BALTIMORE -- With six outs left, manager Alex Cora was left searching. Every arm in his bullpen but two had been used at least once -- some twice -- in the marathon of three games in 24 hours. And hoping to save Craig Kimbrel for a save situation in Game
BALTIMORE -- With six outs left, manager Alex Cora was left searching. Every arm in his bullpen but two had been used at least once -- some twice -- in the marathon of three games in 24 hours. And hoping to save Craig Kimbrel for a save situation in Game 2 of a doubleheader on Saturday night, that left just one arm: inexperienced 26th man William Cuevas, warming up to pitch in a tied game.
Enter the legend of J.D. Martinez.
Martinez's second home run of the night in the top of the eighth inning induced a collective sigh of relief from the Red Sox dugout. Cuevas would get a lead, Kimbrel was in line for the ninth and a third consecutive win against the Orioles seemed inevitable. And it was, with a 6-4 triumph.
"We were like, 'How are we going to get these outs here?'" Cora said. "… And then [Martinez] puts a great swing, and he hit a homer. The guy is amazing. He works, he prepares, he doesn't deviate from his strength."
Martinez's heroics came after a second-inning misread on a liner to left allowed the Orioles to strike first. For a bullpen that's had to record 19 outs in two of the past three games, a lengthier outing from spot starter Hector Velazquez was essential, and the miscue didn't help.
But Martinez more than made up for it in the batter's box. His first homer in the fourth inning came on the eighth slider of a 10-pitch at bat. The second took him just two pitches.
"It's been a grind these last couple days," Martinez said. "It's been a long day today. … It's tough, but we battled and did a good job."
Martinez's third multi-homer game of the season extended his MLB lead in long balls to 37 and RBIs to 104 on top of propelling him in the batting-title race behind teammate Mookie Betts.
"I would love him to win the Triple Crown, but if he wins the batting title, that means the other guy got into a slump," Cora said Friday, jokingly adding, "I like the way it is now, honestly."
Whereas David Price and his six scoreless innings played hero in Game 1's 5-0 win by saving the bullpen, Martinez took on the role in Game 2.
Cora -- looking for four innings from Velazquez -- only received 2 2/3. But thankfully for Cora, Cuevas' second appearance of 2018 and Kimbrel's 34th save -- despite conceding a solo home run to Trey Mancini -- held the lead created by Martinez's second homer and extended by Brock Holt lasering an RBI single to center in the ninth.
"This game is one of those that we can look back and say, 'Wow, that was a good one,'" Cora said.
With Chris Sale set to take the mound Sunday, Boston could be looking at a double-digit lead in the American League East heading into an off-day.
In pursuit of a Triple Crown, Martinez trails Betts in batting average by 19 points. It's the only one of the three categories Martinez does not lead in.
HE SAID IT
"It's not perfect, but we don't complain. We just see what happens. If [the bullpen has] to get more outs than usual, we get them. Offensively we feel that -- like I've been saying the whole week -- we're one swing away from either getting back into the game or getting the lead, and that's a good thing. We play with a lot of energy throughout the day." -- Cora, on the recent total-team efforts
Sale will oppose Alex Cobb on Sunday in Baltimore and make his much-awaited return from injury. Before landing on the DL with left shoulder inflammation, Sale had allowed a single run in his past 40 innings. First pitch in the series finale is set for 1:05 p.m. ET.
Zachary Silver is a reporter for MLB.com based in Baltimore. Follow him on Twitter at @zachsilver.