With Ellsbury, Middlebrooks, lineup nearly whole

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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.''

Quotes, notes and stars: Pedroia was focused on winning, not streak

Quotes, notes and stars: Pedroia was focused on winning, not streak

BOSTON -- Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 8-3 win over the Royals:

QUOTES

“I hadn’t really thought about it. Trying to win games. It’s late in the year . . . I don’t really have time to sit back and pat myself on the back for anything. We’re trying to win as a team.” - Dustin Pedroia on the importance of the 11-for-11 stretch in his career.

“It’s fun. It’s why you go to work in December, January, February. It’s all the work you put in up to this point. It feels good to go out there and get the results you expect to get, especially against a team like [the Royals] who is hot as they are right now.” - David Price on pitching meaningful games with a playoff-like atmosphere.

“Yeah, yeah we [knew about the streak] . . .  It was an awesome roll and it was fun to see . . . Every time I went up to hit, I let Salvador Perez know.” - Xander Bogaerts on Dustin Pedroia’s 11-for-11 streak.

“I think we’ve been able to handle velocity very well. We’ve got good bat-speed in out lineup, and we’re able to handle that.” - John Farrell on the offense thriving against good pitching.

 

NOTES

* David Ortiz played in his 1,000th game at Fenway Park, becoming the fifth player to do so.

* Ortiz also became the first player ever to play 2,000 games as the designated hitter.

* Mookie Betts scored his 100th run of the season off his 29th home run of the year, joining Fred Lynn, Johnny Pesky and Ted Williams as the only players to reach 100 runs before turning 24.

* The Red Sox hit back-to-back home runs for the fourth time this season with Betts and Hanley Ramirez going yard in the fifth.

* With his 2-for-4 day at the plate, Jackie Bradley Jr. improved to 34-for-94 (.362) batting ninth.

 

STARS

1) Dustin Pedroia

Pedroia finished 4-for-5, extending his streak to 11 hits in 11 at-bats, finishing one shy of tying the MLB record.

2) David Price

Price logged his fourth straight quality start with his six-inning, two-run start. He also dropped his ERA below 4.00 for the first time since his Opening Day start with Boston.

3) Salvador Perez

Perez finished 2-for-3 with two home runs. Saturday marked only the second multi-home run game of his career.

First impressions: Price, Pedroia lead Red Sox to 8-3 win over Royals

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First impressions: Price, Pedroia lead Red Sox to 8-3 win over Royals

BOSTON -- First impressions from the Red Sox 8-3 win over the Kansas City Royals:

 

David Price has found a groove.

Price finally brought his ERA below 4.00.

He’d been about that mark since his second start of the season. Twenty-six starts later, he finally reached the mark.

Saturday’s start marked Price’s fourth-straight quality start. Price will soon eclipse the 200-strikeout, reaching 186 K’s with his seven-strikeout performance.

Although the lefty hasn’t been at his best throughout much of the year, he’s caught fire of late.

Possibly at the most important part of the season, too.

 

Dustin Pedroia just missed making history, can’t buy an out.

Boston’s second baseman entered Saturday with seven hits in his last seven at-bats. He stretched that streak to 11-for-11 with a 4-for-4 game.

He had the chance to go 12-for-12 in the eighth, but weakly grounded into a 4-6-3 double play.

He’s also the first Red Sox player with three straight four-hit games at Fenway Park since 1913.

Boston’s second baseman continues to prove that his struggles in recent years were directly related to injuries, not diminishing performance.

 

The offense passed a big test.

It might’ve appeared that Danny Duffy was a middle-of-the-road pitcher with the way Red Sox hitters tattooed him in Saturday’s win.

But the right only had one loss in 19 starts, with a 2.66 ERA (2.61 as a starter).

Between the long balls and Dustin Pedroia’s incessant ways of late, they ballooned his ERA to 3.01.

A respectable number, still, but a jump of nearly a half of a run.

 

Sandy Leon’s in a minor cold spell.

Possibly the greatest story of Boston’s 2016 offense, Leon hasn’t had too many struggles along the way.

But after finishing 0-for-4 Saturday night, he’s only 2-for-21 (.095) in his last five games.

Saturday also marked only the third time all season where he was held hitless in back-to-back games.

These things happen to everyone, but it was starting to look like Leon didn’t fall under the category of “everyone.”