HOUSTON - In the ALCS matchup of the two best teams in baseball, the Astros and the Red Sox, there are plenty of ties that bind them together.
Much of the media focus is on Red Sox first-year manager Alex Cora, who joined Boston after spending last season winning a World Series ring as the Astros bench coach.
Red Sox MVP candidate J.D. Martinez is also in his first year with Boston, and his route also came via Houston, but not directly and not nearly as smoothly.
Martinez just put up his second consecutive 40-home run, 100 RBI season with an .OPS well over 1.000 each season. He averaged a homer every 11.38 at-bats those two seasons.
Five years ago, his last in an Astros uniform, he hit seven homers, for a career-low one homer every 42.3 at-bats and produced a career-worst .650 .OPS.
During the 2014 spring training with the Astros, Martinez hit .280, but was released. This came after spending parts of three seasons with the Astros, with limited success. That had followed an extremely successful run as a minor league hitter in the Astros system.
The Astros ultimately decided it was time to move on from Martinez.
"I think my failures in Houston is what made me who I am," Martinez said Friday, the day before the ALCS begins against his former team.
"I think it's given me that drive, that drive to keep working, because you never know what can happen type deal.
I think I learned how to fail, if that's something," Martinez added. "I think I went through all my failure there and I kind of learned and I grew."
He grew into one of baseball's most productive hitters. His 130 RBI this season were the most in baseball. He finished second in batting average (.330), bested only by teammate Mookie Betts and was third in the league in runs scored.
'(After I left Houston), I knew kind of what worked, what didn't work. And then I just -- after that it was I thank God, gave me another opportunity and put me in a good situation with Detroit," Martinez said.
"And that's kind of where I continued to grow until where I am today, really."
The Tigers had signed Martinez two days after Houston released him prior to the 2014 season.
He started that season with Detroit's Triple AAA team in Toledo, but after hitting 10 homers in 17 games, the Tigers purchased his contract and that was the end of his days in the minors.
He was an all-star for the first time in 2015, then made it again this season for the second time.
As far as his feelings about his time in Houston, Martinez said, "I learned a lot from Houston. And you know what, it made me who I am and there's really no animosity there.
"In a sense they did me a favor by allowing me to leave and going to play on another team," Martinez said. And if it wasn't for that I probably wouldn't be here right now. Who knows where I would have been?
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