J.D. Martinez received a new nickname during a three-plus-week stretch in which the Boston Red Sox slugger raised his average from .325 to .351 despite nary a home run.
Members of the Red Sox, including manager Alex Cora, had taken to calling Martinez “Ichiro” in reference to the former Seattle Mariners star who was known for hitting the ball all over the park but rarely out of it.
Martinez broke out of his power outage with a solo shot in a 4-3 victory against the host Mariners on Friday night. He added a two-run homer in a 7-6 loss Saturday.
The teams will wrap up their three-game series Sunday afternoon in Seattle.
“Ichiro transformed to J.D. (Friday),” Cora joked.
Martinez’s homerless drought — which spanned 92 plate appearances and 78 at-bats — was his longest since 2014, during which he was released by the Houston Astros and signed with the Detroit Tigers.
“It’s just my swing and my bat angle. That’s been the common denominator. That’s why I’ve had success, being able to lift the ball,” Martinez said. “So, it’s just been grinding on that. It’s one of those things where you get stuck in between.
“What’s the expression? You want to leave the pond when you’re catching little fish to go to a bigger pond and catch bigger fish? And then you get lost along the way. It’s one of those things where I don’t want to get too lost, because I was doing something well (hitting for average) and I was having success. But at the same time, (power) is an important part of my game.”
Cora said he wouldn’t be surprised if Martinez continues to surge.
“We know he’s going to start hitting the ball in the air and the ball is going to go and he’s going to be the hitter that we always see,” Cora said. “This version of J.D. is still really good, with the on-base percentage and grinding out at-bats.”
Martinez will go for three in a row Sunday against left-hander Robbie Ray (5-6, 4.97 ERA), who signed with the Mariners in the offseason after winning the American League’s Cy Young Award last year with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Ray is 2-2 with a 4.28 ERA in seven career appearances (six starts) against the Red Sox, including a 7-3 loss on May 20 in Boston in which he allowed four runs on five hits in six innings. All of the runs came on a grand slam by Trevor Story.
The Red Sox have not announced a starter for the series finale.
The Mariners earned their first win in six tries against the Red Sox this season by scoring twice in the bottom of the ninth Saturday. This came after Boston’s Bobby Dalbec, a Seattle native, homered with two outs in the top of the inning to break a 5-5 tie.
With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Abraham Toro tied the score with a single to shallow right-center and Dylan Moore lined a hit to left-center to win it.
“It just goes to show we can hang with any team in the league,” Moore said.
–Field Level Media