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.
The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.
Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).
A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.
The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:
A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.
The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.
Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.