Hot hitters J.D. Martinez, Byron Buxton face off in Red Sox-Twins series

MLB Baseball

J.D. Martinez woke up Sunday not knowing if he’d be in the Boston Red Sox lineup.

He didn’t even know if he’d be on the roster.

Martinez spent a day on the COVID-19 injured list before being cleared from the protocol about an hour before Sunday’s game in Baltimore.

The designated hitter went 4-for-6 with three home runs and four RBIs in a 14-9 victory against the Orioles. Teammate Rafael Devers went deep twice and drove in five runs.

Martinez and the Red Sox are scheduled to open a four-game series Monday afternoon against the host Minnesota Twins.

Martinez, who batted just .213 with seven home runs in the pandemic-shortened 2020, has five homers this season, tied for the American League lead with the Twins’ Byron Buxton.

Martinez had a chance at a record-tying fourth homer in the ninth, but struck out swinging. Martinez homered four times for Arizona in 2017 and shares the record with 17 others.

“He’s locked in. You can tell,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “This is the guy I saw in (2018 and 2019). He has an idea of what he wants to do. He doesn’t deviate from his process. I think the last swing he was just hoping for a strike to see if he could hit it in the air. That wasn’t the case.”

The Red Sox have won six consecutive games to move into sole possession of first place in the AL East for the first time since 2018.

While Martinez is batting .472 this season with a 1.583 on-base plus slugging percentage, Minnesota’s Buxton has been even better.

Buxton went 3-for-4 with a double, a home run and four RBIs Sunday in an 8-6 loss to visiting Seattle. Buxton is batting .481 with a league-leading 1.734 OPS.

“Seeing the ball good. Just going up there and having a little bit more fun,” said Buxton, who has never batted better than .262 or hit more than 16 homers in his previous six seasons.

The Twins coughed up a six-run lead Sunday, and closer Alex Colome blew a save for the second time in four opportunities, allowing a three-run homer to Seattle’s Kyle Seager in the ninth.

“Alex has tremendous late-inning experience and success at this level. He’s our guy and we trust him implicitly late in ballgames,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said.

Red Sox left-hander Martin Perez (0-0, 5.40 ERA) is scheduled to face his former team Monday. Perez went 10-7 with a 5.12 ERA for the Twins in 2019. He’s 0-3 with a 4.91 ERA in five career games against Minnesota, including four starts.

The Twins are set to start lefty J.A. Happ (0-0, 2.25), who is 13-4 with a 2.79 ERA in 27 appearances against the Red Sox, with 26 starts.

Twins third baseman Josh Donaldson (mild right hamstring strain) went through a workout at Minnesota’s alternate training site Sunday and is eligible to come off the injured list for the opener of the Red Sox series.

–Field Level Media

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