'Locked in' Martinez adds 3 HRs to hot streak

April 12th, 2021

There is hot. Then there is boiling. And after that, there is this rarified type of steaming that describes ’s current state in the batter's box.

The No. 3 hitter for the Red Sox can basically be described as "man on fire."

Martinez, just a day after he had to be scratched from the lineup due to precautionary COVID-19 protocols, took his searing stretch to another level on Sunday.

The right-handed slugger hammered three home runs -- the first two to the opposite field in right, and the capper to his trifecta over the wall in center.

This was the third game of Martinez’s career with three homers or more -- and each has happened for a different team.

Martinez (Tigers, D-Backs, Red Sox) joins a distinguished club that includes just four other players who notched three-homer games for three teams. The others are Mark Teixeira, Dave Kingman, Alex Rodriguez and Johnny Mize.

Backed by Martinez, the Red Sox rolled to a 14-9 victory over the Orioles that really wasn’t that close, completing a three-game sweep that ran their winning streak to six games.

There is data that supports that Martinez isn’t just on an obligatory hot streak to open the season. This is special stuff.

Consider this: Martinez’s 12 extra-base hits in his first eight games of the season are tied with Dante Bichette (1994 Rockies) as the most in the modern era (since 1900).

So, yes, in 122 seasons of baseball, Martinez has achieved something done just once before to start a season.

This is the type of zone that would send most hitters racing to the bat rack. However, Martinez is much more laser-like in his approach.

“Honestly, for me I don't even notice it,” Martinez said. “I really try not to. You guys know how I am. I repeat the same things over and over to you guys. I think the moment you’re aware of it, you're no longer in it, so I try to not be aware of it and just try to focus on the small tasks, and focus on my game plan off certain pitchers and what I’m trying to do, how I kind of control the whole thing.”

However, Martinez is human, and he admits he did allow himself to go out of his element in his final at-bat of the day, in an attempt to become the first player in history to have two four-homer games in a career. Martinez had done that previously for the D-backs on Sept. 4, 2017, against the Dodgers.

But Martinez whiffed on a 3-2 pitch by O’s reliever Paul Fry that was low and a tad out of the strike zone. Call it a heat check.

“I was swinging,” said Martinez. “In that moment I was like, 'I really don't think he's going to throw me a strike, but I have to take the chance, just to at least foul it off if it's a really good pitch. Hopefully he hangs something.'”

When the Red Sox play at Target Field against the Twins on Monday, Martinez has a chance to make history and become the first player to have at least one extra-base hit in the first nine games of a season. On Sunday, he joined A-Rod (2007) and Sandy Alomar (1997) as the only players to do that in the first eight games of a season.

His extra-base hit streak is actually nine, when you go back to the final game of last season, putting him in a tie with David Ortiz (2004), Bill Mueller (2003), Butch Hobson (1977) and Ted Williams (1939) as the only players in team history to do that.

Remember when Martinez’s brutal 2020 season (.213/.291/.387, 7 homers) in 211 at-bats was a big storyline heading into ’21?

Martinez (.472/.500/1.083) is making that memory as distant as the home runs he is hitting. By the way, he is only two homers away from tying his total from last season.

“He’s locked in, you can tell,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “He is walking around talking hitting. This is a guy I saw in ‘18 and ‘19, he has an idea of what he wants to do. He doesn’t deviate from his process. I know he talked about last year and he’s on a mission to prove people wrong, but it was only 60 games. He was one month away from getting his numbers right. Right now, he’s locked in and I’m glad he’s swinging the bat the way he is.”

When Martinez has his opposite-field stroke going, it is a sign that he is firing on all cylinders, something that was never the case last year.

Martinez's recent hot streak serves as a reminder of how much of an impact player he is, and what a difference his return to dominance can mean for the Red Sox.

The Red Sox will happily ride the wave Martinez is creating with his bat.

“It's been fun,” Martinez said. “It's a great group here. I like our offense. I think the guys are doing what they know how to do.”

Currently, nobody is doing it better than Martinez.