With Ellsbury, Middlebrooks, lineup nearly whole


With Ellsbury, Middlebrooks, lineup nearly whole

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Since the start of the second half, the Red Sox have allowed themselves to dream of a lineup featuring a full complement of players.
Until Carl Crawford makes his season debut Monday, that won't happen.
But the Sox got closer to the goal Sunday with the return of Will Middlebrooks -- who had missed the final seven games of the first half with a hamstring pull -- and Jacoby Ellsbury, who missed most of the first 10 weeks with a subluxed shoulder.
Ellsbury picked up where he left off Saturday night -- when he smashed a run-scoring single and doubled -- and collected three hits in Sunday's 7-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.
Back in his customary leadoff spot, Ellsbury doubled in the second, singled and scored in the sixth and singled in the eighth, giving the Sox the kind of leadoff presence they've been missing in his absence.
"Ells is one of the best players in the game,'' said Bobby Valentine. "It looks like his rhythm is pretty good right now. He's taking those pitches down, hitting pitches up. It looks like he's in mid-season form.''
Indeed, it is midseason, with Ellsbury having been sidelined since the home opener, when he suffered a subluxation of the right shoulder. After a lengthy DL stint and time on a minor league rehab assignment, he's back and contributing.
Middlebrooks, meanwhile, missed the final seven games of the first half with a hamstring strain, only to return Friday, when the second half commenced.
He had a two-run homer Saturday, a reminder of his potential to impact the lineup, and Sunday, collected three hits in his first three plate appearances.
With the Sox trailing in the second, Middlebrooks singled to lead off a two-run second. In the fourth, he doubled and was stranded at second. Finally, he singled to score Adrian Gonzalez and Cody Ross in the fifth, completing his return to the lineup in this series.
"I feel comfortable,'' said Middlebrooks. "The last couple of days, I put together some good at-bats and started to get back in the groove. The first game back was tough then Saturday I had some good at-bats. I felt better Saturday.''
Having missed the final two series of the first half, Middlebrooks felt somewhat helpless after the Sox went 1-6 in the final seven games before the break.
Coming back and having an impact has been satisfying.
"Absolutely,'' he said. "We need to get some momentum going in the second half and I want to be able to get a couple of hits.''
Middlebrooks saw opposing teams start to throw more off-speed pitches against him and he was ready for them this weekend.
"I just had to make some adjustments,'' said Middlebrooks. "I'm sticking with my approach the entire at-bat and not just a few pitches.''

Monday's Red Sox-Rays lineups: Sox hope to extend Tampa Bay's misery


Monday's Red Sox-Rays lineups: Sox hope to extend Tampa Bay's misery

The Red Sox may be stumbling through the month of June, but they're flying high compared to their opponent tonight.

The Sox are in St. Petersburg, Fla., to take on the free-falling Rays, losers of 11 straight. They'll be sending Eduardo Rodriguez to the mound in hopes of continuing Tampa Bay's misery, at least for the next three games.

The lineups:

Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Bryce Brentz LF
Sandy Leon C
Marco Hernandez 3B
Eduardo Rodriguez P

Logan Forsythe 2B
Tim Beckham SS
Evan Longoria 3B
Logan Morrison 1B
Desmond Jennings CF
Oswaldo Arcia RF
Taylor Motter LF
Nick Franklin DH
Curt Casali C
Blake Snell P

Red Sox recall infielder Mike Miller, ship Cuevas back to PawSox


Red Sox recall infielder Mike Miller, ship Cuevas back to PawSox

The Red Sox made another pitcher-for-infielder roster swap today, sending William Cuevas back to Pawtucket and bringing up Mike Miller as his replacement.

The Sox had summoned Cuevas from the PawSox over the weekend when they ran through their bullpen in Friday night's come-from-behind victory over Texas and he pitched twice against the Rangers, holding them to two hits over 2 2/3 scoreless innings on Saturday and Sunday. Deven Marrero had been shipped out when Cuevas arrived, leaving the Sox with only one backup infielder (Marco Hernandez).

Now they have two again, with Miller making his first trip to the major leagues. He's been primarily a second baseman for Pawtucket, though he's also seen action at short and third. Miller -- the team's ninth-round selection in the 2012 draft -- had a combined .251 average in 46 games for the PawSox and six games for Double-A Portland.

However, his stay with the Red Sox will likely be as short as Cuevas'. Brock Holt may soon be ready for reactivation, after having missed more than a month because of a concussion, and he could take Miller's roster spot when he returns.

Bogaerts taking aim at Red Sox and MLB hits records


Bogaerts taking aim at Red Sox and MLB hits records

A change of scenery is a must for the Red Sox after the rough series in Texas, where they were lucky to walk away with one win.

The pitching staff's struggles were the most apparent, but Xander Bogaerts had arguably his worst series of the season -- 2-for-12 at the plate and two errors in the field.

Although Bogaerts now finds himself three points behind José Altuve (.347) for the American League batting lead, he still leads the major leagues with 108 hits. He has more hits than Daniel Murphy, who’s at .349 in the National League.

And despite his weekend struggles, the Boston shortstop is in position to make a run at history  -- the single-season hits record.

Bogaerts is already in a comfortable spot to break Wade Boggs’ Red Sox record of 240 hits, set in 1985. Through 74 games, Bogaerts has 10 more hits than the Hall-of-Famer had at that point in the season.

He's also ahead of the pace set in 2004 by Ichiro Suzuki, who established the MLB record for most hits in a season with 262 that year. Bogarts has five more hits than Ichiro had through 74 games.

There's no guarantee he'll reach 262, or anything close. Ichiro had a strong finishing kick in '04, batting .418 with 159 hits after his 74th game. In fact, in his final 74 games, he hit .433 with 141 hits. He's left challengers in the dust before: Altuve was equal to Ichiro's pace in 2014 -- both had 105 hits in their first 76 games -- but wound up with "only" 225 hits.

So, admittedly, Bogaerts is facing an uphill battle.

He does have a one advantage over Ichiro, though. In 2004, Suzuki -- still playing for the Mariners -- usually had Randy Winn hitting behind him. Although Winn was a respectable player, he doesn’t command the respect of the hitter who's usually behind Bogaerts: David Ortiz.

Opposing pitchers still don’t plan to attack Bogaerts, but it’d only be worse if pretty much anyone other than Ortiz was coming up next.

And there’s one last set of statistics to consider:

Suzuki finished 2004 with 80 games in which he had at least two hits. That’s 49.7 percent of the games he played in.

Bogaerts has done that 33 times -- 44.6 percent of his games. So he needs to string together some big games if he intends to make an improbable run at the 12-year-old record.

Improbable, yes.

But definitely not impossible.