J.D. Martinez hasn’t changed much in a year.
He said before the All-Star Game the season he’s had in 2019 is below his standards and, “That’s been the hardest part to live up to, living up to my swing and what I’ve done the last two years.”
But the four-hit night Friday from Martinez was a reminder the Red Sox’ disappointing season is not to be rested on his shoulders.
Martinez’ monster performance led the Sox to a 16-4 win over the Angels and moved them to within five games of the A’s and Rays for the second wild card spot, with the Rays still playing late Friday night.
Martinez was on base all five times. He doubled to left in the first inning, homered to right in the fourth, doubled to right in the sixth, homered to right in the seventh and reached via error in the eighth.
He became just the fifth player this year with four extra-base hits in a single game, and the first Red Sox player to do it since Mookie Betts had three homers and a double July 26 vs. the Yankees.
Those were simpler times, when the Sox were closer in the wild card hunt and looked like they had an outside chance at catching the Yanks in the AL East. Since then, they’ve gone 4-9. Martinez can’t be to blame for that, either. He’s hit .417 with six homers and three doubles in that stretch.
Even with Brian Johnson replacing David Price in the rotation and submitting a subpar effort — 2⅔ innings, three runs allowed — the Red Sox cruised to an easy win over the mediocre Angels.
Too often, the starting pitching hasn’t shown up, but the Sox have won plenty of games like this all year. As long as the bats are alive, they win.
They’re just 9-41 when they don’t score at least five runs. They’re 53-15 otherwise.
Martinez stayed with his natural opposite-field approach for both homers Friday. He hammered a fastball down the middle from Jaime Barria 402 feet to right-center in the fourth inning, then got a cutter on the outer half and smoked it 396 feet to the same spot.
With 27 homers and a .310 average on the year, Martinez certainly can’t be accused of having a bad year. Only 19 players entered Friday with 27 home runs, and only 11 players entered the day hitting at least .310.
A tough grader might submit that he’s hitting .231 with a .720 OPS in “late and close” situations, according to Baseball-Reference. And after hitting .330 with 43 homers a year ago, he set the bar high.
Marcus Walden submitted 2⅓ scoreless innings to replace Johnson and keep the Sox alive until Martinez tied it with his homer in the fourth.
Nathan Eovaldi was OK in two innings of one-run ball after he entered to start the sixth.
Betts hit his 20th homer of the year. Rafael Devers, who played shortstop to rest Xander Bogaerts in the late innings, added his 24th of the year. Mitch Moreland launched his 14th home run.