MINNEAPOLIS — On Thursday night, Will Middlebrooks doubled in three runs to help the Red Sox beat the Tampa Bay Bays.
On Friday night, about 24 hours later, he came to the plate with runners on first and second against the Minnesota Twins and no outs. This time Middlebrooks was asked to bunt.
How unusual is that? Middlebrooks had bunted once in his professional career and that was in 2008, his first year with the Sox when he played for Rookie League Lowell.
Middlebrooks does not remember that bunt. He thought his last sacrifice came when he was in high school. But he assured third base coach Brian Butterfield that he could do it.
“It’s the ideal situation to bunt,” Middlebrooks said. “My number was called and I was just trying to get the job done.”
Middlebrooks took a pitch and then tapped the ball down the first base line. The Twins had one play and it was to first. Minnesota then intentionally walked Stephen Drew to load the bases for Jonny Gomes and he delivered a sacrifice fly.
That was enough for a 3-2 victory.
Middlebrooks enjoyed the idea of helping his team in two such disparate ways on successive nights.
“I love them both. We won,” he said.
A few other notes, quotes and observations from this game:
• Clay Buchholz, Andrew Miller, Alex Wilson and Koji Uehara retired the final 17 Twins in order, eight by strikeout. Wilson, a rookie, got his first career win by retiring the final batter of the ninth inning.
“Funny how it comes that way,” he said. “I threw two pitches.”
Wilson had the ball after the game. “I’ll be keeping this one,” he said.
Said John Farrell: “Every guy who came to the mound tonight really pitched well.”
• Dustin Pedroia had a weird night. He was 0 for 4 his first four times up, leaving six men on base. He ended three innings and twice grounded into double plays. It was only the second time in his career that he grounded into two double plays. The last time was April 12, 2009 against the Angels.
But Pedroia singled to start the 10th inning and eventually scored the winning run. He also had a terrific night at second base, making several diving stops including a backhanded gem in the seventh inning to take a hit away from Pedro Florimon.
“Pretty sick,” he said.
• Under Ron Gardenhire, the Twins have been a fundamentally sound team. But they really botched up the sacrifice fly. Rookie center fielder Aaron Hicks was lined up to make the play and he might have had a chance to throw Pedroia out. But left fielder Oswaldo Arcia came over and tried to make the catch for a second before backing off. His presence caused Hicks to double-pump his throw.
• Buchholz allowed two runs over seven innings. He’s how good he has been: that raised his ERA from 1.69 to 1.78 after nine starts. He has struck out 69 in 65.2 innings.
• Red Sox pitchers fanned 14. They have had 23 games with at least 10 strikeouts this season. They had 35 all last year.
• Jacoby Ellsbury was 6 of 49 with one RBI over 12 games before that RBI single in the seventh inning.
• Gomes said the Red Sox don’t want to be the “heart-attack kids” and win games like they have the last two nights all the time.
“But it’s a good character check for us,” he said. “It’s huge. It says a lot about the different ways we can win.”
Drew knew it would come down to him once Middlebrooks got that bunt down.
“I wanted to stay off the ground as much as possible. Get a pitch to elevate and it happened,” he said. “Something you can drive. That situation right there, worst-case scenario is a groundball. Every once in a while it’s good to have a little uppercut.”
Fun game to watch. Thanks for reading and we’ll catch you tomorrow.