June 24, 2018
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Pedroia powers Red Sox past Rockies; Middlebrooks sent down to Pawtucket

By The Sports Xchange, Special to the BDN

BOSTON — The last time the Red Sox hosted the Colorado Rockies before Tuesday night, Boston won the first two games of the 2007 World Series by scores of 13-1 and 2-1 before going on to a sweep.

Tuesday night was more of the same.

Dustin Pedroia had RBI hits in each of the first three innings and added a sacrifice fly in the seventh, and Ryan Dempster worked six solid innings to lead Boston to an 11-4 rout in the opener of a two-game interleague series.

“It’s just a good win for us,” said Dempster, who has been a victim of non-support many times this season but got plenty Tuesday. “We just came off a really tough series in Detroit. We could have won three of four and we didn’t, we lost three of four, and we bounced right back tonight against a really good team.

“A huge performance by our offense. Everybody got involved. … That was a lot of fun tonight, to see us go out there and score runs.”

Daniel Nava, Jose Iglesias (hitting .434 over 113 at-bats) and Jacoby Ellsbury all also had three hits as the first-place Red Sox stroked five doubles and a triple. The Red Sox knocked out Juan Nicasio (4-4) in just 2 1/3 innings, after he allowed seven runs (six earned).

Boston finished with a season-high 20 hits, everyone in the lineup with at least one.

“It’s a good-hitting club,” Colorado manager Walt Weiss said. “You’ve really got to command your stuff with that lineup or they make you pay.”

Dempster (5-8) made his 10th quality start, tied for the team lead, and his sixth in a row. He had received two runs or fewer of support in eight of his 15 starts, but that wasn’t the case in this game. He gave up a solo homer to Wilin Rosario (No. 12, one of his three hits) in the second and an RBI single to Nolan Arenado (three hits) in the fourth.

However, what happened in the first inning set up Dempster’s night. With first and second and nobody out, he got National League home run leader Carlos Gonzalez to pop up on a 2-0 pitch and then got Michael Cuddyer, he of the 22-game hitting streak (extended with two later hits) to ground into a double play.

“I thought the key was in the first inning,” Boston manager John Farrell said. “Those two guys came in red hot, and he gets a popup on a 2-0 pitch and then second pitch he gets a ground-ball double play and gets out of it.

“While he might not have been his most sharp tonight, still, six quality innings of work and he had a number of runs to work with.”

Dempster came in with a 6.96 career ERA against Colorado, his high against any team, but he improved to 5-1 against the Rockies away from Coors Field.

Arenado scored from first on Shane Victorino’s three-base error in the seventh, before Gonzalez’s two-out RBI single greeted reliever Craig Breslow.

The Rockies, who saw a two-game winning streak stopped and suffered their sixth loss in the last eight games, went 2-1 in a three-game series against the Red Sox in Denver in 2010.

Nicasio, 0-3 in seven starts since May 19, labored through 64 pitches in the first two innings as the Red Sox, unable to hit with runners in scoring position over the weekend, came through.

“He looked like he struggled to find any rhythm or tempo tonight,” Weiss said. “He was in bad counts, and that’s a tough lineup to get through when you’re in bad counts.”

Boston was 3-for-24 with runners in scoring position in the last two games of the Detroit series, but those troubles disappeared early as the Sox went 7-for-10 in those situations over the first three innings. They finished 9-for-20 with men on second, third or both.

Boston made three errors, including Victorino’s, as he dropped a drive and then banged his head into the right field fence.

“Another wall, another day,” Farrell said of Victorino, who stayed in the game. “It’s not that he suffered a gash, but it hit him in a tough spot right above the ear … It seems like he’s finding a wall on a daily basis.”

Earlier Tuesday, the Red Sox sent Will Middlebrooks to Triple-A and decided to go with Jose Iglesias at their everyday third baseman, Farrell said.

Middlebrooks and Iglesias had rotated at third in the past month, but Middlebrooks is struggling at the plate. In 53 games this season, the 24-year-old is hitting .192 with nine home runs and 25 RBI. Three of the homers came against Toronto on April 7.

“Will will be getting regular at-bats,” Farrell said of the move to Triple-A. “For him to get back on track, he needs everyday at-bats.”

After an impressive start to his major league career in 2012 when he batted .331 with nine home runs and 33 RBI in his first 40 games, Middlebrooks has gone downhill. Since June 24 of last year, his batting average is .210.

“His skills haven’t gone backward,” Farrell said, according to ESPN.com. “He’s still a very talented player. He needs consistent work that will allow him to replicate his swing. This isn’t uncommon for a young player, to take a step back now for the bigger picture.”

Iglesias has reached base in all 26 games in which he has had an official at-bat. The converted shortstop is hitting .420 in the big leagues since he was called up.

In other moves, the Red Sox purchased the contract of infielder Brandon Snyder from Pawtucket and placed catcher David Ross on the 60-day disabled list.

GAME NOTES: Cuddyer’s infield hit in the fourth extended his hitting streak to a career-high 22 games, tied for the second-longest streak in club history. Colorado hitting coach Dante Bichette holds the record of 23. Cuddyer has also reached in 41 straight games, a Rockies season record. … Rockies RHPs Rafael Betancourt (groin) and Edgmer Escalona (elbow), both on the DL, each throw 37 pitches of live batting practice. Betancourt expected to return to his closer role Friday and Escaloona appears headed for rehab work. … Boston RHP Clay Buchholz, also on the DL (neck), hopes to make a rehab start either Sunday or Monday. … RHP Roy Oswalt, who struck out 11 in his first start with the Rockies, faces John Lackey (4-5) in Wednesday’s second game of the two-game series, Oswalt’s first career start against Boston. … The teams meet again for two more games in Denver on Sept. 24 and 25.

SOX NOTES: After blowing three saves in a 10-day span, Andrew Bailey was displaced from the closer role last Friday, at which time manager John Farrell admitted the best way to help Bailey through his struggles may be to pitch him when the outcome of a game isn’t hanging in the balance.

However, Farrell didn’t have much choice in the seventh inning Sunday in the finale of a four-game series against the Tigers.

Reluctant to use Junichi Tazawa for two innings after he had either warmed up or pitched in three of the previous four days, and with lefties Andrew Miller and Craig Breslow reserved for later in the game, Farrell turned to Bailey.

“That’s where we were in the bullpen,” Farrell said.

Sure enough, Bailey yielded Austin Jackson’s leadoff single and a one-out single to Miguel Cabrera before being lifted for Miller. The Tigers loaded the bases, and after Victor Martinez struck out, Miller hit Jhonny Peralta with a two-strike pitch to force in the tying run in an eventual 7-5 loss.

Bailey has allowed runs in four consecutive outings and five of his last six.

The Red Sox have lost four of five games, yet they still hold a two-game lead on second-place Baltimore in the AL East because the Orioles have dropped three in a row. After an off day, Boston begins a two-game series against Colorado on Tuesday at Fenway Park.

— RF Shane Victorino had to come out of Sunday’s game in Detroit with back stiffness. He ran into the wall catching RF Torii Hunter’s foul fly ball in the fourth inning and batted one more time before he had to be pinch-hit for in the eighth. The Tigers brought in LHP Drew Smyly so pinch-batting for the switch-hitting Victorino would not be in order. Daniel Nava hit for Victorino and struck out.

— LHP Franklin Morales experienced some soreness in his left chest area at the back end of his 2 1/3-inning outing at Detroit on Saturday night. “He didn’t feel any drastic improvement,” Farrell said Sunday. “We’ll have him looked at Monday and make a roster decision at that time.” Morales felt the soreness on his next-to-last pitch, a fastball, then broke off a bad curve that 2B Omar Infantes hit for a two-run home run. Boston can’t afford to have a short bullpen so chances are he’ll be put on the disabled list if he can’t pitch in a couple of days.

— C Jarrod Saltalamacchia was not in the starting lineup Sunday which, combined with Monday’s break in the schedule, gives him a two-day break from catching. “He needs a day off,” Farrell said, “because of the number of innings he’s caught this week plus the fact it’s a day game after a night game.” He cited Saltalamacchia’s improvement on the defensive side of the game plus his game-calling skills as positives in his season.

— RHP Allen Webster remains in the Boston rotation “as of today,” Farrell said. “I thought his three-pitch mix was better than his previous starts and his secondary pitches were much better. It may take some time (for Webster to develop).” Webster likely would be returned to Triple-A if RHP Clay Buchholz were ready to return, but he isn’t.

–RHP Clayton Mortenson worked another rehab innings Saturday night for Triple-A Pawtucket. Mortenson pitched an inning but it was a little rough as he allowed two runs on three hits and a walk. He’s been out since June 11 with a right groin strain.

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