Jesse Pantuosco

Baseball Daily Dose

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Dose: Martinez Wins It

Friday, May 11, 2018


They say it’s better to be lucky than good, but why not be both? J.D. Martinez put that idea into action Thursday against the division-rival Yankees and the result was … well, why say it when I can just show it to you?

If you’re counting at home, Martinez, the Red Sox’s prized $110 million investment, has clubbed nine home runs this year. Thursday’s blast, a solo shot that pinned Boston to a 5-4 advantage in the eighth inning, traveled a mere 350 feet, easily the shortest of his nine round-trippers. Aaron Judge, the Yankees’ Godzilla of a right fielder, nearly saved the day with a leaping grab that surely would have led off the next edition of SportsCenter, but instead the ball landed in the first row. The pivotal home run played out like the sequel to Jeffrey Maier as a souvenir-seeking fan competed with Judge along the right field wall. Whether Judge was interfered with or not is up for debate (security’s decision to remove the fan would suggest that it was indeed interference), but it’s still a wonder that rookie manager Aaron Boone didn’t at least challenge it. The home run stood and the Red Sox held on for a 5-4 victory, pushing Boston back into a first-place tie with the Bronx Bombers.

 

Martinez was somewhat of a late bloomer—the Astros released him four years ago following a sluggish spring training—and didn’t become a household name until last season’s 45-homer breakout. Still, Martinez was expecting a much bigger payday on the open market and ultimately settled for far less than the $200 million he had been coveting. Since arriving in Beantown, the 30-year-old has played with a chip on his shoulder, hitting a robust .348 (good for fifth-best in the majors but only second on his own team) with 29 RBI and a slugging percentage north of .600. He’s been Sahara-hot throughout his 11-game hitting streak, cruising to a .444 average with four long balls and nine RBI during that span. Which begs the question—can a player making $22 million-a-year actually be a bargain? Compared to teammate David Price (due $30 million in 2018), who may have injured himself playing Fortnite, Martinez is an absolute steal.

 

According to Statcast, Martinez’s home run had a 28 percent hit probability. But hey, if the Celtics can down the Sixers in five games without the help of their two best players, I guess anything is possible, right? The fluke homer not only helped the Red Sox avoid a sweep but it also let Boston’s bullpen off the hook after another late-inning implosion.

 

Boston’s bullpen was among the league’s best last season and the Red Sox return many of the same pitchers that made that unit so successful. But this week, the Yankees have had their number. To be fair, the Yankees have had everyone’s number lately. Thursday’s defeat was their first in the month of May and only their second since April 20. But it takes more than a can-do attitude and some elbow grease to challenge Boston’s late-inning staff. You need guts. Or Aaron Judge. Whichever one.

 

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As a rookie, Judge was far from a Red Sox killer. In fact, he went full possum, rolling over and playing dead in his 73 at-bats against them last year (.151 AVG, 30 strikeouts). But this series, the light bulb finally went on. After Drew Pomeranz and Luis Severino pitched to a stalemate on Tuesday night, Judge broke it open with an RBI single off flamethrower Joe Kelly. The Yankees had already seized the lead by the time Judge came up in the eighth inning Wednesday night, but he put the game out of reach with a mammoth two-run homer off All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel.

 

Fast-forward to Thursday night with the Red Sox clinging to a 4-0 lead in the seventh inning. CC Sabathia ran circles around Boston last year (4-0, 1.04 ERA in four starts) but wasn’t as successful Thursday, yielding nine hits and four runs in his four innings of work. Meanwhile Eduardo Rodriguez had his best start of the season interrupted by a 55-minute rain delay. E-Rod logged one more inning after the delay before turning things over to the Boston pen. After a scoreless sixth, New York mounted a rally in the seventh, loading the bases off Heath Hembree.

 

Kelly, who made headlines earlier this year for brawling with Yankees first baseman Tyler Austin, came in to clean up the mess but only made it worse by walking in a run. Judge followed with a base hit to left field, scoring Miguel Andujar from third base. The Red Sox would have pitched around Judge if possible—the hulking 6’7” outfielder drew three passes on Thursday—but with the bases chucked, there was nowhere to put him. After seeing Judge launch one into the stratosphere off Kimbrel 24 hours earlier, the Sox were probably relieved to hold him to a single. The reigning AL Rookie of the Year now sports a preposterous .524 average in 21 at-bats against Boston this year.

 

Sparked by Judge’s RBI single, the Bombers added two more runs in the seventh to tie the game at four. After Martinez put the Red Sox back ahead, the Yankees threatened again by putting two men on in the eighth. But this time Kelly slammed the door shut, dialing up a rare changeup to strike out Neil Walker looking to end the frame. Kimbrel shook off Wednesday’s meltdown by hurling a perfect ninth inning for his 10th save. Didi Gregorius made the final out, capping an 0-for-5 night with a groundout to Kimbrel. The shortstop was an absolute behemoth in April (.330, 10 HR, 30 RBI) but has cooled off dramatically since the calendar flipped to May. He’s gone hitless in his last 24 at-bats while watching his average plummet from .343 to .280. Didi’s tailspin won’t last forever but in the meantime, Boone might think about getting him a night off to clear his head.

 

So far the Red Sox and Yankees, who are tied for the majors’ best record at 26-11, have split their season series three all with 13 games remaining. In the current one-and-done Wild Card format, winning the division is more important than ever, so don’t expect either team to go quietly. I’d say the rivalry is back on … wouldn’t you?

 

AL Quick Hits: Kyle Lohse is hanging it up. The 39-year-old announced his retirement on Instagram following his release from the Royals on Thursday. He hadn’t pitched in the majors since 2016 … Byron Buxton went hitless in two at-bats Thursday in his return from the disabled list. It took him a little over three weeks to recover from a broken toe … The Angels activated closer Keynan Middleton from the disabled list ahead of Thursday’s series opener with Minnesota. He missed the minimum 10 days with elbow inflammation … Dee Gordon sat out his first game of the season on Thursday while nursing a bruised right toe. He should be back in the lineup for Friday’s game in Detroit … Two days after teammate Dylan Bundy endured one of the worst pitching performances in recent memory, Chris Tillman turned in another clunker on Thursday, letting up six runs (five earned) in only 1 1/3 innings. Baltimore won despite the lackluster effort put forth by Tillman, handling the Royals by an 11-6 margin.

 

NL Quick Hits: Carlos Martinez was placed on the disabled list Thursday with a strained lat. The Cardinals stud will surely be missed by fantasy owners. Through eight starts, he holds the NL’s lowest ERA at 1.62 … Adam Wainwright threw a successful bullpen session on Thursday and is slated to rejoin the Cardinals’ starting rotation Sunday in San Diego. The 36-year-old landed on the DL with elbow inflammation last month … Tommy Pham contributed two hits including his sixth home run of the season Thursday in a win over the Padres. Pham had missed the previous two games with a groin injury … Vince Velasquez impressed by compiling a season-high 12 strikeouts in Thursday’s win over San Francisco. Carlos Santana homered in the victory while extending his hitting streak to seven games … Ryan Zimmerman got the night off Thursday after injuring his back on a slide at home plate Wednesday against the Padres and is day-to-day. Zimmerman’s teammate, Matt Wieters, exited Thursday’s game with an apparent leg injury after pulling up on a base hit in the second inning. Pedro Severino took over for Wieters behind the plate … Justin Turner and Logan Forsythe are expected to head out on minor league rehab assignments this weekend. Turner is recovering from a fractured wrist he suffered in spring training while Forsythe has been working back from shoulder inflammation … Matt Harvey will make his Reds debut Friday against the Dodgers. Because it’s been three weeks since his last start, Harvey will likely be on a strict pitch count. To make room for Harvey on the active roster, the Reds optioned struggling left-hander Brandon Finnegan to Triple-A Louisville … The Reds made a front-office move on Thursday, promoting assistant GM Nick Krall (not to be confused with comedian Nick Kroll) to general manager. "Nick understands every aspect of our baseball operations," said President of Baseball Operations Dick Williams. "Moving forward, Nick will be more heavily involved in the decisions we need to make to improve our product on the field at both the Major League and minor league levels." Krall has been with the Reds’ organization since 2003 … Madison Bumgarner is expected to resume mound work next week. The former World Series MVP fractured his left pinkie during spring training … Adam Eaton underwent arthroscopic ankle surgery on Thursday. Eaton will be immobilized for at least a week and will have to wear a walking boot while he recovers. Injuries have limited the 29-year-old to just 31 games over his last two seasons … Zach Davies was hoping to return to Milwaukee’s rotation this weekend but said his injured shoulder “didn’t feel right” during Wednesday’s bullpen session. With Davies out of commission, the Brewers will likely turn to Brent Suter for Sunday’s series finale against the Rockies … Not a bad day at the office for Freddie Freeman. The Braves first baseman notched five hits including his sixth home run Thursday in a 9-2 win over the Marlins. The five-hit effort raised Freeman’s season batting average from .301 to .326.



Jesse Pantuosco is a football and baseball writer for Rotoworld. He has won three Fantasy Sports Writers Association Awards. Follow him on Twitter @JessePantuosco.
Email :Jesse Pantuosco



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