Middlebrooks credits hot start to approach at plate

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Middlebrooks credits hot start to approach at plate

KANSAS CITY -- While heralded rookies such as Bryce Harper and Mike Trout may be getting more publicity, Will Middlebrooks is doing just as much -- or more -- damage.

Middlebrooks belted two homers, added a double and collected five RBI in the Red Sox' 11-5 win over the Kansas City Royals.

In the last two days, Middlebrooks has three homers and nine RBI. He's hit safely in each of the first four games he's played in the majors and has at least one extra-base hit in all four, something only three other players have accomplished since 1918.

"Those were three impressive swings," said manager Bobby Valentine, noting that one homer was to left, another to right and the double was to straightaway center. "He's been an impressive player so far."

"I'm really comfortable up there," said Middlebrooks in what surely was a grand bit of understatement. "I'm just trying to carry over what I started in Pawtucket this year."

And indeed, Middlebrooks is bashing major league pitching in much the same way he hit Triple-A pitching in April. Monday night was a textbook example of a young hitter using the entire field.

"It's kind of come with developing my approach," said Middlebrooks, "and sticking with it. With certain guys, I'll look away, or if I know a guy is going to come in with a certain pitch, I'll look for that and if I get it, I try not to miss it."

Middlebrooks hasn't missed much. He's 8-for-21 (.381) with six extra-base hits and nine RBI in his first four games since the Red Sox placed veteran third baseman Kevin Youkilis on the disabled list with a lower back injury.

"I'm happy (with the start)," said Middlebrooks. "I wanted to come here and (not worry about) individual results; I wanted to do what I can to help the team win games."

The three-run homer in the first went a long way in giving the Red Sox a boost after a demoralizing, 17-inning defeat on Sunday.

Kansas City starter Jonathan Sanchez tried to go away on Middlebrooks with his first pitch in the first, but the rookie pounced and drove it out to right.

"I felt like he was going to go away," said Middlebrooks. "I watched a lot of video on him and I felt like that's how he approached guys."

Watching Middlebrooks have this sort of immediate success, it's almost hard to believe that he was in the minors a week ago.

"It's been a quick change," he said. "But I love it, for sure. This is where we all want to be, ultimately. It's been a lot of fun and (my teammates) have really made me feel comfortable."

Former Red Sox prospect Andy Marte killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

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Former Red Sox prospect Andy Marte killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

Former major leaguer Andy Marte, a one-time top prospect in the Red Sox organization, was killed in a car crash in the Dominican Republic on Sunday. He was 33.

Marte was killed the same day that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura died in a separate car crash in the Dominican. Ventura was 25. Coincidentally, Ventura was the Royals starting pitcher in Marte's final major league game, for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 6, 2014.

Marte, drafted by the Braves in 2000, was ranked the No. 9 prospect in baseball in 2005 when the third baseman was traded to the Red Sox as part of the deal that sent shortstop Edgar Renteria to Atlanta and Marte became the top-ranked prospect in the Red Sox organization.  

Marte was traded by the Red Sox to the Indians in 2006 in the deal that sent Coco Crisp to Boston and spent five seasons with Cleveland. His best season was 2009 (.232, six home runs, 25 RBI in 47 games). After a six-game stint with Arizona in 2014, he played in South Korea the past two years.  

Metropolitan traffic authorities in the Dominican told the Associated Press that Marte died when a car he was driving his a house along the highway between San Francisco de Macoris and Pimentel, about 95 miles (150 kilometers) north of the capital.
 

Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

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Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car crash in in the Dominican Republic on Sunday morning, according to multiple reports. Ventura was 25 years old.

Highway patrol spokesman Jacobo Mateo told the Associated Press that Ventura died on a highway leading to the town of Juan Adrian, about 40 miles (70 kilometers) northwest of Santo Domingo. He says it's not clear if Ventura was driving.

Ventura was killed the same day former major leaguer Andy Marte died in a separate car crash in the Dominican. Coincidentally, Ventura was the starting pitcher in Marte's final MLB game, for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 6, 2014. 

Ventura was 13-8 with a 4.08 ERA for the Royals' 2015 World Series champions and 11-12 with a 4.45 ERA in 32 starts in 2016. The right-hander made his major league debut in 2013 and in 2014 went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA for Kansas City's A.L. pennant winners. 

Ironically, Ventura paid tribute to his good friend and fellow Dominican, Oscar Tavares, who was also killed in a car crash in the D.R. in October 2014, by wearing Tavares' initials and R.I.P. on his cap before Ventura's start in Game 6 of the World Series in 2014. 

Ventura is the second current major league player to die in the past five months. Former Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident in Miami on Sept. 25.