BALTIMORE -- All told, Richie Martin's dash around the bases was brief, but thrilling. Home to home in 15.1 seconds, the fastest such time ever tracked by an Orioles baserunner. The helmet stayed on, and what began as an intriguing drive the other way ended with Martin face down in the dirt, his head-first slide into the plate sending the split crowd of 18,243 at Oriole Park into a conflicted uproar.
“Everybody was pretty hyped,” Martin said, grinning.
Scored a triple and an error, the second-inning sequence played out like its rarer cousin, the inside-the-park home run, though Martin would’ve likely been held at third if not for J.D. Martinez's misplay in right field. In any event, it typified why the Orioles believe in Martin, who was one of several slumping Orioles to break out and fuel Friday’s 11-2 win over the Red Sox from the bottom of Baltimore’s lineup.
"That kid is just so athletic, so fast,” said winning pitcher John Means, who held Boston to two runs over six strong innings. “He’s just a freak athlete."
In singling and driving in a run later, rookie Rule 5 Draft pick Martin put together one of the most complete games of his career on a night the Orioles also got homers from Keon Broxton and Anthony Santander and every starter recorded at least one hit. In total, Baltimore’s 5-through-9 hitters accounted for seven runs of offense to defang David Price, securing their second straight lopsided win and what manager Brandon Hyde called “one of our better games of the year.”
“We pitched outstanding, we played really good defense, ran the bases well and everybody contributed in the lineup,” Hyde said. “Fantastic game for us.”
For Martin and Broxton both, the big nights were a reprieve. Returning to the lineup after a four-game benching, Broxton entered play 3-for-his-last 27 and hitting .143 over the past calendar month. Martin had been one for his last 25, with just one extra-base hit in his last 22 games. Both trends reversed in short order Friday when, two innings after Martin’s triple, Broxton ripped a 2-2 hanging slider from Price 407 feet out to left.
Santander put the Orioles up early with a three-run homer in the first, and Baltimore added five runs off Boston’s ‘pen in the middle innings. Means and three relievers handled the rest, and the Orioles combined to shatter a streak of futility against Price that stretched back more than a decade.
Facing the Orioles for the 30th time, Price had never lost in 12 previous career starts at Camden Yards prior to Friday, going 8-0 with a 2.72 ERA in those outings. He was then tagged for six earned runs over four frames in the loss, giving Price the worst start of his career against the O’s.
“A loss is a loss,” Price said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re successful in a certain ballpark or whatever the conditions may be. Losing sucks.”
On a smaller scale, Means’ performance continued his season-long success against the defending champs. In holding Boston to two runs over six innings, Means lowered his season ERA to 2.35 in four starts against the Red Sox and 2.95 overall.
But Martin stole the show, showcasing the skillset they coveted when plucking him from Double-A last December. They view his athleticism as potentially elite, enough to stomach the growing pains natural to come with such a jump. He’s faced more than his share of struggles as a result, hitting just .169 and ranking among baseball’s poorest defensive shortstops during his rookie campaign.
The potential, though, presents itself in flashes -- the acrobatic leap Martin used to rob Xander Bogaerts of a hit in the eighth, the additional gear that’s turned more than a third of his hits into extra-base knocks -- and was plain on the warmest night at Camden Yards in years.
"You try not to miss him running,” Means said. “Because he’s just blazing fast.”
How fast? Despite slowing up into third, Martin reached a top sprint speed of 28.9 feet-per-second on his triple, a speed that is actually down from his impressive 29.4 ft./sec. season average. The latter number places Martin as MLB’s 19th fastest runner, per Statcast, ahead of celebrated burners like Harrison Bader, Mike Trout and Victor Robles. His home-to-home time Friday was the fourth quickest recorded in MLB this year.
“Hopefully,” Hyde said. “It’s a game to build on.”