The Red Sox recalled Will Middlebrooks from Pawtucket yesterday, a move that reaped immediate rewards when he keyed Boston's 5-3 victory over the red-hot Royals.
Middlebrooks, who had not faced major league pitching in seven weeks, didn't skip a beat in his return. Starting at third base and batting ninth, he went 2-for-4 with two runs soored and two more driven in. After flying out in his first at-bat, he was at the center of the Red Sox's four-run fourth inning. With two men in scoring position and Boston looking to build upon its 1-0 advantage, Middlebrooks slashed a single to right that plated Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Stephen Drew. He didn't spend much time on first though, coming around to score when Jacoby Ellsbury doubled into the right-centerfield gap.
By the time he came up again in the top of the sixth, Boston's lead had been trimmed to 4-3. Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie was still in the game, needing only to retire Middlebrooks to get through the frame. He would have no such luck. Though Middlebrooks didn't hit the ball hard this time, it was well-placed, and so he reached base via an infield single. He then motored home on another RBI double from Ellsbury, who was thrown out trying to take third on the play.
The bullpen took it from there and held on for the win, Boston's 71st of the season (most in the American League). Other notes from last night's game:
- Ellsbury had a big night, cracking four hits and swiping his ML-leading 42nd stolen base. (with an outstanding 91.3 % success rate) of the sesason. He started slow out of the gate but has been hitting like an MVP all summer. Since May 26th he's batted .353/.405/.527 with 28 steals.
- Speaking of hot hitters, Drew extended his hitting streak to 11 games with an RBI double. Drew's been terrible for much of the season but has come on strong as of late, batting .415/.510/.610 with nine RBI over the course of his streak. Perhaps he's turned the corner and can help his team win the division, as he did for Oakland last year.
- Another rough night for Mike Napoli, who went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. With just eight hits (and 24 strikeouts) in his past 15 games, the streaky slugger is mired in a horrendous slump.
- Great work by Boston's bullpen, which came up big with five shutouts innings after Felix Doubront departed without recording an out in the fifth. Credit rookie Brandon Workman for stopping the bleeding to earn the win in his first high-leverage relief appearance. Still, it'd be nice if John Lackey could pitch deep into today's game and give the relievers some rest.
- Koji Uehara pitched a scoreless ninth to earn the save. He has not allowed an earned run since June 30th.
- Two more doubles for Billy Butler, who's amassed 196 two-baggers since the start of the 2009 season. Only Robinson Cano (with 204) has more.
- With two hits last night, Eric Hosmer now has seven multi-hit performances in his last eight games. He's batting .299 on the year and is poised to push his average north of .300 for the first time in four months.