OF Martinez paying dividends for Red Sox

When Boston signed J.D. Martinez in February, he was quickly penciled in as the team’s primary designated hitter and chief home run threat, a weapon the Red Sox needed after belting a major-league low 168 long balls in 2017.

Martinez came through with a power performance again Friday, bashing a second-inning solo home run off Bartolo Colon to set the Red Sox sailing to an eventual 5-1 victory over Texas at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas.

It was Martinez’s seventh homer of the season, well off the pace set by teammate Mookie Betts, who now has 13.

The win allowed the Red Sox to even the four-game series with the Rangers, which continues Saturday when Boston sends left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez (3-0, 4.78 ERA) to the mound to oppose Rangers’ left-hander Cole Hamels (1-4, 4.08).

Friday’s game featured five solo home runs — four of them by the Red Sox, and all off Colon (1-1). Rafael Devers had two of those, and Martinez and Betts had one each.

Nomar Mazara’s solo round-tripper provided the Rangers’ lone run of the game. It was his fourth straight game with a home run.

Rick Porcello (5-0) limited the Rangers to three hits in six innings while striking out eight before turning the game over to Boston’s stout bullpen. Three relievers allowed Texas only one hit in the final three innings.

“Our guys have continued to battle through, especially with the pitching we are facing and with the young guys we have out there,” Texas manager Jeff Banister said. “We have to take our hats off to Porcello — he had everything working for him and was hard to hit.”

As good as Martinez has been in his role as one of Boston’s sluggers, he has been just as good in the field, which has been a bonus for a Red Sox squad that has needed him at times because of injuries and interleague play.

Martinez has played in the outfield in 15 of Boston’s 33 games – he was the Red Sox’ DH on Friday – and even made a running, extended, bouncing-off-the-wall catch on Thursday in the Boston’s loss to Texas.

“J.D. is a good outfielder — he’s a big one,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “If you do your research and position those guys where you’re supposed to, they’re going to make some plays. There’s a lot of information that goes into what we’re trying to do in the outfield, and he benefits from it. He’s making plays.”

Rodriguez has allowed three earned runs or fewer in six innings pitched in three consecutive starts and is tied for the second-longest career streak of quality starts with seven. He has made just one career start against Texas, his major league debut on May 28, 2017 in Arlington, giving up no runs and three hits in 7 2/3 innings while picking up the victory.

Hamels will make his eighth start of the season in Saturday’s game. He has pitched effectively in each of last four outings, posting two quality starts in that span despite an 0-2 record. In his past four starts, Hamels has lowered season ERA from 5.06 to 4.08.

Overall, the Rangers are 1-6 in Hamels’ starts and have lost five straight. They’ve provided one run in support of Hamels in each of his last three starts and four times in his last five games.

Hamels will be making his first start against the Red Sox in a Rangers uniform. His most recent start against Boston came April 6, 2015, in Philadelphia in an 8-0 Phillies loss on Opening Day. He’s 4-1 with a 2.68 ERA in six career starts against the Red Sox.