Middlebrooks' bunt key part of Sox's rally
MINNEAPOLIS -- One night after he delivered arguably the biggest hit of the season for the Red Sox, Will Middlebrooks keyed another Boston victory on Friday by doing something he'd only done once as a professional.
With Boston's game vs. Minnesota tied in the 10th inning, the first two batters reached base, putting Middlebrooks in an unfamiliar spot. He's used to driving in runs -- like the three he drove in on Thursday when the Sox were down to their last strike and he doubled off Rays closer Fernando Rodney.
On Friday, however, Middlebrooks was asked to bunt, and he dropped down a beauty that put the Red Sox in position for Jonny Gomes' go-ahead sacrifice fly in an eventual 3-2 win.
You have to go back five years, when a 19-year-old Middlebrooks was playing for Lowell in the Class A New York-Penn League, to find the only time Middlebrooks had laid down a sacrifice bunt. That's one bunt in 2,152 professional plate appearances.
On Friday, Middlebrooks handled the task with ease, dropping a 1-0 pitch from Josh Roenicke softly down the first-base line. Roenicke's only play was to first base, both runners advanced, and after an intentional walk to Stephen Drew filled the bases, Dustin Pedroia scampered home on Gomes' fly ball to left-center field and the Sox had their third consecutive win.
"The situation called for it," manager John Farrell said. "When you get the first two guys on with a base hit and a walk and you're sitting there with a first-and-second, nobody-out situation, even though you've got a middle-of-the-order type of guy, we had to do what we could to move the runners up 90 feet."
Even though he's not accustomed to bunting, Middlebrooks was already thinking about dropping one down no matter what Farrell wanted.
"Honestly, in my own mind, if they hadn't given me the bunt [sign] there on the second pitch, I might have just done it, just to get the guys over," Middlebrooks said. "It was a perfect situation for it. I haven't really been bunting, so they don't know if I'm a good bunter or not. It's not something that's come up. So I can understand why they wouldn't have given it to me, and have me foul off a couple of bunts and waste an at-bat. I'm glad they had the confidence in me."
Middlebrooks finished the night 0-for-4, but with three multihit games in the last week, he's got his average back up over .200 and hopes it's the start of a big turnaround.
"It's getting better," Middlebrooks said. "It's been a tough month, but I'm getting consistent with my approach at the plate and getting some pitches to hit, so we'll see where we go from here."