In the span of four innings, J.D. Martinez went from zero to hero for the Red Sox in their contest against the Rays at Fenway Park on Tuesday night.
After committing a costly baserunning blunder while representing the tying run in the bottom half of the eighth, the 33-year-old slugger had the chance to redeem himself later on well into extra innings.
With two outs and two runners on in a 5-4 game in the 12th, Martinez — matched up against Rays reliever Ryan Thompson — drilled a flyball over the head of an outstretched Randy Arozarena in right field plenty deep enough to plate both Hunter Renfroe and Alex Verdugo to give the Sox their first walk-off victory of the season with a 6-5 win.
Martinez, who finished the day 2-for-6 with three RBI, stays hot and is now slashing .476/.522/1.000 through his first five games of the year.
Martin Perez tosses five-plus solid frames
Well before Tuesday’s late-night drama, Martin Perez made his first start of the new campaign.
Working five-plus innings, the veteran left-hander surrendered three runs — all of which were earned — on five hits, two walks, and one hit batsman to go along with six strikeouts. The second walk he gave up came with no outs in the top half of the sixth, and it marked the end of his outing.
Of the 92 pitches Perez threw on Tuesday, 52 went for strikes. The Venezuelan hurler also mixed in 29 cutters, 21 changeups, 19 sinkers, 15 curveballs, and eight fastballs on his way to picking up the no-decision. His next start should come against the Twins sometime next week.
Matt Barnes dazzles with two perfect innings of relief
After Austin Brice, Hirokazu Sawamura, and Darwinzon Hernandez managed to keep Tampa Bay off the scoreboard through the end of the eighth inning, Matt Barnes was called in for the ninth as he was tasked with holding the Rays at three runs.
Making just his second relief appearance of the year, the flame-throwing righty did exactly that by retiring the side in order in the ninth and then doing the same in the 10th after the Sox had knotted things up.
In total, Barnes struck out four of the six batters he faced and induced six swings-and-misses in the process of doing so.
Tanner Houck, Phillips Valdez close things out
Red Sox manager Alex Cora had said before Tuesday’s game that rookie right-hander Tanner Houck would be available to pitch out of the bullpen against the Rays.
Having just thrown 85 pitches in his start against the Orioles over the weekend, it seemed unlikely that the 24-year-old would be used in this one, but he was after all.
With a runner on second base to start each extra inning, Houck wound up surrendering the go-ahead run to the very first hitter he faced in Willy Adames, who ripped an RBI double down the left field line to give his side a 4-3 edge.
Houck did manage to escape the top half of the 11th without giving anything else up, though fellow righty Phillips Valdez fell victim to the unearned run himself an inning later.
All in all, Sox pitching combined to yield five runs (three earned) on eight hits, five walks, and 13 strikeouts on Tuesday night.
Christian Vazquez comes through in the clutch
Before Martinez’s late-inning heroics, the Boston bats were finding it difficult to score runs just one night after plating 11 in their first win of the season.
Facing off against vaunted Rays right-hander Tyler Glasnow, the only run the Sox managed to bring across over the first seven innings came when Christian Arroyo scored from third on a wild pitch.
Martinez tacked on the first of his three RBI with a run-scoring double in the eighth off Pete Fairbanks in the eighth, then it was Christian Vazquez’s time to shine in the ninth.
Going into his fourth plate appearance of the night without a hit, Vazquez did not waste any time in greeting new Rays reliever Diego Castillo, as he led the bottom of the ninth off by crushing a solo shot 383 feet well over the Green Monster for his first big fly of the season.
That moonshot would pull the Red Sox back even with the Rays at three runs apiece, and it would ultimately set up the Martinez walk-off later on in the 12th.
Franchy Cordero makes leaping grab in left field
One key moment that cannot be lost in the shuffle of Tuesday’s drama was the play Franchy Cordero made to end the top half of the seventh inning.
With one out in the frame and runners on first and second, Rays centerfielder Manuel Margot lifted a flyball to left that was on the cusp of bouncing off the Monster before a leaping Franchy Cordero robbed the former Red Sox prospect of extra-bases.
There was some confusion as to whether Cordero caught the ball or trapped it against the left field wall, and that confusion allowed the outfielder to double off one of the runners — Arozarena — at second base to end the inning.
The Rays disputed the call on the field by challenging it, but it was upheld by replay review.
Next up: Eovaldi vs. Yarbrough
Next up for the Red Sox, it’s the finale of this three-game series on Wednesday afternoon, so it’s certainly a quick turnaround.
Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi is slated to get the ball for Boston, and he will be opposed by left-hander Ryan Yarbrough for Tampa Bay.
First pitch Wednesday is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. eastern time on YouTube. Yes, you read that correctly. YouTube.
(Picture of J.D. Martinez: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)