HOUSTON — For all the winces, grimaces, limps, and bat drops we’ve seen from Rafael Devers and J.D. Martinez throughout this postseason, they are inflicting far more suffering on opposing pitching.
The grand slam each hit Saturday in the Red Sox’ 9-5 ALCS Game 2 victory over the Astros served as a pain killer for all the worrying and fretting Red Sox followers have been obsessing over since Devers developed right forearm discomfort late in the season and Martinez sprained his ankle in the final game of the season.
The sluggers constitute the two chambers of the heart of the batting order and despite Kiké Hernández’s out-of-body offense and defense, the Red Sox would be nowhere without Martinez and Devers in the middle of the lineup.
Martinez cleared the bases with his laser shot to right field in the first inning. An inning later, Devers did the same, his the more towering variety.
“We have this humble approach that we’re not trying to do too much, then big things happen,” manager Alex Cora said. “And J.D., that was great to see going the other way. Rafi, not trying to do too much and hitting the grand slam and so on and so on. It’s a very good approach right now. We’re not getting greedy.”
For Devers, pain this postseason looks like this: a .310 batting average, .412 on-base percentage, .621 slugging, 1.032 OPS, with 3 home runs, 10 RBIs, 5 walks, 7 strikeouts, and 9 hits in seven games.
Each game has featured swings-and-misses that leave Devers hanging on to the bat with his left hand or dropping it altogether, which he did in the seventh inning before he eventually fouled out to first base. Cora and the trainers checked on Devers but he stayed in the game, in discomfort as he walked slowly to his position at third base in the bottom half of the inning.
By the time Devers spoke to the media, he maintained his usual easy smile throughout.
“It doesn’t really limit me as much because I’m able to play every single day but, obviously, it’s a part of it right now,” Devers said. “We have a couple more weeks to play, and just trying to grind it out and be there for my teammates right now, so I can still play.”
In Martinez’s case, the injury that kept him out of the AL Wild Card Game and the first game of the Division Series has led to these numbers: .391 batting average, .417 on-base percentage, .690 slugging, a 1.112 OPS, 2 home runs, 8 RBIs, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts, and 9 hits in five games.
He has been moving more freely here than he was early in the Division Series.
With his shot off Astros starter Luis Garcia, Martinez used his customary patient and studied approach before making maximum contact.
“That situation, the pressure is on [Garcia], it’s not on me to come through there,” Martinez said. “It’s the first inning. He has bases loaded. I’m trying to tell myself that, trying to stay relaxed and just looking for a pitch so I can just put a barrel on it.”
Their respective injuries might have marginally improved their results, even with a small sample size.
Devers will never be a timid swinger, especially with pitches up in the zone, but he appears to be using more of the field, perhaps an adjustment to alleviate some pain.
Martinez’s injured ankle is on his lead foot in the batter’s box. A scientific hitter, his strikeout total in 24 postseason plate appearances indicates he is being even more selective to compensate for some discomfort.
However the gifted hitters are managing to produce at less than 100 percent, it’s working.
The Astros probably don’t want to know how much better the two would be raking if they weren’t hurting at all.