Red Sox: Alex Cora reveals the key to J.D. Martinez’s resurgence

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 26: J.D. Martinez #28 of the Boston Red Sox watches a hit against the New York Yankees during the eighth inning at Fenway Park on June 26, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JUNE 26: J.D. Martinez #28 of the Boston Red Sox watches a hit against the New York Yankees during the eighth inning at Fenway Park on June 26, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images) /
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Boston Red Sox star J.D. Martinez is starting to heat up again

J.D. Martinez is rolling into the All-Star break on an absolute tear, a welcome sign after the Boston Red Sox slugger had to grind through a rough patch last month.

Martinez homered, doubled and drove in four in an 11-5 route over the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday. He has collected nine extra-base hits in his last 12 games, including four home runs, and he’s batting .308 with a 1.099 OPS in July.

His bat is starting to wake from a June slumber in which he hit .253/.303/.485, easily his worst month of the season. Martinez had a stretch of 22 games starting in late-May where he tallied only one home run after he began the season among the league leaders with nine in April.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora explained in a post-game press conference that the key to Martinez’s resurgence has been plate discipline, according MLB.com’s Ian Browne.

"“It starts with controlling the strike zone,” said Cora. “At one point there, he only had one walk in 70 at-bats. He started getting his walks, he started driving the ball to right field. He’s still probably the most respected hitter in our lineup.“The opposition, they see him, and it’s still J.D. Martinez. He had some great at-bats. Even the home run, he check-swings and it’s a foul ball. He kept fouling pitches off, fouling pitches off. He gets a good pitch and drives it to right-center. That’s who J.D. is. I’m just glad that he is who he is. He’s relentless.”"

A perfect example of Martinez staying alive until he finds his pitch came against Enyel De Los Santos in the third inning of Friday’s game. Martinez quickly fell behind 0-2 to begin the at-bat but he fouled off six pitches and managed to lay off a couple outside the zone. On the 11th pitch of the at-bat, Martinez hit a ground rule double to deep right center to drive in a run. It was his longest plate appearance since June 29, 2017, and the longest plate appearance for an extra-base hit in his career.

Martinez did a spectacular job of shortening his swing with two strikes, avoiding the urge to chase pitches and fouling off the pitches he couldn’t handle until he finally got one he was able to barrel. That’s controlling the strike zone, a skill that briefly abandoned Martinez during his summer swoon but one he’s starting to reclaim.

Cora referred to a stretch from June 1 – June 22 where Martinez uncharacteristically failed to draw a walk. He struck out 21 times during that drought and finished the month with 28 strikeouts compared to only eight walks. Since that point, Martinez has drawn 12 walks with 14 strikeouts, a far more acceptable ratio.

Martinez has reached base in 26 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the majors and the longest of his career. He’s hitting .280 with a .933 OPS, six home runs, six doubles, three triples and 23 RBI over that stretch.

The four-time All-Star will be one of five Red Sox players heading to Colorado for the Midsummer Classic next week. While he won’t be starting the game as the designated hitter, Martinez will get an opportunity to showcase his relentless approach at the plate in a lineup featuring some of the game’s best hitters.

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Martinez carried the Red Sox lineup during a scorching month of April when he hit .351 with a 1.175 OPS. He was bound to cool off eventually but the regression hit harder than we expected. He’s now starting to heat up again and if Martinez carries this momentum through the break, he’ll help carry the offense down the stretch as the Red Sox aim for a division title.