez caught plenty of flak for his poor production last year, when he hit .213 with only seven home runs and 27 RBIs over 54 games. Doubters of the veteran slugger also might have thought their argument was sound when Martinez put together a fairly quiet spring.
Well, it appears any idea of Martinez being over the hill was greatly overblown.
The Red Sox’s designated hitter is in the midst of a historic power surge to start the season, which continued Sunday when Martinez blasted three home runs in Boston’s 14-9 win over the Orioles in Baltimore. Martinez, who now has five homers and 16 RBIs on the young season, is one of three players in Major League Baseball history to record an extra-base hit in eight straight games to start a campaign.
Martinez a few weeks before the start of the regular season acknowledged he was “tired of being judged” for his underwhelming season last year. But beyond those remarks, the 33-year-old hasn’t dwelled much on the 2020 campaign or addressed his naysayers. Instead, Martinez is keeping his down and letting his play do the talking.
“He studies himself, he studies the opposition,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said after Sunday’s win, as seen on NESN’s Red Sox postgame coverage. “He’s in a good place. He finished spring training the right way, right? Getting his hits to right field, driving in runs. He’s in a great place right now. I know he talked about last year. He’s on a mission to prove people wrong. But there was only 60 games (in 2020). He was one month away from getting his numbers right. Right now, he’s locked in. I’m glad he’s swinging the bat the way he is.”
As Martinez continues to stuff the stat sheet, it’s becoming clear last season was an anomaly for the three-time All-Star. Furthermore, that little — if any — concern should arise if a proven player doesn’t light it up in February and March.
You can’t expect Martinez to continue clubbing at this clip, but there’s clearly no need to worry about him.
Here are some other notes from Sunday’s Red Sox-Orioles game:
— Martinez wasn’t the only player to mash multiple home runs in the series finale. Rafael Devers pummeled a pair: a three-run shot in the fifth inning and a two-run blast in the eighth. The 24-year-old third baseman also turned in Boston’s best defensive play of the afternoon.
Cora after the game praised Devers for the work he’s put in.
“He feels really good about himself,” Cora said. “He hit some hard balls at home, right? It was just a matter of time. There were some big walks against Tampa. He starts walking and controlling the strike zone, good things are going to happen. He loves hitting here (Camden Yards), but he hits anywhere. That’s not a problem. Definitely, he’s putting in his work. He’s doing it, he’s staying with the program. Same principles we worked in spring training, we’re doing it on the road and at home. I think that’s going to help him and he’s in a great place right now.”
— Nick Pivetta still has yet to lose in a Red Sox uniform. The right-hander now is 2-0 on the season after logging six innings in which he allowed four runs on seven hits with seven strikeouts.
— Boston has benefitted from solid pitching across the board amid its win streak. Red Sox starters have combined for a 3.55 ERA over the club’s last six games, while the bullpen’s ERA for that stretch is just a shade higher at 3.60.
— Martinez now is one of the three players in MLB history to record a three-homer game with three different teams. The 11th-year pro also did so with the Detroit Tigers and the Arizona Diamondbacks.
— The Red Sox as a team hit 13 home runs over their first nine games of the season. The three longest round-trippers of that bunch all belong to Devers, who smoked homers of 452, 439 and 435 feet dating back to Thursday in Baltimore.