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J.D. belts MLB-best 28th dinger to power Sox

July 9, 2018

BOSTON -- J.D. Martinez decided not to let the Rangers hang around anymore on Monday night at Fenway Park.The All-Star slugger mashed a three-run homer to left-center for his MLB-leading 28th of the season in the bottom of the eighth to power the rolling Red Sox to a 5-0 win.Heroics

BOSTON -- J.D. Martinez decided not to let the Rangers hang around anymore on Monday night at Fenway Park.
The All-Star slugger mashed a three-run homer to left-center for his MLB-leading 28th of the season in the bottom of the eighth to power the rolling Red Sox to a 5-0 win.
Heroics from Martinez have become commonplace. His 28 homers before the break are the third most in Red Sox history, trailing only the legendary duo of David Ortiz (31 in 2006) and Carl Yastrzemski (29 in 1969).
"He puts the ball in play. He stays inside the ball. He gives himself a chance," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. "We've been talking about how he prepares. His swing is one that on a daily basis, he'll give himself a chance. Even when he's a little bit off, he's able to stay through the zone, hit the ball in the air, and see what happens. He's a monster."
That monster, as Cora referred to him, has a strong shot to become the third Red Sox player in history to hit 50 or more homers in a season. Jimmy Foxx (50 in 1938) and Ortiz (54 in '06) are the others.
"I'm on 28 right now," said Martinez. "I'm worried about 29."
By winning their seventh game in a row, the 63-29 Sox started the seven-game homestand that will lead into the All-Star break in auspicious fashion.

Martinez is one of the five Boston players who won't have a break, and will instead take his talents to Washington for the Midsummer Classic.
"I think the whole team has been really consistent," Martinez said. "This is a very good team, a very versatile team, good in every aspect of the game, from small ball to long ball to pitching, defense, it's fun. There are so many ways this team can win every night."
VOTE Benny: 2018 Camping World MLB Final Vote
Final Vote candidate Andrew Benintendi, who belted two hits, including a single to help set up Martinez's game-breaker, will try to make it six All-Stars from the Red Sox.

Not to be overlooked was the two-run homer by Steve Pearce in the bottom of the first in his first Fenway at-bat for Boston. That allowed Eduardo Rodriguez to pitch with the lead.
"To me, Steve getting that home run early in the game really set the tempo and gave us that confidence to relax and just be able to calm down, and Eddie pretty much had it from there," Martinez said.

Rodriguez tied Rick Porcello for the team lead in wins by improving to 11-3. Though it wasn't pretty at times, Rodriguez held the Rangers scoreless while allowing three hits over 5 2/3 innings that included five strikeouts.

"I'm just happy right now because I'm healthy and my knee doesn't bother me anymore -- I just go out there and pitch," Rodriguez said. "I'm just enjoying it right now."
Before Martinez created breathing room, setup men Richard Hembree, Brandon Workman and Joe Kelly held the Rangers when they needed to.
And perhaps the best part of Martinez's blast was that it enabled Cora to stay away from All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel.
"Even the hit [by Martinez] with two outs in the first inning," said Cora. "He changes the complexion of the game. We stay away from Craig, obviously, in the ninth. Mookie, Benny, now it's getting fun. Those two guys are getting on base a lot and J.D. is getting pitches to hit. Hopefully we finish strong this week because those guys stay hot and obviously everyone else is contributing."
Defense buckles down: The top of the fifth inning didn't start well for the Red Sox when third baseman Rafael Devers couldn't handle a grounder by Robinson Chirinos for his MLB-leading 19th error of the season. But Devers responded just moments later by fielding a slow roller by Ryan Rua and firing across his body for the force.

Up next was Delino DeShields and he hit a bullet that shortstop Xander Bogaerts snared out of the air for a brilliant catch. Elvis Andrus followed by belting one in the gap in left-center and Mookie Betts raced over to make a fine running grab in front of the Monster. According to Statcast™, Betts had to cover 85 feet in 4.9 seconds to make the 3-star catch.
"I mean that's probably 80 percent a base hit, but Bogey jumped and got it and after that I threw another changeup and Mookie made that really good catch, so that was really good behind me," Rodriguez said.

Workman escapes: The Rangers looked primed to tap into Boston's 2-0 lead in the seventh when Chirinos led off with a triple over the head of Betts in center. But reliever Workman made a tremendous escape, striking out pinch-hitter Joey Gallo, and inducing DeShields and Andrus into groundouts to keep Texas off the board.

This is the third time in history the Red Sox have won at least 63 of their first 92 games. The 1912 Sox were also 63-29 and the '46 team was 65-25-2. This is the first time Boston has been as many as 34 games above .500 since the World Series championship team of '13 was 98-63 after a win on Sept. 27.
"Up and down the lineup, everybody can hit. You look at the pitching staff, great starters. You look at the bullpen. It's just a complete team, and what's best on top of that is the chemistry these guys have. They have fun every single day, and we're out here knowing that we can win and that's a good recipe for a winning team." -- Pearce, on the Red Sox
With catcher Christian Vazquez out for six to eight weeks, Blake Swihart is finally going to get some chances behind the plate. Swihart is expected to make his second start of the season at catcher in Tuesday's middle game of this three-game series against the Rangers. Long reliever Hector Velazquez will make the spot start with Steven Wright, Thomas Pomeranz and Christopher Johnson all on the disabled list. In two starts in April, Velazquez was 2-0 with a 2.53 ERA. The Rangers counter with right-hander Yovani Gallardo (3-0, 8.17). First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.