A high-five for red-hot Martinez
His four doubles highlight outburst
Oakland manager Bob Geren was already on his second relief pitcher when Red Sox catcher Victor Martinez came to the plate in the sixth inning last night with a runner on third and two outs.
Martinez has hit lefthanders extraordinarily well this season. But with the score tied, Geren took a chance and allowed lefty Craig Breslow to stay in the game.
What was Martinez thinking as he came to the plate?
“Bring it on,’’ he said. “They’re doing whatever they need to do. I just made sure that I went up there and tried to hit it hard.’’
Breslow left a 1-and-1 fastball over the plate and Martinez pounded it to center, the ball hopping over the fence. The Red Sox had a lead they would not surrender and Martinez was on his way to a night he will never forget.
Martinez was 5 for 5 with four doubles and two RBIs as the Sox beat the Athletics, 9-4.
The four doubles matched a major league record and were the most for a catcher since Sandy Alomar had four for the Indians June 6, 1997 at Fenway Park.
Martinez became the fifth Red Sox player to collect four doubles, the first since Rick Miller May 11, 1981 at Toronto’s old Exhibition Stadium.
Martinez had five hits last Aug. 2 at Baltimore, two days after the Red Sox traded for him. Since 1952, he is the only Red Sox catcher to have five hits in a game.
“I definitely got a little bit lucky,’’ Martinez said. “Five good swings, find the holes. I just went out there and looked for a good pitch to hit. When you put a good swing on the ball, anything can happen.’’
Two of the doubles were off the Wall in left field. The other two went into the crowd and Martinez had to stop at second. It was just as well considering he is playing with a severely bruised left big toe, the result of being struck by a foul ball while he was catching at Tampa Bay May 24.
“You can see when he’s running, it hurts. He’s a good hitter, though,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “You kind of fall back on that. Good hitters, when they cool off, they get just as hot. Sometimes the formula is a little different, but you can see he was on everything tonight.’’
Martinez, a switch hitter, is 22 of 51 (.431) against lefthanders with 13 extra-base hits. Overall, Martinez is 18 of 39 over 11 games with 13 extra-base hits and 12 RBIs. The hot streak has raised his average from .226 to .279. He now has 26 RBIs and is again the player the Sox expected would generate a large percentage of their offense.
“He’s been great. He’s been the guy picking us up lately,’’ said Adrian Beltre, who had a three-run homer in the fifth inning that got the Red Sox going after they fell behind, 4-0. “Victor has been hitting everything hard the last few weeks.’’
There has been no particular adjustment, Martinez said, beyond his seeing the ball better though the strike zone.
“I don’t know. I don’t really have the secret about that,’’ he said.
Martinez did not hit for average or power the first four weeks of the season. But he did not let the lack of production weigh too heavily on him.
“You know what? If everybody hit .400, .300, pitchers aren’t going to get paid,’’ he said.
But even 5-year-old Victor Jr. told his father he needed to hit some home runs.
“I tell him I’m not Barry Bonds. You better start calling for some bloopers,’’ Martinez said.
There were no bloopers last night, only line drives.
“You have to feel nice,’’ he said. “I’ve been in a big hole since the start of the season but I never lost my confidence. I always come to the ballpark ready to play every day. I just prepared myself the way I’ve been preparing for my whole career. Fortunately things started coming around.’’