BOSTON -- J.D. Martinez, the Major League leader in home runs and RBIs, still hasn't reached his ceiling.At least, that's what David Price told reporters on Saturday, after Martinez's 21st home run of the season lifted the Red Sox to a 4-2 win over the White Sox at Fenway Park."I
BOSTON -- J.D. Martinez, the Major League leader in home runs and RBIs, still hasn't reached his ceiling.
At least, that's what David Price told reporters on Saturday, after Martinez's 21st home run of the season lifted the Red Sox to a 4-2 win over the White Sox at Fenway Park.
"I really don't feel like he's gotten that hot, as hot as I've seen him get," Price said. "So I think we're all excited he's here."
Not that hot? Martinez has 54 RBIs on the season. And 16 of his home runs have come since the start of May.
"He can get hotter," Price said.
When Price reflects on stretches Martinez showed when the two were teammates on the Tigers in 2014 and '15, his confidence grows. And so does the rest of the team's with Martinez in the lineup -- a luxury that the Red Sox had to do without on Friday, when Martinez missed the 1-0 loss to the White Sox due to tightness in his back.
Martinez said the tightness started in Houston. Manager Alex Cora and a few players found the hotel mattresses uncomfortable where the Red Sox stayed in their series against the Astros.
"I kept kind of pushing through it," Martinez said. "You know, Mookie Betts is out and stuff like that, so I figured it's just one of those things where if I could fight through it, I'd fight through it. So I really didn't give it a chance to rest. And you know, fortunate enough, Alex gave me a day off yesterday, and it felt better today."
The return was a welcome one -- felt through the whole lineup, Cora said. With a hitter as consistent as Martinez, it's easier for other batters to feel at ease when they step up to the plate.
"It was a different lineup, obviously, with him … everybody benefits," Cora said. "I'm not saying he protects other guys, but other guys, they know that they don't have to do too much. And I'm not saying that was the case yesterday. But he's a game-changer. He's done it throughout his career with Detroit, he did it with Arizona, he's doing it with us."
Saturday was no exception. With Xander Bogaerts on first base and the game tied at 2 in the fifth, Martinez drilled an 0-2 pitch from Carlos Rodon to right-center into the Red Sox bullpen. It had an exit velocity of 102 mph and traveled 391 feet, according to Statcast™.
"It was just a changeup up," said Martinez, who finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs. "Up and away I think it was, and just put a good swing on it, really."
After allowing two runs in the first, Price (7-4) held the White Sox scoreless through the next five innings. Thanks to strong pitching from Price and three relievers, the Red Sox held their lead.
But Martinez's leadership off the field has impressed Cora as much as his power on it. Martinez said he's just trying to give the advice he would have wanted to receive as a young player in Houston. And because the Red Sox clubhouse is so young, he fills that role for multiple players.
"He's taking charge," Cora said. "He's helping some other guys in there, and I hope they're patient with him as far as they're not going to see results right away, but when it clicks, they're going to see it, so that was cool. Today I saw him working, helping out [Rafael Devers], which was great. There's no language barrier there. So he's becoming a leader, which is something that comes with the territory."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Price stifles scoring chance with strikeout: Down two runs with runners on first and third base, it looked like the White Sox had a shot at tying the game in the top of the sixth inning. But after a meeting on the mound with the infield, Price squandered any hope for the White Sox to knot the score. In his final five pitches of the game, Price struck out Yoan Moncada, stranding the two runners on base.
Martinez also leads MLB in game-winning home runs, with eight. No Red Sox batter has tallied that many before July since Jim Rice, who totaled 11 in 1978. Martinez is one of three Red Sox players to hit 21 or more home runs through June. David Ortiz reached that number three times, and Hanley Ramirez holds the Red Sox record for most home runs through June, at 24.
HE SAID IT
"He has a plan in every at-bat. I hope we don't do that, but it'd be cool to put a camera in the cage in between at-bats. There's a lot of work there, and he prepares. He knows what he's looking for. There's a few sore arms down there from the coaching staff, just throwing during the game. But we're happy. I mean, there's plenty of ice for them after the game. He understands him." -- Cora, on Martinez's work ethic in between at-bats
Rick Porcello (8-2, 3.59 ERA) will start for the Red Sox in Sunday's series finale against the White Sox. He has a 4.95 ERA in his last seven games and has allowed three or more runs in each of his last five starts. The first pitch is set for 1:05 p.m. ET. Reynaldo Lopez (1-4, 3.42) will start for the White Sox.
Blake Richardson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Boston.