Boston’s J.D. Martinez might be leading the American League in home runs.
Just don’t call him a slugger.
“I don’t consider myself a slugger. I consider myself as a hitter that can drive the ball,” Martinez said after homering for the Boston Red Sox in a 6-5 victory over the visiting Seattle Mariners on Friday night. “I think a lot of guys kind of have that same identity here. A lot of guys believe in that. We don’t have any guys who are just up there swinging for the fences.”
The Red Sox will continue their four-game series against the Mariners on Saturday afternoon at Fenway Park.
The Red Sox certainly made use of the long ball Friday, as Xander Bogaerts hit a two-run homer to left-center field onto Landsdowne Street in the first inning and Martinez sliced a fly ball just inside the Pesky Pole down the right-field line in the third.
“I knew I got it good,” said Bogaerts, “but I was kind of a little doubting about the wind and the cold, so I ran out of the box pretty hard, but it went far.”
The Red Sox built a 6-2 lead and held on despite a three-run shot by Seattle’s Kyle Seager in the ninth.
“That was a grind. We’ll take it. We’re not going to complain about wins, but we had to grind that one out,” Boston manager Alex Cora said.
To back up Martinez’s claim that he’s a hitter and not just a slugger, he’s batting .368, is tied with Bogaerts for the major league lead with 28 hits and leads MLB with 21 RBIs and 57 total bases. His seven home runs have matched the total he had in last year’s pandemic-shortened season.
“I think you’ve got to be a hitter before you’re a slugger,” Martinez said. “I do my homework. I study a lot, and I know what to look for and stuff like that, I feel like.”
Martinez, one of the first players to embrace the concept of launch angles, bristled when it was suggested that’s what has turned the game into an abundance of homers, strikeouts and walks.
“I think what people don’t understand is, this is a stuff-over-command league nowadays. It’s guys that throw 100 miles an hour; you see it every day, every team,” Martinez said. “I mean, when I was coming up, there was one guy in the league that threw 100, and it was (Aroldis) Chapman. Now there’s two guys on every team that throw 100. They go, ‘Here’s my best ball, you hit it. If you don’t hit it, I’ll walk you, or I’ll strike you out.'”
Seattle right-hander Chris Flexen (1-1, 3.38 ERA) and Boston righty Nathan Eovaldi (3-1, 3.04) will try to limit the damage Saturday. Flexen has never before faced the Red Sox, while Eovaldi is 0-0 with a 4.09 ERA in four career starts against the Mariners.
Seager broke out of an 0-for-21 slump with a run-scoring double off the Green Monster in the first inning and his three-run shot in the ninth.
“Good to get (Seager) going,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “You know, when Kyle’s going (well), our offense really does click. He had some really good swings (Friday). That’s a good sign here as we move into the weekend for the rest of this series.”
–Field Level Media