Notes: Middlebrooks' big hit makes up for error

Notes: Middlebrooks' big hit makes up for error
September 4, 2013, 12:30 am
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BOSTON --  With one out in the top of the fifth, and the Red Sox trailing the Tigers by a run, Will Middlebrooks’ ninth error of the season allowed Brayan Pena to reach base. Pena was the first baserunner of the inning for the Tigers, who would load the bases for reigning -- and potentially this season’s – MVP Miguel Cabrera. Although the Tigers slugger has been slowed by an abdominal strain, there is no dismissing the potential damage he can do at the plate.
 
This time, though, Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester got the better of Cabrera, getting him to ground out to end the inning.
 
In the bottom of the frame Middlebrooks was given the opportunity to make up for his miscue. Although against Cy Young candidate Max Scherzer, that would not be an easy task.
 
Scherzer had been mowing through the Sox lineup, but faltered in the fifth. After striking out Mike Carp to open the inning, Scherzer allowed Jonny Gomes to reach on a single and Stephen Drew on a ground-rule double before striking out David Ross, bringing up Middlebrooks.
 
It appeared, though, the odds were stacked against him.
 
In four previous career at-bats against Scherzer, including one in this game, Middlebrooks was 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. He had not driven in a run in his previous eight games with a plate appearance.
 
This time, though, Middlebrooks jumped on the first offering he saw from Scherzer, an 87-mph slider, and drove it up the middle into center field for two runs. That would stand as the difference in the game, as the Sox won, 2-1.
 
It was Middlebrooks’ seventh go-ahead RBI of the season.
 
“I’ve only faced him like five times and he likes to start me off off-speed,” Middlebrooks said. “Normally I go up there and look for a heater and that situation, with guys in scoring position, look for off-speed, and I got it.
 
“You really have to stick with your approach up the middle with Scherzer because the stuff he has, you may get one good pitch in an at-bat to hit. So something over the plate you can’t miss it. If [your swing gets] too big, you end up fouling it off. You’re probably not going to get much more to hit.”
 
His previous experience with Scherzer, while futile at the time, proved valuable.       
 
“Yeah,” Middlebrooks said. “You find out how a guy’s going to come after you.”
 
And it was nice to be able to make up for his earlier miscue.
 
"Any player looks to maybe atone for something that might have taken place previous,” Farrell said. “But in that moment he gets a breaking ball in the middle of the plate for the base hit. I know it was a big lift for all of us, including himself. Over the past couple or four or five games things haven't gone as smooth for him at the plate as they did when he first came up, so a big hit in the moment."
 
*****

The Sox won for the fourth time in 35 games this season when scoring two or fewer runs. It was their first such win since a 2-1 win vs. San Diego on July 3. It was the Sox first home win on two runs or fewer and six hits or fewer since they beat Detroit 1-0 on May 18, 2011, with four hits.

*****

Sox pitchers have allowed three or fewer runs 13 of the last 14 games since Aug. 19 for a 2.31 ERA, giving up 32 earned runs over 124 22/3 innings in that span. Sox starters have a 2.49 ERA, allowing 27 earned runs in 97 2/3 innings in that span, giving up one or no run six times.

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The Sox two runs in the fifth inning snapped a stretch of 17 consecutive scoreless innings since the fifth inning of Sunday’s win over the White Sox.

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Daniel Nava’s eighth-inning walk extended his streak of reaching base to 38 straight starts since June 22. It is the longest active on-base streak as a starter in the majors and third-longest streak in the AL overall this year behind Miguel Cabrera’s 44 games and Mike Trout’s 40 games. It is the longest on-base streak when starting by a Red Sox since Kevin Youkilis reached in 44 consecutive starts from July 12 – Sept. 10, 2008.

*****
 
Koji Uehara pitched a perfect ninth and has now retired 21 consecutive batters. It was his 12th consecutive converted save and his 17th save of the year overall, 15 of which have come in perfect outings. It was Uehara’s sixth consecutive perfect outing in a save opportunity, matching the club record set by Jeff Russell in 1993. Uehara has not allowed a run in his last 25.0 innings, retiring 73 of 80 batters in that span, for  an on-base percentage of .088. It was his 22nd consecutive scoreless outing during that stretch, moving him past Jonathan Papelbon (21 in 2011) for the second-longest streak of scoreless appearances in club history, behind Daniel Bard’s 25 in 2011. He has gone 28 1/3 innings since last allowing an earned run.

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Shane Victorino  threw out Brayan Pena at the plate from center field in the second inning for his team-leading 10th outfield assist of the season, most by a Red Sox since Jason Bay totaled 15 assists in 2009. It was his first assist from any position other than right field.

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Victorino batted from the right side in his first three at-bats against Scherzer, going 0-for-3. In his final at-bat in the seventh inning, he hit from the left side, fouling out to Pena on the first pitch.

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David Ortiz went hitless and remains two hits shy of 2,000 for his career.

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Catcher David Ross was hit by a pitch on his hand in the seventh inning. He expects to be available.