Middlebrooks, Sox crown hapless KC
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The first home run Red Sox rookie Will Middlebrooks hit Monday night was down the line in right field at Kauffman Stadium, the ball sailing just inside the foul pole.
His double in the seventh inning was to center field and hit hard enough to reach the fence.
Then in the eighth inning Middlebrooks pulled a ball down the line in left field that was still rising when it clanged off the foul pole.
Three swings, three extra-base hits and five RBIs. A day after their longest game in six years, the Red Sox needed some energy and the 23-year-old Middlebrooks provided it in an 11-5 victory against the Royals.
Dustin Pedroia, who was 2 for 3 with a home run, a double, and three walks, talked to hitting coach Dave Magadan during the game and both agreed they never had seen anybody use the whole field with power like that before.
“He swung the bat great,’’ Pedroia said. “Those are professional at-bats and at that age, it’s huge for our team. Very impressive.’’
Middlebrooks has at least one extra-base hit in four straight games to start his career, one of four players to accomplish that since 1918. Oakland’s Yoenis Cespedes did it earlier this season. Enos Slaughter (1938) and Coco Laboy (1969) are the others.
Middlebrooks is 8 for 21 (.381) with three doubles, three home runs, and nine RBIs since being called up last Wednesday when Kevin Youkilis went on the disabled list.
Youkilis was hitting .219 with four extra-base hits and nine RBIs in 64 at-bats before he went out with a back injury. If Middlebrooks keeps this up, Youkilis will get all the time he needs - and maybe some he doesn’t want - before coming back.
“Just trying to carry over what I started in Pawtucket earlier this year,’’ said Middlebrooks, who hit .333 with nine homers and 27 RBIs in 24 games at Triple A before his promotion. “I’m happy with it. Individual results, I wasn’t really looking for that initially. I wanted to come here and do whatever I could to help the team win games.’’
The Red Sox, who snapped a five-game losing streak, won on the road for the seventh time in their last eight games.
Led by Middlebrooks, Pedroia, and David Ortiz (3 for 4 with a home run and two walks), the Sox had 16 hits off five Kansas City pitchers, eight for extra bases.
Of equal importance was the work of another young player, 24-year-old Felix Doubront. A day after the Red Sox played 17 innings and worked over their bullpen, he worked into the seventh inning to improve to 2-1.
It wasn’t the cleanest game as Doubront allowed five runs (four earned) on seven hits and three walks. But his 111 pitches were a career high and desperately needed.
“Felix was excellent, gave us exactly what we needed,’’ Valentine said.
The Red Sox knocked Royals starter Jonathan Sanchez out of the game in the fourth inning. He was charged with six runs on six hits.
Four of those runs came in the first inning. Pedroia walked, took second on a single by Ortiz, and scored on a broken-bat single to left field by Adrian Gonzalez, who was dropped to fifth in the lineup for the first time this season and went 2 for 5.
Middlebrooks jumped on the next pitch, a high fastball on the outside corner.
“I felt like he was going to go away. I watched a lot of video on him and that’s how he approaches guys,’’ Middlebrooks said.
Ortiz homered to right-center to start the third. It was his seventh of the season and gave him 385 for his career. That tied him with Dwight Evans for 56th place all-time. It was the fourth home run Ortiz has hit against a lefthander this season.
The Sox built their lead to 7-4 in the fourth.
Kelly Shoppach led off with a triple to left field, the ball chasing Alex Gordon back to the fence but eluding the Gold Glover. It was the first career triple for Shoppach, who earlier this season stole his first career base. His speed is developing at the age of 32, apparently.
“Best shape of my life,’’ he said. “It shouldn’t be mathematically possible for me to run that far.’’
That was it for Sanchez. Nate Adcock got Mike Aviles to ground to shortstop with the infield in, but he allowed a home run to right center by Pedroia. It was the fourth of the season for Pedroia. The ball was caught by one of Ryan Sweeney’s cousins.
Doubront took the 7-4 lead into the seventh. He had retired 12 of the previous 13 batters.
The Royals loaded the bases with one out before Gordon drew a walk to force in a run, winning a seven-pitch battle.
Vicente Padilla came out of the bullpen and got Billy Butler to ground into a double play to end the inning.
Padilla has stranded all nine runners he has inherited this season. He then worked the final two innings for his first save.
“He got a save and he deserved it,’’ Valentine said. “He deserved a statistic. Came in, gets a double play and then creates a situation where our bullpen can be almost normal tomorrow.’’
Valentine credited his players for their effort given the despair they felt on Sunday.
“Shoot, we’re going to play hard,’’ Pedroia said. “We play hard every game. We have a great group of guys. We’ve lost some tough games early. But there’s a long way to go. We still feel we have a good team and can accomplish our goals.’’