Red Sox Notes: ‘Amazing’ Kiké Hernández Flourishing In Leadoff Role

Hernández hit another leadoff homer Friday

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Whatever adjustments Kiké Hernández made last month, they worked.

The plan for the Boston Red Sox long was to have Hernández, a solid contact hitter with occasional pop, be the leadoff man. But ineffectiveness in the early stages of the season, in particular May and June, saw him bumped from that role.

But he’s been on a tear since getting back to the No. 1 spot, and now he has a stranglehold on the gig.

Hernández hit his fifth leadoff homer of the season Friday night in the Sox’s 11-5 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. He had three leadoff homers in a five-game stretch during Boston’s last homestand, and clearly carried that into this current brief stint at Fenway Park.

“Instant offense, that’s what we’re looking for,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said over Zoom after the game. “For him to hunt fastballs and do damage, he’s been doing that the last two homestands. He’s in a good place.”

Sox starter Garrett Richards spent a while with the Los Angeles Angels, with whom he’d have to periodically face Hernández.

He knows what opposing pitchers are going through right now.

“He’s amazing. I watched him do that kind of stuff over several years in L.A.,” Richards said. “A hard at-bat, to be honest with you, He’s always given me fits.”

Here are some other notes from Friday’s Red Sox-Phillies game:

— This was a big start for Richards, and he was fine enough.

It began as it usually has, as he got tagged for all of his runs in the early going. He gave up one run in the first and two in the second before throwing three scoreless frames to end his night.

The end result was three runs on seven hits across five innings with four strikeouts and one walk.

“I’m starting to figure some things out,” Richards said. “Sequence-wise, grip- and hand-position wise, I’m starting to figure some really good things out.”

Richards has been outspoken about the ongoing sticky substance situation in Major League Baseball. He’s not dwelling on the adjustments he’s had to make much anymore.

“I would like to think I’ve been in the league this long and I’m not here because I use rosin and sunscreen, I’m here because I’m a good pitcher.”

Cora agrees.

“That doesn’t have to do with sunscreen and rosin, he’s been (finishing his outings strong) since Day 1 here,” Cora said. “The last two have been solid. … Hopefully for him, it’s something to keep building off of. He’s been solid for us, he went through that stretch that he struggled, but overall I think it was a good first part of the season.

— J.D. Martinez launched a three-run homer Friday, and in doing so extended his on-base streak to 26 games.

“He’s feeling it,” Cora eloquently put.

Indeed he is, as Martinez now has eight extra-base hits and 16 RBIs in just his last 11 games, hitting .316 with a 1.203 OPS. That’s a challenging pace to sustain, but the benefit to the Red Sox as a whole when he’s hitting like that is obvious.

“Trying to just keep it simple, use my hands,” Martinez said. “Kind of sounds dumb, but just go up there and play pepper with the ball in my hands right now. It quiets my body down and I’m just trying to go out there and see how I can put the barrel on the ball.”

— The Red Sox now have won nine straight games at home. While it’s encouraging that they’re also winning at home, the establishing of home field advantage on Jersey St. is a huge boost.

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