J.D. Martinez woke up in Baltimore on Sunday morning without knowing if he would be in the Red Sox lineup later that afternoon.
After coming down with cold-like symptoms on Saturday, Martinez was placed in Major League Baseball’s COVID-19 protocol, which forced him to miss that night’s contest against the Orioles.
The 33-year-old took a rapid and PCR test on Saturday and tested negative for COVID both times, which ultimately cleared him to return to action on Sunday.
Still, for Martinez, who is asthmatic and as a result is vulnerable to high pollen counts, the last two days or so have been frustrating to say the least.
“It’s human nature. You’re going to feel a little thing here and there,” Martinez said during his postgame media availability Sunday. “It’s kind of the world we’re living in right now where every little thing everyone thinks is COVID. So it was frustrating, obviously, not being able to play yesterday. But I know we did everything we could to have me back today.”
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, “pollen is a common allergen that can cause allergic asthma.”
On Saturday, the pollen count in Baltimore was 9.7, which is regarded as a high count. On Sunday, the pollen count fell to 6.6, which is regarded as medium, per Pollen.com.
“With the allergies here, the pollen has been like ridiculously high the last few days,” said Martinez. “It’s like a 10 out of 10, which I think is really messing me up. And my lungs are just always sensitive to sudden changes and stuff just because I have pretty bad asthma. Besides that, I felt OK. Obviously it was still bugging me. Still is. Kind of ready to get on the plane and go somewhere else.”
Despite dealing with allergies, Martinez picked up where he left off on Friday by clubbing three home runs and collecting four RBI as part of a 4-6 effort at the plate while batting out of the three-hole Sunday.
The Red Sox topped the Orioles by a final score of 14-9 to complete the three-game sweep over their division rivals at Camden Yards.
The two times he did not reach base, Martinez struck out, once against Orioles starter Jorge Lopez in the top half of the first and again against O’s reliever Paul Fry in the ninth.
“After that first at-bat, I felt like everything sped up on me,” Martinez explained. “And then I went to the cage and was like, ‘All right, we need to dial this up. We need to get it going. Wake up.’ After that, I felt a lot more in-control and I felt pretty good.”
Martinez was indeed in control from that point forward, as the three home runs he hit off Lopez, Mac Scelorer, and Tyler Wells traveled 372 feet, 382 feet, and 430 feet, respectively.
By the time he came to the plate for his final at-bat of the afternoon, Martinez was gunning to put together his first four-homer game since 2017 and adopted an aggressive approach in order to do so. He wound up striking out on a 3-2 slider from Fry that was well below the strike zone.
“Yeah, pretty much,” responded Martinez when asked if he was swinging at that full-count pitch regardless of its location. “In that moment I was like, ‘I really don’t think he’s going to throw me a strike, but I have to take the chance, just to at least foul it off if it’s a really good pitch. Hopefully he hangs something.”
Fry did not wind up hanging something and Martinez wound up fanning as a result, but the right-handed hitter still managed to extend his extra-base hit streak to nine consecutive games well before doing so.
Through his first eight games of the season now, the three-time All-Star is slashing .472/.500/1.083 with a team-high five homers and 16 RBI over 38 plate appearances.
“He’s locked in. You can tell,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Martinez’s hot start to the 2021 campaign. “He is walking around talking hitting. This is a guy I saw in ‘18 and ‘19, he has an idea of what he wants to do. He doesn’t deviate from his process… He studies himself, he studies the opposition, and he’s in a good place.
“I know he talked about last year and he’s on a mission to prove people wrong, but it was only 60 games,” added Cora. “He was one month away from getting his numbers right. Right now, he’s locked in and I’m glad he’s swinging the bat the way he is.”
For Martinez, though, what he is doing at the plate right now is nothing out of the ordinary from his point of view.
“Honestly, for me, I don’t even notice it. I really try not to,” he said. “You guys know how I am. I repeat the same things over and over to you guys. I think the moment you’re aware of it, you’re no longer in it. So I try to not be aware of it and just focus on the small tasks. Focus on my game plan off certain pitchers and what I’m trying to do. That’s how I kind of control the whole thing.”
(Picture of J.D. Martinez: Rob Carr/Getty Images)