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: Swihart flashes power and speed

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Quotes, notes and stars: Swihart flashes power and speed

BOSTON - Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 10-3 win over the Colorado Rockies:

 

QUOTES

"I felt a little cramp. I'm fine. I appreciate John and everybody looking out (for me). We obviously don't want anything to happen like last year, but I'm good.'' - Dustin Pedroia, who left the game in the fifth after experiencing some tightness in his right hamstring.

"It's nice to be able to get deep into the game. That's my goal every time. My goal is nine innings, so if I don't get nine innings, I'm a little disappointed because I want to be able to go out there and pitch as many innings as I can.'' - Steven Wright.

"I think my release point was just a little off. That definitely makes it hard, especially when it's moving, because it's not a consistent release point.'' - Wright on the early-inning unpredictability of his signature pitch.

"Even when I was catching, I pride myself on running. I want to be an athlete back there. I want to run the bases, steal bases, things most catchers aren't known to do.'' - Blake Swihart, who hit two triples.

 

NOTES

* Jackie Bradley Jr. extended his hitting streak to 29 games.

* Xander Bogaerts extended his hitting streak to 18 games.

* David Ortiz tied Paul Molitor for 12th on the all-time doubles list with 605.

* Ortiz has driven in multiple runs in three straight games

* Dustin Pedroia has a career batting average of .340 in interleague play, the highest ever for someone with 500 or more at-bats.

* Travis Shaw drove in three runs and now has 68 RBI in his first 111 games since Fred Lynn and Jim Rice in 1974-75.

* Blake Swihart became the third Red Sox hitter this season to post two triples in the same game.

* The Red Sox clinched their fifth straight home series win.

* The Sox are 21-8 since April 24 and are 13-2 in their last 15 home games.

 

STARS

1) Steven Wright

Backed by some rare run support, Wright evened his record at 4-4 with seven-plus innings and his eighth quality start this season.

2) Travis Shaw

Shaw produced two hits and knocked in three runs, making him the fourth Red Sox player this season to reach 30 RBI.

3) Blake Swihart

Swihart got to flash both his power and his speed by hitting two triples to the triangle, motoring around the bases.

 

First impressions from Red Sox' 10-3 win over Rockies

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First impressions from Red Sox' 10-3 win over Rockies

BOSTON- First impressions from the Red Sox' 10-3 win over Colorado:

 

Steven Wright is the very picture of consistency.

In nine starts this season, Wright has pitched at least six innings and allowed two earned runs or fewer eight times. In the one start in which he failed to do so, he was pitching in a mini-monsoon and unable to properly grip his signature pitch.

On Wednesday, he battled some early-inning wildness with the knuckler, resulting in two wild pitches and four passed balls, but eventually settled down.

His 4-4 mark hardly represents how well he's pitched. A more telling stat is the 60 2/3 innings he's pitched in nine outings, just shy of seven per game.

 

It could be a costly night for injuries.

Ryan Hanigan left the game after 2 1/2 innings because of illness. Dustin Pedroia came out in the fifth as a precaution after experiencing some tightness in his right hamstring. And Xander Bogaerts jammed his thumb in the eighth.

Let's assume that Hanigan's illness is a temporary thing, and since Bogaerts remained in the game, that, too, seemed minor.

But the Pedroia hamstring is potentially a red flag, since it was that same hamstring that sidelined him for almost half of last season.

 

For the past 19 home games, the Red Sox have averaged more than eight runs per game.

Nineteen games isn't exactly a small sample size. In fact, it's almost exactly one-quarter of the home schedule. To average more than eight runs per game over that long a stretch, covering parts of three different homestands, is pretty remarkable.

 

Blake Swihart's speed is something else.

Swihart hit two triples to the triangle Wednesday night, and on the second, to see him shift into higher gear as he approached second base was really something to see.

It's difficult to think of another catcher -- and yes, I understand that Swihart has been playing left field exclusively of late; but he remains primarily a catcher -- who ran as well as Swihart does.

When the Sox and other independent evaluators remark about Swihart's athleticism, that's one of the things to which they're referring.