Saturday, April 27, 2024

Mets Lineup Gets Jolt From J.D. Martinez


J.D. Martinez swinging on his first hit as a Met, in the second inning on Friday night. Photo by Jason Schott.

On Friday night, the Mets’ lineup got the boost they waited five weeks for, as J.D. Martinez made his debut as they opened a three-game series at Citi Field against the St. Louis Cardinals.

“Feels good, not going to lie,” Mets Manager Carlos Mendoza said of penciling in Martinez in the fifth spot in the batting order. “Writing that lineup and putting his name on the paper is a good feeling, but at the same time, I don’t think it’s fair to put that pressure on him, you know…He’s just going to make our lineup a lot deeper, you know. We’ve got a lot of really good hitters here, but having J.D. finally in our lineup, obviously, is a good thing.”

Martinez signed a one-year deal with the Mets on March 23 after he spent one season with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

An All-Star in 2023, one of six times in his career, Martinez appeared in 113 games for the Dodgers, and he hit .271, with 33 home runs, 193 RBI, a .321 on-base percentage, a .572 slugging percentage, and an .893 OPS. He spent the prior five seasons with the Boston Red Sox, where he was an All-Star five times, 2018, ‘19, ‘21, and ‘22.

Since the Mets signed Martinez late in spring training, he was sent to the minors to give him a full ramp-up. In five games with Single-A St. Lucie and Triple-A Syracuse, he hit .316 (6-19) with two doubles and four RBIs.

Martinez is a 13-year Major League veteran who is a three—time American League Silver Slugger winner, in 2015 as an outfielder when he was on the Detroit Tigers, and then in 2018 with  Boston, he won one as an OF and one as a designated hitter.

Since 2018, Martinez ranks second among designated hitters with 420 RBI, narrowly behind the 439 from Shohei Ohtani, and leads all DHs with 168 doubles.

On Friday night, Martinez was in the lineup between Pete Alonso, who was in the clean-up spot, and Jeff McNeil. 

On Martinez providing protection for the Mets’ top hitters, Mendoza said, “I think not only is it going to help Pete, the whole lineup. You see so much about lineup protection, the guys hitting in front of him have protection, too, you know, like if they get on base, it will be tougher to get to Pete and J.D., so I could see guys hitting in front of them, and also hitting behind - it’s a deep lineup.”

J.D. Martinez on deck as Pete Alonso hits in the first inning. Photo by Jason Schott.

It looked like Martinez would get his initial chance to do damage in the first inning when Brandon Nimmo led off with a double, followed by a single for Starling Marte against Cardinals starting pitcher Miles Mikolas.

What followed was Brandon Donovan making a running grab of a pop-up by Francisco Lindor along the left field line, followed by Pete Alonso hitting into a 6-4-3 double play.

That meant Martinez would lead off the bottom of the second inning, but that would be after St. Louis took the lead on a three-run home run from Alec Burleson off Mets starter Jose Butto in the top half of the frame.

Martinez laced a single down the right field line, but the Mets couldn’t get him in.

A three-photo sequence of J.D. Martinez's first hit as a Met. Photos by Jason Schott.

Then, in the bottom of the fourth, with the Mets down 4-0, Alonso hit one into center field that Michael Siani made a diving catch on. That meant Martinez came up with one out and no one on base, and he struck out.

Martinez next came up with the Mets trailing 4-1 in the sixth, and Francisco Lindor, who hit a double, at second base with two out. Just as he did in the second inning, Martinez took one the other way, this one going off the right field fence for a double, easily bringing in Lindor.

That would chase Mikolas, and JoJo Romero came on to strike out Jeff McNeil looking to end the inning.

Martinez would not get another at-bat until the ninth, when he struck out to lead off the inning, as Ryan Helsley retired the Mets in order to close out the 4-2 win for St. Louis.

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