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J.D. Martinez hits 200th career homer

May 8, 2019

BALTIMORE – For J.D. Martinez, going 62 at-bats without a home run was a long drought. In fact, it was his longest in five years. When the slugger ended it on Tuesday night on a two-run homer to center in the top of the first, it was No. 200 of

BALTIMORE – For J.D. Martinez, going 62 at-bats without a home run was a long drought. In fact, it was his longest in five years.

When the slugger ended it on Tuesday night on a two-run homer to center in the top of the first, it was No. 200 of his career. It also gave the Red Sox an early spark en route to an 8-5 victory over the Orioles at Oriole Park.

“You know, it feels better to finally get one, you know what I mean? It’s obviously an accomplishment in my career,” Martinez said. “My career is not over yet and I feel like there’s more.”

Xander Bogaerts (solo shot) and Mitch Moreland (three-run rocket) also went deep, as Boston bounced back after generating just three hits in a 4-1 loss in the opener of the series.

Box Score

But Martinez, as the third batter of the game, established that the Sox wouldn’t be similarly silenced in this one. The blast left his bat at an exit velocity of 106.9 mph and traveled a projected distance of 416 feet, according to Statcast.

At some point soon, such a sound connection with the baseball is going to start feeling commonplace for Martinez again. But on Tuesday, there was some extra satisfaction.

“It feels like it’s been a while,” said Martinez. “It’s one of those things where I’ve got to work on a couple of things I need to grind out. And then I feel like I’ll start doing that again, you know?”

Though the homer was just Martinez’s fifth of the season, the right-handed hitter has been the most consistent bat in Boston’s lineup all season. Martinez leads the Red Sox in batting average (.323), hits (43), total bases (66) and on-base percentage (.399). However, Boston’s lineup is more potent when Martinez is hitting homers. Martinez went deep 45 times in 2017 and 43 times last season.

Perhaps Tuesday’s homer is a sign that Martinez is about to go on a power surge.

“I feel like it, but it’s just me grinding on my swing every day,” Martinez said. “I feel like once I get it closer to what I’ve had over the last few years, I feel like it will start coming.”

Martinez, who is as obsessive about his hitting technique as anyone in the game, didn’t want to get too specific. But he has a pretty good idea of what’s been amiss.

“I always talk about it like I’m a hitter first and if I’m doing things right and my body’s in the right place, I drive the baseball,” Martinez said. “I feel like I’m battling some things and I’ve gotten into a habit that I didn’t have last year and it’s one of those things where I’m just trying to break it and get out of it and, in the meantime, I’m just happy I’m able to compete and find ways to just continue to hit the ball hard, really.”

This marked the first time since 2014 Martinez had gone as many as 15 games without a long ball. The last time Martinez went more than 62 at-bats without a homer was from June 22, 2013, to May 18, 2014, when his dinger drought lasted 145 at-bats.

May of 2014 was when Martinez started to turn into an offensive force after being released by the Astros a couple of months earlier. It’s safe to say Martinez never allowed himself to even contemplate 200 career homers during those years with the Astros.

“No, I can’t even lie about it,” Martinez said. “I remember idolizing some of those guys and being like, ‘Dude, how does that guy hit the ball so far all of the time,’ this and that. When I started doing things more similar to them and started changing stuff, then I started hitting balls that I never thought I’d hit.

“I was like, ‘Dude, what the heck.’ That was when the lights kind of came on for me and I was like, 'I don’t know if I can do that, but I know that I feel confident that I can hit 30 home runs a season.' Because I progressed and kind of just got smarter as a hitter and started learning, you know, it became kind of like what it’s become.”

When Martinez got to the dugout after No. 200, Red Sox manager Alex Cora playfully reminded him of another stat.

“He thought I was congratulating him because it was 200, but it was actually because it was the first one against a righty this season,” Cora said.

Once Martinez has his swing working in full harmony, he will be undoubtedly be taking righties and lefties deep again on a regular basis. But on Tuesday, Martinez was able to take stock in finally being able to go into a home run trot again, not to mention having his father Julio in the stands in Baltimore for a meaningful accomplishment.

“It’s special,” Martinez said. “It was actually a total coincidence to have him here. I’m sure he’s proud and he’s happy and stuff like that. He might not say it but I know he is. It’s cool."

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