By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — J.D. Martinez is certainly having an MVP-type of week for the best team in baseball.
On Sunday night, he lined a two-out, bases-loaded single into center field off Aroldis Chapman to cut the Yankees’ lead to 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth. The Red Sox went on to win, 5-4, in 10 innings.
An off day on Monday was about the only thing that could slow down Martinez and the Red Sox, but on Tuesday night at the Rogers Centre, he was back at it again. With the Red Sox trailing the Blue Jays 3-2 in the top of the eighth, Martinez clubbed a 2-0 fastball down the line in left field. The ball cleared the fence and hit the netted foul pole in left field, flipping the game on its head and giving Boston a 5-3 lead. Martinez went 3-for-5 with a double and four RBIs in the game.
Of course, contributing right there with Martinez has been Mookie Betts. After working a walk against Ryan Tapera, Betts was on base for Martinez’s dinger. And when Betts came up again in the 10th, he sent a line drive past a diving Kevin Pillar in center field, and hustled all the way around to third base for his fourth triple of the year. He’d score the winning run on Mitch Moreland’s homer.
And, surely enough, Betts was instrumental in Sunday’s win over the Yankees. That night, Betts homered to break a scoreless tie in the fifth, walked and scored as part of the game-tying rally in the ninth, and was intentionally walked in the 10th prior to Andrew Benintendi’s walk-off single.
When a team owns a ridiculous 80-34 record — 7.5 games better than anybody else in baseball — then it is a given that MVP voters will look closely at the roster for a prime candidate for the award. While both Martinez and Betts fit the bill, Martinez said after Tuesday’s victory that such a debate is not on his mind.
“I don’t care about that,” Martinez said, per RedSox.com. “You guys know how I am and the way I answer all those questions. We’re worried about tomorrow — that’s it. We’re worried about tomorrow and the next day and what we need to do to win. Those are all kinds of stuff you think about when the season is over. Right now, we’re on a mission, and that’s to keep doing what we’re doing and win a World Series.”
Really, picking an MVP between Martinez and Betts is no easy task. Here’s how the numbers look through 114 games:
* = MLB leader
Betts would certainly appear to be the better all-around player, and his contributions on defense could be a difference maker in any debate. But it’s unclear how or if Martinez’s large edge in traditional power numbers might influence some voters.
Also in the conversation would be Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez (1.029 OPS with 33 home runs) and of course Mike Trout (MLB-best 1.083 OPS and 7.8 WAR), but if the Red Sox end up winning 110-plus games, it feels likely that voters will look first to Boston to name an AL MVP. In terms of recent powerhouse teams, Ichiro Suzuki earned MVP honors as part of the 116-win Mariners in 2001, but the 1998 AL MVP did not come from the 108-win Yankees. That year, Texas’ Juan Gonzalez earned the honors, followed by Boston’s Nomar Garciaparra. New York’s Derek Jeter finished a distant third in voting.
With nearly two full months left in the season, it’s far too early to try to forecast how the voting might go this year. But if Martinez and Betts keep producing at their current paces, and if the Red Sox keep on racking up victories, then it may well end up being a two-man race.
Just don’t expect Martinez to talk about it.