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."

Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox make 'outstanding comeback' vs. Rangers

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Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox make 'outstanding comeback' vs. Rangers

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Rangers:

QUOTES

* “(Matt) Bush has tremendous arm, but what we’ve seen . . . I don’t know that there’s anyone that throws a hard enough to get it by Mookie [Betts]. Just lightening bat speed . . . The dugout erupted when he caught it.” - Farrell said on Betts’ ninth inning homerun.

* “It was an outstanding comeback. Just a tremendous character win tonight by our guys. The work that our bullpen did tonight was just outstanding. ” - John Farrell said following the comeback win over Texas.

* “Koji comes back after a couple of rough outings and was vintage Koji here tonight.” - Farrell said on Uehara striking out the side in the ninth to earn the save

* “The homerun. Without that homerun, you don’t get to that wild pitch.” - Jackie Bradley said on what the Red Sox dugout was more excited about in the ninth.

* “Winning, to me that’s everything. I definitely want to go out there and throw the baseball better. I want to win myself. But at the end of the day I want the Red Sox to win.” - David Price said following the Red Sox win, despite his inability to keep the game close throughout the duration of his start.

NOTES

* David Ortiz extended his hitting streak to 10 games with his fourth inning single. He’s now 12 for his last 36 during his 10-game hitting streak.

* Sandy Leon’s ninth inning double was his 12th hit of the year. He’s now 12-for-22 (.545) to start his 2016 campaign. Four of his hits are doubles and he also has four RBI. 

* David Price’s 2.1-inning start is his shortest with Boston yet. The lefty gave up a season-worst 12 hits -- the most hits he’s given up since May 8th last season in a 6.1 inning start.

* Hanley Ramirez’s two-run homerun marks his third in the last ten games.

* The Red Sox improve to 22-3 when Jackie Bradley Jr. hits a homerun following his 13th homerun of the season.

STARS

1) Mookie Betts

Betts had over three hours between his two base hits, but his second proved the most important. He launched a 2-0 fastball into left center, tying the game in the ninth.

2) Jackie Bradley Jr.

Bradley laced a homerun into the right field second deck to put Boston in striking distance at 7-4. In addition to knocking in two runs, he scored in the ninth after he walked, starting the ninth inning comeback. 

3) Koji Uehara

Despite struggling of late, Uehara was called on to close and struck out the side to seal the win. He was the final piece of the 6.2 innings of relief from the bullpen that came in one of Boston’s biggest wins of the year.

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter: @ngfriar

First impressions of the Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Rangers

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First impressions of the Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Rangers

First impressions of the Boston Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Texas Rangers:

Boston’s offense is always in striking distance.

The Red Sox had an uphill battle from the get-go thanks to David Price’s tough outing.

But somehow they took advantage of Texas’ equally bad pitching—that just happened to be more spread out than Boston’s bad pitching.

If Jackie Bradley Jr. doesn’t earn a walk, or Sandy Leon doesn’t fight tooth and nail for a two-out double in the ninth, that Mookie Betts homerun can’t happen.

The Red Sox need another long outing from Steven Wright.

Obviously they’d prefer a strong performance -- but the knuckler may need to bite the bullet if he’s off Saturday night.

Boston’s bullpen has been used and abused of late, and needs some rest following the Chicago series and a 2.1 inning outing from Price.

Price continues to struggle against the Rangers in his career.

Even when he was able to walk out of the first with just the one run after a bases loaded double play, but couldn’t clamp down with two outs.

The biggest reason he struggled wasn’t his velocity—although it seemed down most of the night—but his location. He left a lot of pitches up in the zone and Texas is not the team you can do that with.

Although Price was bound to have a rough start, this start went worse than anyone could’ve anticipated. To say this was a bad start is putting it nicely.

Texas gave him a nice wake-up call. He still has room to grow.

Matt Barnes had a solid performance.

It wasn’t his best, but given the situation, he did well. First off, the Rangers are a very hot team and swing early in the count. Barnes left the ball up time after times, but only surrendered the one run.

Additionally, he entered the game far earlier than he’s used to -- in the midst of a blowout where his team was on the wrong end. That’s not an easy thing to walk into for a reliever, especially one who’s used to pitching late in tight ballgames.

He gave Boston a chance when the offense started to gain momentum.

Hanley Ramirez’s power continues to show.

Although he’s not hitting at the rate he did to start the year, Ramirez laced another homer against the Rangers Friday night.

This homerun may have been his most impressive, coming on a 1-2 slider away, driving it to straightaway center -- the deepest part of the ballpark.

Boston just saw what they look like when they almost blow games.

All season the talk around the league has been how explosive the Red Sox lineup is.

Well, the Rangers offense is right there with them. The league’s hottest team didn’t waist any time scoring, and had 15 hits before Boston pitching recorded an out in the fifth inning.

Although the Red Sox outslugged Texas late, they saw what a potent offense outside the AL East can do -- and how bad pitching can undo all of that.

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter: @ngfriar