Middlebrooks mashes three homers vs. Jays

Middlebrooks mashes three homers vs. Jays
April 7, 2013, 6:15 pm

TORONTO -- By his own admission, Will Middlebrooks didn't have much experience to fall back upon before Sunday when it came to facing a major league knuckleballer.
     
Middlebrooks joked that he would rely on a time-tested approach to the notoriously unpredictable pitch.
     
"Swing hard in case you hit it," said Middlebrooks.
     
Apparently that -- or something -- worked. The Red Sox third baseman rapped two homers and a double off knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, then added a third homer off reliever Dave Bush and came within 10 or so feet of hitting a fourth in the eighth inning.
     
"I talked to guys about knuckleballs in general," said Middlebrooks after his career day. "I faced R.A. a little bit in spring training, so I kind of had an idea what his movement was. He throws a lot harder than most (knuckleballers). I knew in certain counts, he likes to go to fastballs when he's not locating his knuckleball well and tries to get ahead with the fastball and it helped knowing that."
     
Indeed, Middlebrooks proved a quick study. He guessed on a fastball in the first inning and hit it out to right field for his first homer. After staying back on a knuckler for a double in the third, he expected another fastball from Dickey to lead off the fifth, he got one and drummed it out to left.
     
"I just tried to stay patient," explained the third baseman. "I got in a couple of counts and I thought he might keep throwing me fastballs and he did. They were good pitches to hit and I didn't miss them."
     
"Good lord," marveled Jon Lester, the recipient of great run support en route to his second win in as many starts. "About 2,000 feet of homers it seemed like. He obviously feels pretty good at the plate. It's fun to watch when we're on that side of it."
     
Bush proved no tougher a matchup for him. Opening the seventh, Middlebrooks hammered one out to left for his third homer.
     
That added some drama to Middlebrooks's fifth plate appearance in the eighth since no Red Sox player had ever hit four homers in the same game. This time, however, Middlebrooks just missed, getting underneath a pitch from Bush and skying it to left where Melky Cabrera stepped onto the warning track and caught it.
     
"They must have turned the AC off on me," cracked Middlebrooks. "I thought it had the chance just because of the way stuff flies here. I was blowing on it running down the line but it didn't have enough steam."
     
His teammates thought otherwise, as cameras caught them shooting out of their seats in anticipation of the ball hit to the warning track.
     
"From where we were sitting and the reaction of the dugout? Yeah (we thought it had a chance)," said John Farrell, "especially with the way the ball was carrying in this ballpark. Balls were flying out of here left and right and that's not to take anything away from the power that guys have, but when the crowd is full in here and the temperature is warm, the ball really jumps in here."
     
Middlebrooks was hitless in his first two games of the season, but since breaking through Thursday at Yankee Stadium with two singles, Middlebrooks has been on fire, with a homer and double Friday and three homers and another double Sunday.
     
And there's more, asserted his manager.
     
"Everyone's going to point to the three homers today," said Farrell. "But you look at the (play he made on the) slow roller (on Maicer Izturis in the fourth) and handling a couple of hot shots down at third base as well. He's an all-around player, a guy that profiles the position to a 'T.' He's a very good athlete. It was interrupted a year ago with the broken wrist, but he's clearly back with no restrictions."