Martinez Powers Red Sox Postseason With More Than Home Runs

It is fitting that one of the storylines before a World Series game at Dodger Stadium would revolve around the health of a top-hitting outfielder, and the intrigue about whether he'd be able to play.

Only this time, unlike many years ago, it doesn't involve a Dodgers player.

The Boston Red Sox might not know until close to the first pitch whether J.D. Martinez will be able to start Game 3 on Friday night.

The slugger rolled his right ankle while rounding second base on a double in the opener. He showed the effects of the injury the next day while trying to run, but still delivered a go-ahead, two-run single that sent the Red Sox to victory and a 2-0 lead over Los Angeles.

Martinez said after the win that he expected to play. But manager Alex Cora said on Thursday that it would likely be a gametime decision after Martinez receives more treatment.

"It looked bad early in the game but then it seemed like it was moving better towards the end," Cora said.

The similarities between Martinez and former Dodgers slugger Kirk Gibson, whose pinch-hit home run 30 years ago against Oakland in Game 1 at Dodger Stadium is a part of World Series lore, aren't confined to health.

Like Gibson, Martinez is in his first season on a team that finds itself in the Fall Classic. Like Gibby, he'd been a star in Detroit.

For Gibson, that famed home run off Dennis Eckersley in 1988 was the last swing he ever took in a postseason game. Gibson played in the majors through 1995, yet never made it back to the playoffs.

At 31, with Martinez coming off a huge season for the 108-win Red Sox, chances are he'll play in the postseason beyond this year.

While some players have struggled after signing big free-agent deals with the Red Sox, Martinez has thrived. In the first season of a five-year, $110 million deal, he led the American League with 130 RBIs and was second in home runs (43) and batting average (.330). That should put him among the favorites for the AL's MVP award, with many thinking the only player ahead of him is teammate Mookie Betts.

Martinez is 3 for 7 in this Series with four RBIs, establishing himself as an early candidate for Series MVP. He is batting .333 (13 for 39) in Boston's 11 postseason games with two home runs and 13 RBIs.

Martinez has certainly provided power to the Red Sox lineup, but his consistency has been more of a benefit. He had three straight games where he reached base three or more times and drove in at least a run. The only other Boston players with a similar streak were Kevin Youkilis (four games) and Manny Ramirez (three games) during the team's 2007 World Series title run.

"We're not up there trying to hit everything in the air and swinging for the fences. We go up there and the pitch dictates what we're going to do," Martinez said. "We're not up there forcing balls in the air. I feel like it's the common mistake with hitters these days. And I think it's something that we all talk about and we have a really good understanding of it, where we kind of think we're hitters before sluggers in a sense.

"And that's how I think. I take pride in hitting and being _ not just a one-dimensional hitter, a complete hitter. And it's something we all talk about."

Martinez could show off his power at Dodger Stadium as five of his nine hits at the park have been home runs. Last season with Arizona, Martinez became the 18th player to have four home runs in a game when he did it at Chavez Ravine on Sept. 4.

Besides Martinez's health, the bigger question is where will he play? He is primarily Boston's designated hitter, but he has started 57 games in the outfield this season, splitting time in left and right field.

With no DH for games in the National League park, he'd have to spend a lot of time on his feet -- and sore ankle -- to stay in the lineup.

Walker Buehler, who will be the Dodgers' starting pitcher on Friday, hasn't faced Martinez.

"He's got the power of the left-handed pull hitter from the left side," Buehler said. "In this day and age when people are trying to launch a ball, he does that in the old-school fashion of starting the ball the other way and pulling the ball."

Martinez was part of a talented lineup in Detroit for three seasons (2014-16) along with Rick Porcello, David Price and Ian Kinsler. With that quartet only two wins from a title, the opportunity has not been lost on Porcello, who takes the hill for the Red Sox on Friday.

"Everybody kind of nodded their head and said we're blessed to have another opportunity to make a run here with the talent we have in this clubhouse and let's make the most of it. And so far up to this point we are. And two more wins, let's finish it off," Porcello said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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