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Middlebrooks clutch, Red Sox take series from Rays

Seems that the Bruins Patrice Bergeron isn’t the only clutch act in Boston these days.

On the same night that Bergeron again had a hand in a Bruins come from behind victory, Boston Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks did the same against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Middlebrooks came into the game straddling the Mendoza Line and came out the unlikely hero as his bases clearing double off of Rays’ closer Fernando Rodney with two down in the top of the ninth powered the Sox to a 4-3 win at Tropicana Field.

Middlebrooks lined a rope to the gap in left center, scoring Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Daniel Nava after Rodney has walked the bases full and Red Sox interim closer Junichi Tazawa closed out the Rays in the bottom half on the inning to give the Sox two out of three from Tampa.

“He hung me a changeup and normally he buries that pitch, and he left it up,”  Middlebrooks said after the game, “awesome … get us some momentum,”

On again, off again starter Felix Doubront and his supposed “Dead Arm” went five plus, yielding 2 runs on just three hits, but gave away bases on balls like he was handing out samples at a grocery store.  His six walks were ultimately his undoing, though he did also register seven strike outs.

Tampa second baseman Ryan Roberts’ solo park job to left off Doubront in the second inning staked starter Alex Cobb to a 1-0 lead, and RBI singles by Desmond Jenkins and Luke Scott provided Cobb a two run cushion before being lifted with two outs in the seventh.

Cobb had retired the first 10 batters he faced before Shane Victorino doubled down the line in right in the fourth inning, then allowed a two out single to Ortiz, driving in Victorino for the lone Sox run surrendered by Cobb.

The Red Sox pitching staff had control issues all night. Doubront was pulled after walking James Loney to start the sixth, with Clayton Mortensen  coming on and promptly issued a pair of  walks to load the bases before Jennings singled to put Tampa Bay up 2-1.

Andrew Miller replaced Mortensen and allowed Scott’s run-scoring single that  made it 3-1.

Entering the ninth and the score still 3-1, Rodney pulled a Ricky Vaughn walking the bases loaded.  Pedrioa walked on a full count and Papi on four straight before the lumbering DH was replaced on the paths by speedy utility infielder Pedro Ciriaco.

Mike Napoli struck out, Nava walked on a full count and Wednesday night’s hero Stephen Drew struck out setting the stage for Middlebrooks’ last gasp game winner.  There had been signs of Middlebrooks breaking out of his long funk as he smacked a towering blast late in last night’s rout of the Rays.

Rodney blew his 3rd save opportunity of the season after failing only twice all of last season.

The Rays made things interesting in the bottom of the ninth, Scott and shortstop Yunel Escobar lining singles against Tazawa, but the Sox converted closer was able to get two K’s and induced Loney to ground out to preserve the victory for Boston.

So, the Sox have won two out of three to start their nine game roadie in style, and in all three games they have gotten one big inning at the plate to produce their offense.  It’s a work in progress as they have gotten back to being opportunistic and manufacturing runs when they need them…

…which is what made their hot April so successful – and for sure the Sox and their fans would take that over what the month of May has been like.

Topics: Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, Will Middlebrooks

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