The Red Sox may not be very good, but they certainly are resilient.
Bouncing back from their second horrible loss of the season — a 17-inning game against the Orioles in which Chris Davis got the victory — the Red Sox lit up Jonathan Sanchez on their way to an 11-5 victory over the Royals on Monday.
Will Middlebrooks was the star. After hitting a grand slam for his first major league homer Sunday, he contributed three-run and two-run blasts tonight. He’s hit .381 with six extra-base hits in four games since taking over for the injured Kevin Youkilis at third base.
Middlebrooks has been something of a controversial prospect in the five years since the Red Sox gave him a big bonus as a fifth-round pick. Scouts were always fond of his power potential, and he produced better numbers at every stop as he climbed the ladder. However, statheads remained skeptical about him because of his poor plate discipline. He had a 114/26 K/BB ratio while hitting .285/.328/.506 last year. This season, he appeared to have made some progress in that area in Triple-A, amassing an 18/7 K/BB ratio while hitting .333/.380/.677 in 93 at-bats.
Middlebrooks has already fanned five times in his four games for Boston, but all of the power has made that very easy to ignore. He certainly looks the part of a guy with 25- or 30-homer ability. Tonight, he went opposite field with the first homer and then pulled the second high up off the foul pole. AL pitchers may find some flaws at some point, but I’m now a much bigger believer than I was a couple of months ago.
For the first time in major league history, both pitchers in a playoff game have struck out at least 11 batters, per MLB.com’s Paul Casella. Mets starter Jacob deGrom has pitched just a hair better than Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw overall. deGrom has blanked the Dodgers over six frames on five hits and a walk. Kershaw made one mistake, resulting in a solo home run to Daniel Murphy in the fourth inning. He’s allowed four hits and four walks total in 6 2/3 innings.
The last time opposing starters each struck out 10 in a post-season game was back in 1944 in Game 5 of the World Series when Mort Cooper of the St. Louis Cardinals struck out 12 and Denny Galehouse of the St. Louis Browns struck out 10.
Mets outfielder Michael Cuddyer has already made a pair of mistakes in left field and he’s only four innings into the first game of the best-of-five NLDS against the Dodgers.
Leading off the second inning, Justin Turner sent a well-struck liner to Cuddyer which was quite catchable, but the ball clanked off of the veteran’s glove. Turner was credited with a double. Mets starter Jacob deGrom was able to work around the misplay, striking out Andre Ethier, A.J. Ellis, and Clayton Kershaw to close out the frame.
With two outs in the third inning, Corey Seager sent a fly ball down the left field line. Cuddyer took an inefficient route and the ball bounced about a foot inside the foul line, then into the stands, giving Seager a ground-rule double. To add insult to injury, Cuddyer ended up tumbling over the fence. deGrom, again, worked around Cuddyer’s mistake, striking out Adrian Gonzalez to end the inning.
Because he bats right-handed, Cuddyer got the start in left field over the left-handed-hitting rookie Michael Conforto against Kershaw, a southpaw. Conforto mustered only a .481 OPS against lefties this season compared to Cuddyer’s .698. Despite the batting disparity, one wonders how short a leash manager Terry Collins has on Cuddyer given his defense.
Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy broke a scoreless tie in the fourth inning, belting a solo home run to right field at Dodger Stadium off of starter Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw threw a 2-0, 94 MPH fastball and Murphy didn’t miss it.
Both teams’ starters are pitching quite well overall. Kershaw has allowed the one run on three hits and a walk with six strikeouts. Jacob deGrom started off the game with six consecutive strikeouts and has struck out seven total while blanking the Dodgers on three hits and a walk in three innings.
Kershaw doesn’t have the most impressive post-season track record, owning a career 5.12 ERA across eight starts and three relief appearances spanning 51 innings. Aside from the homer, the lefty appears to be putting that notion aside.