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D-backs, J.D. serving notice in LA

MLB.com @philgrogers

That's what is known as delivering a message.

If you think the Diamondbacks are worried about stacking up to the Dodgers, should they meet in October, then remember what J.D. Martinez did in the fourth inning on Monday night.

Full Game Coverage

That's what is known as delivering a message.

If you think the Diamondbacks are worried about stacking up to the Dodgers, should they meet in October, then remember what J.D. Martinez did in the fourth inning on Monday night.

Full Game Coverage

And the seventh inning. And the eighth inning. And, oh yes, also the ninth inning.

Taking advantage of a rare chance to bat in each of the last three innings, Martinez became the first batter to hit four home runs in a game at Dodger Stadium.

Think about that for a minute.

They've been playing baseball for 56 seasons at Chavez Ravine, and no one had ever hit four homers in a game. Not Hank Aaron. Not Willie Mays. Not Barry Bonds. Not Matt Kemp.

Cody Bellinger might one of these days, but not yet.

Four home runs in a game is a magical feat, and it has happened twice this season. The Reds' Scooter Gennett became the 17th player in Major League history to do it, and now Martinez is the 18th.

Video: Gennett, Martinez slug four-homer games in 2017

By doing so, Martinez adds an exclamation point behind his standing as the best acquisition in a midseason trade this season.

Nothing against Justin Verlander, who will make his first start for the Astros on Tuesday night. But the D-backs snapped up Martinez from the Tigers back on July 18, and they've been getting stronger ever since.

The 13-0 victory Monday night over the suddenly mortal Dodgers was their 11th in a row -- four of which were over the Dodgers by a combined score of 34-11. Martinez was not responsible for any of seven home runs hit by Arizona in the series sweep at Chase Field, but he more than made up for it in the opener of a three-game series at Dodger Stadium.

Credit Arizona general manager Mike Hazen for making an inspired move coming out of the All-Star break.

He probably didn't expect his team to contend in his first season in charge, but the D-backs went 32-12 from May 10 through June 27, and while they are miles behind the Dodgers in the National League West, they are in the top spot in the NL Wild Card race.

Torey Lovullo, who was Hazen's hire as manager, insists he wasn't shocked to be 17 games over .500 at the All-Star break, even if only a few of us saw the D-backs coming.

Video: ARI@LAD: Lovullo on J.D.'s four homers, Ray's 14 K's

"This was a group we felt very good about, because of the nucleus of young talent and names such as Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock, Zack Greinke, Shelby Miller,'' Lovullo said. "We felt like we had a lot of pieces in place that could put us in this position, and we've been working toward that every day.''

• Goldschmidt to undergo MRI

The thing they needed the most was a right-handed hitter to protect Goldschmidt, and Hazen stepped up to grab Martinez before anyone else. It was a brilliant move.

"They've struggled a little bit against left-handed pitching, and teams weren't pitching to Goldschmidt,'' Cubs president Theo Epstein said in early August. "Now you've got J.D. Martinez hitting right behind Goldschmidt against lefties. You look ahead, they're going to be facing some good left-handed pitching.''

Video: ARI@LAD: Martinez discusses four-homer night

While the D-backs haven't faced Clayton Kershaw since adding Martinez, lefties Rich Hill (twice) and Hyun-Jin Ryu have started three of the last four times they've faced the Dodgers.

Hill was sharp in six innings Monday against a lineup missing Goldschmidt, who was sent back to Phoenix for an MRI on his aching right elbow. But the Dodgers couldn't get to Robbie Ray, who struck out 14 in 7 2/3 innings, and things fell apart after Dodgers manager Dave Roberts went to his bullpen.

Video: ARI@LAD: Ray strikes out Bellinger to collect 14th K

Martinez had given the D-backs the lead by pulling a 2-2 fastball from Hill into the seats in left-center in the fourth inning. He took advantage of relievers falling behind in the count to make it home runs in four consecutive at-bats - on a 1-0 fastball from Pedro Baez, a 2-0 fastball from Josh Fields and a 1-0 slider from Wilmer Font.

He's tied for ninth in the Major Leagues with 34 home runs, including 18 in 40 games for the D-backs. He's driven in 40 runs for his second team, giving him 79 to go along with a 1.021 OPS overall.

He's sixth in the Majors in OPS but doesn't have enough plate appearances to qualify, having missed April with a right foot injury. Those are going to be awfully nice totals to take to the free-agent market after the season.

Video: ARI@LAD: Extended Cut of J.D. Martinez's 4th homer

But 10-2 is a nice number, too. That's Arizona's record vs. left-handed starters with Martinez in the lineup. No team counts more on left-handed starters than the Dodgers.

If the D-backs win the Wild Card Game, they're going to be a really scary National League Division Series opponent for baseball's winningest team, even with Kershaw going twice in a best-of-five series. Martinez made that point, loud and clear.

Phil Rogers is a national columnist for MLB.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Arizona Diamondbacks, J.D. Martinez