J.D. Martinez waited and waited and waited. The Boston Red Sox waited and waited and waited. Finally, in what always felt like a preordained outcome, the two sides agreed to a contract in late February. Even if this marriage is still in its honeymoon stage, it looks like one that will have many happy moments: Martinez is on fire, proving his 2017 monster season was no accident.
Martinez blasted a two-run homer in the first inning in Boston's 6-4 win over the A's and is hitting .344/.395/.644 with 12 home runs and 36 RBIs in 41 games. The Red Sox needed a power hitter and they have one:
That's seven home runs in 14 games for Martinez, and he has reached base in 21 consecutive games. His numbers over the past two seasons: 160 G, .314/.381/.677, 57 HR, 140 RBIs.
The Red Sox are second in the majors in runs per game behind only the Yankees, and after ranking last in the AL in home runs in 2017, they're tied for second this year with 59, behind Cleveland's 64. With Mookie Betts even hotter than Martinez, Xander Bogaerts back from his DL stint and raking (he also homered Wednesday) and Mitch Moreland slugging over .600, it's a scary lineup with the potential to get better. Rafael Devers hasn't done much yet (.245/.286/.423), the catchers have been a big zero and Eduardo Nunez hasn't contributed filling in for Dustin Pedroia, who has started his rehab stint in the minors.
Is Martinez worth $110 million? So far, so good.
Justin Verlander is pitching better than peak Justin Verlander: In a series played with a playoff-like intensity, Verlander went the distance in a 2-0 victory over the Angels, his first shutout with the Astros and the eighth of his career. It seems weird that he has only eight career shutouts -- heck, Fernando Valenzuela threw eight his rookie season in 1981 -- but it's a reminder that these days nobody throws complete games. So appreciate them when do they happen.
Verlander cruised through seven innings with 83 pitches. The Angels got runners on second and third with one out -- Kole Calhoun's double to center bounced over the wall, otherwise Ian Kinsler probably would have scored -- but Verlander struck out Luis Valbuena looking on a 97 mph heater that caught the inside corner. The call elicited some complaints from Valbuena and Mike Scioscia (I'm pretty sure no manager complains more about called strikes than Scioscia), but it was a strike. Verlander then got Mike Trout on a dribbler back to the mound, and Verlander pumped his fist in excitement.
It was his game to finish off. Love it. The Angels did get a hit and walk with two outs in the ninth, but Zack Cozart popped up to first -- a 97 mph fastball on Verlander's 118th pitch.
His season stats: 5-2 in 10 starts, 1.05 ERA, 84 strikeouts in 68.2 innings, .148 batting average allowed. How are Daz Cameron, Franklin Perez and Jake Rogers doing in the minors?
The ball had a 95 percent hit expectancy. Alas, baseball.
The score was tied 1-1 when the Braves scored three runs in the eighth off the usually tough Carl Edwards Jr., who has given up seven runs in his past three appearances. The top of the lineup did the damage. Ozzie Albies tripled with one out, Ronald Acuna Jr. singled him in and Freddie Freeman's single (plus three walks, one intentional) would lead to two more runs and a 4-1 Atlanta win. Note:
Freddie Freeman continuously DESTROYS the shift. Teams keep shifting anyway. Eighth inning, Cubs put on big shift, Freeman chops a ground ball to left field. If only more could do it ...— Joe Posnanski (@JPosnanski) May 17, 2018
I saw another guy beat a shift in an earlier game that helped break things open as well. The Rangers and Mariners were tied 0-0 in the eighth when Isiah Kiner-Falefa led off with a base hit. Rougned Odor then reached on a drag bunt to the second baseman, who was playing back in a deep shift. That led to the go-ahead run (and the Rangers broke it open with four more runs in the ninth). Would love to see more of this. Beat the shift enough and they'll stop shifting on you.
Quote of the year: Speaking of the Rangers, that game was 0-0 because Bartolo Colon tossed a gem with 7⅔ scoreless innings. He did that taking a 102 mph line drive off his stomach early in the game. His comment afterward: "I have a big belly, so I can take it."
OK, that's funny, and this is amazing: In 16 career starts at Safeco Field, Colon is 14-1 with a 1.98 ERA. As somebody on Twitter pointed out, Colon is so old he actually pitched against the Mariners at Safeco in a playoff game.
With Colon throwing so well (2.82 ERA) and the Rangers not going anywhere, they might want to consider trading him sooner rather than later, given he didn't pitch well in 2017. He won't return more than a lottery ticket kind of prospect, but you have to think teams in need of rotation help might be interested in Colon.
There's no crying in baseball: What's with all the whining of late? Sticking with the Rangers, Joey Gallo made one of the stranger comments of the season when he said he doesn't want to play third base. "I don't want it. I don't like it," he said before Wednesday's game. "I hate it, no joke. I hate third base. ... I've played other positions, realized how bad third base can be on my body."
OK, that sounds bad. I'm not exactly sure why third base would be harder on his body than left field or first base. And he did say he'd have no problem playing there if asked (he has been playing left of late and hasn't played third this season). I guess he's being honest, but, man, maybe you want to get your average higher than .200 before you start trying to dictate where you should play.
Meanwhile, Miguel Cabrera complained that he's "done playing hurt." Cabrera is out because of a hamstring issue and was eligible to come off the disabled list Monday, but he has had lingering soreness in his back and hips. He doesn't want to go through what he did last year, when he played through some injuries and hit .249.
"Nobody appreciates you when you play hurt," he said, "so I'm going to take my time and play when I'm good. I played hurt a lot of years here in Detroit. They don't appreciate it."
I'd suggest there are about 30 million reasons how the Tigers actually show their appreciation, and I get that Cabrera didn't like the numbers he put up last season, but I guess the question is: What is good health? Should the face of the franchise be expected to suck it up and play even if he's not 100 percent? Cabrera also is 35; it's possible he'll never really be 100 percent at his age. By the way, this is just the third year of Cabrera's eight-year deal that runs through 2023 -- when he'll make $32 million at age 40.
Finally ... The Marlins beat the Dodgers again, 6-5. The Marlins are 16-26. The Dodgers are 16-26. You can't predict baseball, my friends.