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.
Cubs’ outfielder Kyle Schwarber will return to the playing field on Saturday, per a report by the Chicago Tribune’s Mark Gonzales. The club’s prized left fielder suffered a season-ending injury when he collided with Dexter Fowler back in April, tearing both his ACL and LCL and undergoing intensive knee surgery later that month.
While no nerve damage was discovered during the surgery, the Cubs have kept a close eye on Schwarber during his recovery and put a kibosh on any part-time or full-time role with the team until the spring of 2017. Getting a few reps in during the Arizona Fall League appears to be the last step in the 23-year-old’s rehab process. He will be part of the Mesa Solar Sox’ ‘taxi squad,’ making him eligible for games on Wednesdays and Saturdays only.
Schwarber batted .246/.355/.487 with 16 in 69 games with the Cubs during his debut season in 2015. He will be added to the Mesa Solar Sox roster in advance of their set against the Salt River Rafters on Saturday evening.
The Game: Los Angeles Dodgers @ Chicago Cubs NLCS Game 6
The Time: 8:00 PM EDT
The Place: Wrigley Field, Chicago
The Channel: FS1
The Starters: Kyle Hendricks (Cubs) vs. Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers)
We’re pulling out the big guns for this one. The Cubs took Los Angeles by storm again in Game 5, closing out their road trip with an eight-run spread over the Dodgers, and tonight they’ll try to clinch the NLCS on home turf in Game 6.
Pitching-wise, it’s a rematch of Game 2 with Kyle Hendricks (16-8, 2.13 ERA) and Clayton Kershaw (12-4, 1.69 ERA) on the mound. Kershaw took the first set against the Cubs, going seven scoreless innings with six strikeouts in Game 2 while Hendricks held the Dodgers to a single run over 5 1/3 innings. Adrian Gonzalez was the only Dodger to capitalize on Hendricks’ cutter, going yard in his first at-bat to generate a 1-0 lead.
The Cubs’ biggest strength so far this series has been an electric offense, something the Dodgers have struggled to replicate against left-hander Jon Lester and Joe Maddon’s airtight bullpen. While they’ve already beaten Hendricks at Wrigley Field once this October, they’ll need Kershaw to go the distance in another playoff gem if they intend to keep the Cubs’ championship hopes at bay with a 3.4-run average. Should Kershaw and his crew knot the series again, the tiebreaker will fall to Rich Hill and Jake Arrieta in Game 7.