Red Sox blank Blue Jays, Middlebrooks Homers Three Times in Win
After being shut out by the Blue Jays on Saturday, the Red Sox bats came back with a vengeance. Boston scored 13 runs to Toronto’s zero. The game was in the bag after the first inning, when the Red Sox scored five runs. Boston is also back to first place in the AL East with a 4-2 record, if anyone is counting. Here’s the recap:
Will Middlebrooks hit three homers in the game. The last person to do so in a Red Sox uniform was Dustin Pedroia in June 24, 2010, when they faced the Colorado Rockies. Middlebrooks had four hits in five attempts, and drove in four RBIs. This is statistically the best game of Middlebrooks’ career. Middlebrooks is a bright light that’s shining brighter as the season rolls along.
In the first two games against the Yankees, Middlebrooks was hitless. And with the exception of Toronto’s shutout on Saturday where no Red Sox player really made an impact, his stats are trending upward. Sure it’s only been six games, but we’re talking about a player who’s getting paid just $498,000 for the 2013 season. That’s chump and change for the kind of productivity that Middlebrooks is providing. Though it is unlikely that Middlebrooks can maintain such dominance, more consistency would help the Red Sox in the long run. They could use more depth in the offense when injuries inevitably pay a visit to every major league baseball team at one point in the grueling season. The best part is that he is only 24 years old.
Mike Napoli is another unsung hero of the game. He had a bad game on Saturday after finally performing at a high level to start off the season. The first baseman is producing with his bat, and has been consistent numbers-wise. Napoli scored three important RBIs against the Blue Jays on Friday, and then piled on four more RBIs on Sunday. Napoli just needs to stay healthy and consistent. Thus far he was actually less productive compared to his career numbers, .257 AVG, .355 OBP, to this season’s .179 AVG, .179 OBP.
Jacoby Ellsbury remains the lone Red Sox player with any consistency six games into the season. Sox brass is right to put him at the top of their lineup. Talk about execution. Ellsbury doubled at his first plate appearance of the game. He also drove in two RBIs, and stole one base. Then at the start of the eighth inning, Ellsbury walked up to the plate and homered. Ellsbury has been stealing 1.33 bases per game in this series with Toronto. Against the Yankees he had zero stolen bases per game. Manager John Farrell is utilizing Ellsbury’s legs early in the season. If Ellsbury doesn’t run into a teammate or gets hurt stealing bases, the Red Sox will be in contention for a title this season. This is of course a little too early to make predictions, but Ellsbury can be a game changer with more experience under his belt.
The Red Sox played a near flawless game as a whole. While Toronto bats have been devastating against Red Sox pitching, scoring 4 and 5 runs in their first two games of the series respectively, they were asleep in the finale. Toronto pitching was phenomenal Saturday, but Sunday is a new day, a new game, and an unhappy ending for the Blue Jays.
R.A. Dickey, the National League Cy Young winner didn’t last more than five innings. Dickey allowed the Red Sox to erupt for five runs in the first inning, all before recording his first out. This is surprising considering that Dickey allowed five runs in total against him in all the first innings he’s pitched in his 33 starts in 2012, according to Fox Sports. There isn’t much to read into this situation, because Dickey is an extremely good pitcher. He won that Cy Young for a reason. Either the Red Sox are this good, or that he was just having a bad day. Statistically, the latter is more likely.
Dave Bush came in to replace Dickey, but didn’t make it to the end of the game either. Bush was yanked at the top of the eighth, after homers from Ellsbury and Napoli. At the top of the seventh, Bush allowed homers to Middlebrooks and Daniel Nava. Bush has a staggering 15.00 ERA so far in the 2013 season, all against the Red Sox. His career numbers are capped at 4.70 ERA. This is one of those fluky games for Toronto pitchers.
Starting Pitching Rewind:
Jon Lester dominated Toronto’s lineup on Sunday. Lester wouldn’t let anyone score on him through seven innings. Though he did give up five runs, all singles, Toronto couldn’t capitalize. The Yankees did a better job by scoring two runs off of five hits on Lester in the previous series. Lester has pitched well so far, needing just 100 pitches to complete seven innings of work against the Blue Jays. His ERA in two games this season is a meager 1.50 compared to his career’s 3.76 ERA. Statistically, Lester will give up more runs in the next several starts, but he’s been winning the pitching matchups.
ESPN pointed out that Lester’s strikeout rate has declined over the years. In 2009 he averaged 10 strikeouts per game. In 2012, that mark has tumbled down to 7.3 strikeouts per game. With the return of former pitching coach John Farrell as manager, look for him to rebound this season into a more dominant pitcher. The best news of all is that Lester tends to keep himself in good shape. Right now he’s enjoying his 2-0 record, and a lot of momentum to start off the first couple of games in the season.
The stats people in Red Sox uniform were probably hoping Middlebrooks would get his fourth homer of the game. No one else in Red Sox history has had more than three homers in one game. Middlebrooks’ homers never relented until late in the game, when he almost had that fourth one by a couple of feet.
Will Middlebrooks must have been as stunned as the rest of us when a fan tries an unconventional method to congratulate him. At the bottom of the ninth, a fan jumped out of the stands to run to Middlebrooks at third base, supposedly trying to give him a hug. He never made it. Security dragged the man off the field.
“He said he was happy to meet me and then he got tackled,” Middlebrooks said. “He started to say something else and then he got drilled. That was a good tackle. He got pretty close. I didn’t know if he was going to make it. I was trying to time it out of the corner of my eye. I was like ‘Am I going to have to shake this guy’s hand?'”