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RED SOX NOTEBOOK

J.D. Martinez seems to have found the key, and he’s locked in

J.D. Martinez launched a homer into the Red Sox bullpen Wednesday.barry chin/globe staff/Globe Staff

Last week, J.D. Martinez inspired something of a puzzle. What was at the heart a 15-game streak in which one of the top power hitters in the game went homerless? The question was on the mind of Martinez himself, as he talked late into the night with his father in Baltimore.

The next day, he hit a homer against the Orioles, a long ball that represented the start of a barrage and wiped out any curiosity about his drought.

In his last seven games, Martinez is hitting .321/.429/.857 with 5 homers and more walks (6) than strikeouts (5). His two-run homer into the Red Sox bullpen on Wednesday against Colorado gave him nine homers for the season and an elite slash line of .321/.399/.541.

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“J.D. is something different,” said Xander Bogaerts. “When he’s locked in, that ball [off the bat] sounds pretty loud.”

Martinez’s homer off Rockies starter German Marquez was particularly noteworthy for where it was hit. He blasted it to right-center — his major league-leading 20th opposite-field homer since the start of 2018, but just his second this season, a reflection of the cold weather that helped keep potential homers in the yard.

Yet his game is not boom-or-bust. On Wednesday, with Andrew Benintendi and Mookie Betts on base, he also drove in a run by bouncing a ball through the right side of the infield.

“When he has traffic in front of him, he goes the other way,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “It’s amazing what he does on a nightly basis.”

The ability to drive the ball to all fields is not only a hallmark of Martinez, but also a central element to the case that he ranks as one of the best all-around righthanded power hitters of his generation. He’s on pace for 34 homers, though the (presumed) warming of the weather could have him elevating that total.

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He could join Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, and Barry Bonds as the only players this century to post three straight seasons hitting at least .300 with 40 homers — a combination that suggests a rare ability to combine power with all-around offensive excellence.

Swing away

In the “lightning strikes twice” department — or, more accurately, five times — both Betts and Bogaerts swung repeatedly at first pitches Wednesday. Betts, whose 13.6 percent swing rate at first pitches is 168th out of 174 qualifying batters, did so three times, while Bogaerts (14.8 percent, 165th) did it twice.

“I think a lot of guys swing at the first pitch except me,” said Bogaerts, who started the winning rally in the 10th inning Wednesday with a missile of a double to center on the first pitch he saw from Rockies reliever Chad Bettis.

“Half my at-bats, I want to swing at the first pitch, but for some reason, it just won’t get out. The catcher seems like he’s holding my bat and it’s a fastball down the middle. Maybe slowly I’ll start getting back and start being more aggressive. That’s the way it should be.”

Martinez has swung at the first pitch in 42.5 percent of his plate appearances, 14th highest in the majors. As a team, the Sox have attacked 29.2 percent of first pitches, 17th among the 30 teams.

Astros taking off

The Red Sox offense likely will have to remain potent over the weekend against the Astros, who come to Fenway with an eight-game winning streak that has propelled them to the best record in the majors (29-15). The Astros lead the majors in runs (245), rank second in runs per game (5.57), and have a mind-blowing .512 slugging percentage — a mark that would shatter the 2003 Red Sox’ record (.491).

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Rick Porcello will be tasked with suppressing Houston’s offense Friday, with Hector Velazquez the likely Saturday starter (unless circumstances press him into Friday’s game), and Chris Sale set for Sunday.

Sale will be pitching on four days’ rest; this year, he has a 1.33 ERA and a 33-to-6 strikeout-to-walk rate while working on such a schedule.

Pedroia to Triple A

Dustin Pedroia, whose rehab assignment was short-circuited by discomfort in his left knee last weekend, is scheduled to start another one Friday with Triple A Pawtucket, according to a team source. Pedroia has played in six big league games this year, most recently April 17 in New York  . . . Brock Holt, in the second game of his rehab assignment with Pawtucket, went 1 for 3 Thursday with a double and strikeout. He also was hit by a pitch. For the second straight game, he served as designated hitter . . . The Irish American Baseball Hall of Fame will induct former Red Sox CEO John Harrington as part of its Class of 2019 on June 28 at Foley’s NY Pub & Restaurant.


Alex Speier can be reached at alex.speier@globe.com. Follow him on twitter at @alexspeier.

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