TORONTO — The Red Sox will throw open the gates of Fenway Park on Monday afternoon for the first game of the season. Yawkey Way has been scrubbed clean, the grass is perfectly green after a bitter New England winter, and the pristine white uniforms are hanging in the lockers.
Will Middlebrooks is guaranteed to hear perhaps the loudest cheers from the faithful after belting three home runs to lead the increasingly interesting Red Sox to a 13-0 thrashing of the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday.
At 4-2, the Sox returned to Boston after the game feeling even better than they did leaving spring training.
Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Napoli and Daniel Nava also homered for the Red Sox, who had 15 hits. Jon Lester threw seven impressive innings.
“It’s a good feeling to be going home because we’re playing well and it should only get better at Fenway,” Middlebrooks said. “That’s huge, having that momentum.”
The 24-year-old Middlebrooks had an historic day. He hit a solo home run off R.A. Dickey in the first inning, then doubled and scored in the third inning.
Middlebrooks led off the fifth inning with another home run off Dickey and started the seventh with a shot off Dave Bush.
Middlebrooks is the first player in the majors with three home runs in a game this season and the first Red Sox player to do it since Dustin Pedroia against the Rockies on June 24, 2010.
Middlebrooks also became one of six players to accumulate 14-plus total bases in a single game in Red Sox history. Fred Lynn (16), Pedroia (15), John Valentin (15), Carl Yastrzemski (14) and Norm Zauchin (14) are the others.
Hall of Famer Ted Williams hit three home runs in a game three times but never had more than 13 total bases.
“Yeah, but he did plenty of other things,” Middlebrooks said. “Let’s not go crazy.”
Middlebrooks had a chance to make history in the eighth inning when he came to the plate facing Bush again. Middlebrooks hit a curveball deep to left but it was caught on the warning track.
“I thought it had a chance, just the way the ball flies here,” Middlebrooks said. “I was blowing it running down the line but it didn’t have enough steam.”
Middlebrooks is 6 for his last 10 with four home runs, two doubles and five RBIs. Farrell, ever the manager, pointed out that the third baseman also made two nice plays in the field.
Middlebrooks faced Dickey in a spring training game on Feb. 25. It was only one at-bat but it gave him a sense of how Dickey threw his knuckleball.
But Middlebrooks also noted the advice of some veteran players that Dickey will try a fastball to get ahead in the count. The first home run came on a first-pitch fastball. The second home run was on a 3-and-2 fastball.
“I thought we had a very good approach against Dickey,” Farrell said. “We laid off some tough knuckleballs at the bottom of the zone.”