Twice as nice: Middlebrooks powers Red Sox
Top prospect goes deep twice to snap Boston's five-game skid
KANSAS CITY -- Kauffman Stadium, meet Will Middlebrooks.
The highly-touted prospect, who is occupying the hot corner for the Red Sox while Kevin Youkilis tries to heal his ailing back, enjoyed his first Major League road game, putting on a dazzling display of power that won't soon be forgotten.
A day after his grand slam wasn't quite enough in Boston's 17-inning loss, Middlebrooks came through with even more thunder, lifting the Red Sox to an 11-5 victory over the Royals.
Middlebrooks ripped two homers while adding in a double and five RBIs, helping his team erase not only a gut-wrenching defeat from a day earlier, but also a five-game losing streak.
In his first four games in the Major Leagues, Middlebrooks is hitting .381 with three doubles, three homers and nine RBIs.
"I'm happy with it," said Middlebrooks. "I wanted to come here and [help]. Individual results, I wasn't really looking at that initially. I wanted to come here and do whatever I could to help the team win games."
More impressive than the stat line were the angles Middlebrooks took.
His three-run homer in the first curled around the foul pole in right. His double to center scorched off the wall on a hop. And the second home run, a key two-run insurance blast in the eighth, clanged off the left-field foul pole.
"Yeah, I've never seen a guy hit both foul poles and then almost take the center-field fence down with a line drive," said manager Bobby Valentine. "Those were three impressive swings. He's been a very impressive player so far. We didn't even get to talk about the home run yesterday. That was one of the furthest ones we've seen at Fenway. Pretty impressive."
Even some of the most accomplished players in the clubhouse are impressed by their new teammate.
"He's a gangster," said designated hitter David Ortiz. "Pole to pole. He's got pop, man."
The burst of power from the kid was big, but so, too, was the effort of lefty starter Felix Doubront.
Doubront didn't give Boston a spectacular effort, but he gave Valentine the most important thing of all -- innings.
The Boston bullpen pitched 12 1/3 innings on Sunday, and it didn't have a whole lot in the tank for this one.
Doubront went 6 1/3 innings, giving up seven hits and five runs, four of which were earned. He walked three and struck out two.
"Felix was excellent," Valentine said. "Gave us exactly what we needed. You think about the first four hits they got, the bunt, the broken bat, the flyball to center. He was efficient. That's what we needed. He was terrific."
So why did Valentine came out to the mound in just the first inning after Doubront walked Billy Butler?
"Yeah, I think that [our] starting pitchers are maybe falling into a habit that I don't want to see -- complaining about the umpire," Valentine said. "I went out and tried to put a stop to it before it spread. A couple of pitches were close and he stood there and looked at the umpire. [Third] batter of the game. You know? That's not the way we're going to start this stuff."
Doubront didn't mind the reminder.
"I focused more and forgot about those calls and just pitched and did my job," Doubront said.
When Doubront was removed from the game, he had just forced in a run with a one-out bases-loaded walk in the seventh to make it a 7-5 game.
But Vicente Padilla came out of the bullpen and induced Butler into an inning-ending double play.
Not only that, but Padilla worked 2 2/3 innings to earn the save, giving the remainder of Boston's relievers a night of rest when they needed it the most.
"Yeah, Padilla's double play, my God, you know, he got a save and he deserved it. He deserved a number," Valentine said. "He deserves a statistic. He came in, gets a double play and then creates a situation where our bullpen can be almost normal tomorrow."
In the eighth, the Sox finally broke it open for good. Cody Ross smashed a two-run double to center and Middlebrooks opened it up further with that towering shot to left.
"He's awesome," Doubront said of Middlebrooks.
Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia also went deep for the Red Sox. Pedroia's two-run shot brought home Kelly Shoppach in the fourth. This, after Shoppach hit his first Major League triple following a drought of 1,525 plate appearances, the longest of any active player. Shoppach's fly ball to left glanced off the arm of the leaping Alex Gordon.
"It's a ball I should have caught," Gordon said. "I kind of lost it in the twilight again. It's been playing tricks with me. It just kind of hit my glove off of the wall and bounced. I should've made the play, but I didn't do it."
There was more good news for the Red Sox. First baseman Adrian Gonzalez added two hits, rebounding nicely from Sunday's 0-for-8 performance.
Though 12-16 isn't where the Red Sox want to be, the win was one to enjoy.
"I'm proud of these guys," Valentine said. "That's not an easy [thing]. Making that flight here after that game and having that effort, that's [impressive]. I know we're talking about small victories, but they could all be proud of what they did today. It's real easy not to do what they did, and they've done that all year. There's been a spark in this team all year. We kept hitting little bumps in the road. We'll see."