Martinez, 'grinding' through, ends HR drought

August 28th, 2022

BOSTON -- The drought had reached epic proportions, no matter how hard  worked behind the scenes to end it.

Sunday, Martinez finally experienced that feeling again of hitting a baseball over the fence.

It is something he did with ridiculous ease when he was at his best, but a skill he had lost for most of this season.

The home run that Martinez belted to left-center in Boston’s 12-4 loss to the Rays exited his bat at 106.5 mph and traveled a projected distance of 410 feet, per Statcast.

It ended a dry spell of 129 at-bats, 143 plate appearances and 34 games without a home run. At last, Martinez got into double digits with his 10th long ball of the season. The only time Martinez ever went longer without a homer was June 23, 2013, through May 18, 2014, when he went 145 at-bats and 151 plate appearances without a round tripper.

“I’ve been grinding the last three months,” Martinez said. “All we can do is just control what we can control. Keep grinding, and I know that I work as hard, if not harder, than anyone, and I'm not going to stop until I get it right.”

Martinez is a technician in the batter’s box. He labors over his swing and has multiple coaches inside the Red Sox and outside the ballclub to help him with his craft. But it has been hard for him to get any of it to work these last few weeks.

Perhaps the most frustrating part for Martinez is that he knows what the issue is and still hasn’t been able to fix it. Maybe Sunday’s shot will be the start of the repair.

“I’ll just put it easy for you,” said Martinez. “I’m not using my hips as I once was. It’s not like they don’t work. It’s just a mapping thing from my brain and finding a drill, finding something that gets me to fire my hips correctly. I can do it in drills. When I grab the bat with two hands, it’s been a grind.”

Never was Martinez turning his hips with more force than down the stretch in 2017. After getting traded from the Tigers to the D-backs, he smashed 29 homers in just 62 games.

He rode that momentum into Boston in 2018, roping 43 homers for a World Series championship team and 36 more the next year.

Martinez struggled to find his way in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, and he hated that rules that year prevented him from studying his swing on his iPAD between at-bats.

In 2021, Martinez got his iPAD back during games and got off to a monster start. Though he cooled off at times, it was ultimately a solid season in which Martinez ripped 28 homers to go with an .867 OPS. He added three more homers, including a grand slam, during a postseason run that ended in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series.

When this season started, there was no warning that it was going to be one of the most frustrating in Martinez’s career.

On May 26, he was hitting .380. And on June 11 in Seattle, Martinez stopped another lengthy home run drought at 78 at-bats and 92 plate appearances. But it was easy to laugh that one off because he was hitting .349 at the time, and manager Alex Cora was playfully calling him Ichiro.

Perhaps Martinez -- who is now hitting .275 -- is finally starting to put something together. He has an eight-game hitting streak during which he’s hitting .294 (10-for-34).

“His swing has been getting better, a lot tighter, not chasing so many pitches,” said Cora. “In that at-bat, he laid off the 0-1 breaking ball, he got a two-seamer and put a good swing on it. So little by little, he's been putting quality at-bats and hitting the ball hard. So those are good signs.”

“I’m able to still put some barrels on balls, and produce, but getting that extra gear behind it hasn’t been there for me. It’s clear as day for me,” said Martinez. “I can see it as clearly as I can see your shirt. Fixing it, it’s a grind. But i know, this offseason if not this next month … it’s just one of those things I’ve got to continue to work on, and I know that once I put my brain to something, I’ll fix it one way or another.”