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Why Tepera didn't have chance against J.D. Martinez

Rob Bradford
August 08, 2018 - 1:27 am

TORONTO -- It probably seemed like the right thing to do, let Ryan Tepera pitch to J.D. Martinez with two outs, runners on first and third and the Blue Jays clinging to a one-run lead over the Red Sox in the eighth inning Tuesday night.

Tepera had faced Martinez four times, retiring the righty hitter each of the at-bats, even striking him out once.

When the Martinez at-bat started? Sure. Feel good John Gibbons. Two pitches later, the result was almost a foregone conclusion.

"I felt confident the whole at-bat," Martinez said after the Red Sox' 10-7 win over the Blue Jays. "I was just trying to be short, try and put a good swing on him. Not try and do too much."

Everyone knows what makes the designated hitter so dangerous. When you're facing the big league's home run leader that's obvious. But why this scenario was especially lethal for Tepera was because of those first two pitches. They were both balls, putting the count at 2-0.

That leads us to the reason Martinez's subsequent three-run homer off the left-field foul pole shouldn't have come as a surprise.

Heading into the at-bat the slugger had seven hits in the nine times he put a 2-0 count in play this season. Three of them were home runs. That would be a batting average of .778. In the majors, only Colorado's Nolan Arenado equaled Martinez in such situations with as many at-bats.

It shouldn't have come as a surprise. Studying and setting up pitchers is Martinez's thing. And there is no better example than those 2-0 counts, a notion that has evolved over the past two seasons. Remarkably, he was 0-for-11 in such scenarios during the 2016 season. But last year he changed it all around, going 7-for-13. And now we have his current success.

"I think he just narrows his plan down," said Red Sox pitching coach Tim Hyers. "He's looking in an area. So he gets to an advantage count, he prepares so well. When he sets that lane and he has an idea of the area, he's aggressive to it. He's not timid to it. When he gets in the advantage count, he lets it go. He sets his eyes and sets his plan in that area. You throw it in that area and he's aggressive to it."

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