Being clutch comes in many different forms – and apparently Will Middlebrooks is intent on finding every single one of them…
The lanky third baseman laid down a sacrifice bunt in the top of the 10th inning to move second baseman Dustin Pedroia to third base, from where Jonny Gomes brought him home with a sac fly for what turned out to be the winning run in the Boston Red Sox’ 3-2 win over the Minnesota Twins at Target Field in Minneapolis on Friday night.
Pedroia singled to right field to start the inning against Twins’ reliever Josh Roenicke, who followed that up by walking David Ortiz – and though Middlebrooks hadn’t laid down a bunt of any sort in five years, the situation called for it and the kid came through.
“He’s a very good athlete. He’s got good hand-eye coordination,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “Knowing that it wasn’t part of his game as an offensive player, still I thought the game situation called for it. And he executed it perfectly.”
After his sacrifice moved Pedroia to third, Gomes drove a fly ball to shallow center – where centerfielder Aaron Hicks and left fielder Oswaldo Arcia narrowly avoided a collision getting to the ball – Hicks made the catch but had to double-clutch after making contact with Arcia before making a throw to the plate, allowing Pedroia plenty of time to score the winning run.
Both starting pitchers had quality starts evaporate into no-decisions.
Clay Buchholz went seven full for the Sox, allowing two runs on four hits while striking out nine – followed by perfect relief from Andrew Miller, Alex Wilson and Koji Uehara. Wilson picked up the win pitching to just one batter in the ninth and Uehara got the save, his first of the year.
Buchholz dominated in the first two innings, striking out five consecutive batters, but then yielded a double to Twins’ third baseman Trevor Plouffe to start the third. Two batters later light hitting shortstop Pedro Florimon sent the first pitch he saw just over the right field wall for his second homer of the year, giving Minnesota an early 2-1 lead.
Twins’ starter Vance Worley pitched six solid, giving up one run on six hits – but the Twins’ bullpen wasted his effort. He started shaky, yielding singles to Daniel Nava, who moved up on a throwing error, and to Ortiz, whose single plated Nava for a 1-0 Sox advantage. But Worley shut down the Sox on just four more hits before being lifted for Brian Duensing to start the seventh…
…which was the beginning of the end for the Twins. Duensing lasted two thirds of an inning, walking Gomes and and serving up singles to Jerrod Saltalamaccia and Jacoby Ellsbury, Ellsbury’s infield variety scoring Gomes to tie the game, setting up the extra inning Sox heroics.
A far cry and seemingly ions away from last week’s meltdown against the Twins at Fenway, the Sox are seemingly a different team. In Boston, they were mired in a hometown funk in which they couldn’t get out of their own way and ended up losing six of seven – now on the road they’re coming up with the clutch hit, taking their series in Tampa Bay against the Rays and starting on the right foot in Minnesota.
Going on the road in front of hostile crowds and in uncomfortable and unfamiliar surroundings naturally cause a person focus on what they know and what is familiar, which is why sometimes that’s what it takes to break a team out of a slump…
So, who knows? Maybe by the time the Red Sox return to Boston next week they will have scratched and clawed their way back into the division lead, if not the league’s overall best record, which they owned before they funked out.