Will Middlebrooks; Mike Napoli

Will Middlebrooks hits three homers as Red Sox crush Blue Jays 13-0

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Third baseman Will Middlebrooks hit three homers and doubled Sunday in Boston’s 13-0 rout in Toronto.

The 24-year-old Middlebrooks became the first player to hit three homers in a game this year, and he’s the youngest player to accomplish the feat since the Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen on Aug. 1, 2009.  He was the first member of the Red Sox to pull it off since Dustin Pedroia did it on June 24, 2010 against the Rockies.

Given a chance to go for a fourth homer in the eighth, Middlebrooks flew out to the warning track in left field.

The Red Sox hit six homers in all. Middlebrooks and Daniel Nava went back-to-back in the seventh, and Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Napoli added bombs in the eighth.

Boston got to 2012 NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey for eight runs — seven earned — in 4 2/3 innings today. Only two of the homers were hit off Dickey, though. The remaining four came off journeyman Dave Bush, who was just added to the roster this weekend.

The game featured an odd moment in the top of the fifth, when Edwin Encarnacion opted to play behind Jackie Bradley Jr. on first base with the Jays down 8-0. Bradley took off for second, only to see a foul ball return him to first base. Encarnacion immediately resumed holding him on afterwards, and there were no repercussions when Bradley came to the plate in the seventh. One imagines there would have been had Bradley been running in the seventh or eighth inning instead.

But while not holding runners on in blowouts is a somewhat common occurrence, there’s no way a team should be doing it in the first half of an 8-0 game. More than just about any other team in baseball, the Jays are capable of scoring eight runs in five innings. In Boston’s September 2011 collapse, the Jays once scored six runs in the seventh and eighth innings to beat the Red Sox 11-10.

Report: John Farrell won’t rule out a postseason return for Pablo Sandoval

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 11:  Pablo Sandoval #48 of the Boston Red Sox looks on from the dugout before the Red Sox home opener against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on April 11, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Orioles defeat the Red Sox 9-7.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.

On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.

At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.

If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.

Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.

Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.

Video: Adrian Beltre and Carlos Beltran give signs from the dugout

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 23:  Adrian Beltre #29 of the Texas Rangers stands in the dugout before their game against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 23, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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The Rangers got a bit of a breather on Saturday after clinching the division lead during Friday night’s win. Naturally, it was also a prime opportunity for another of Adrian Beltre‘s well-documented antics, as he spent his off day directing the Rangers’ infield defense with a series of signs. Even with Carlos Beltran‘s help, no one, least of all those playing the infield, appeared to have any idea what Beltre’s gestures were intended to convey.

You can add this to the list of in-game oddities Beltre has become so well-known for over the years, running the gamut from the way he kicked a ball over the foul line to his histrionics every time someone comes close to touching his head. If nothing else, it’s a convincing audition reel for the third baseman’s future in major league coaching — a career path that, I’d imagine, would end up looking something like this: