Closing Time: Red Sox rally to sweep Reds, return to .500

May 07, 2014 - 5:58 pm
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Wednesday night marked a game of opportunities for the Red Sox: an opportunity for their first series sweep (albeit in an abbreviated two-gamer), an opportunity for the team to get back to .500 for the first time since April 4, an opportunity to make a comeback for just the second time this season after trailing at the completion of seven innings. For Will Middlebrooks, it was the opportunity to redeem himself after his bat had all but disappeared from the lineup during the homestand, when he hit just .167 with one double. After his team had left a total of 13 men on base through the first seven innings, Middlebrooks came up with the opportunity to give the Red Sox the go-ahead run following Tuesday's 12-inning walk-off effort. Manager John Farrell stuck with Middlebrooks with the bases loaded, despite the third baseman's .172 batting average and mere three extra-base hits in 36 plate appearances before Wednesday's game. With Mike Carp on the bench and Middlebrooks' recent struggles, it didn't seem like a given that the third baseman would hit. But Middlebrooks silenced the critics, knocking a single up the middle and driving in Jonny Gomes for the go-ahead run in the Red Sox's 4-3 win over the Reds. WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX -- The Red Sox displayed some stellar defense on multiple occasions. First baseman Mike Napoli fielded a Roger Bernadina ground ball, stepped on first, turned and whipped a throw down to second base where Jonathan Herrera tagged out Ryan Ludwick for a fourth-inning double play. In the seventh inning on a dribbler to Dustin Pedroia, Napoli saved a high throw from going out of play, saving a run and an error for the second baseman. Since converting to first base, Mike Napoli has shown the ability to be a well above-average fielder. According to advanced metrics such as UZR, which measures how many runs a fielder has saved compared to an average player at his position, Napoli ranks fifth in the American League so far in 2014 with a 0.8 UZR after ranking first in all of baseball among first basemen with a 9.7 UZR in 2013. Pedroia also made a great turn on a double play in the fifth inning where third baseman Will Middlebrooks' throw took Pedroia off the bag towards left field and the second baseman threw across his body to get Zach Cozart out at first base. Pedroia demonstrated the very good arm strength he possesses that allowed him to play shortstop during his collegiate days at Arizona State University. -- Pedroia continued his recent success at the plate with another single in the third inning. Coming into Wednesday's contest against Reds, Pedroia had hits in nine of his prior 10 games, hitting  .326/.420/.488 with four doubles, one home run and six RBI. -- The Red Sox offense broke through a little bit in the sixth inning with runners in scoring position when David Ortiz hit a single with Shane Victorino on first and Jonathan Herrera on third. Napoli subsequently hit a soft liner down the right field line for a double that scored Victorino and moved Ortiz to third base. Such moments represent exceptions for a Red Sox team that entered Wednesday with a .219 average with runners in scoring position. -- Jake Peavy turned in another solid performance in a six-inning, four-hit, three-run, four-strikeout performance. Among the only blemishes for Peavy on the night was a two-run dinger to Skip Schumaker in the second inning and his inability to complete the seventh inning, leaving the game with the bases loaded. WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX -- The Red Sox grounded into another X double plays. Mike Napoli grounded into a 6-4-3 double play in the first inning and Will Middlebrooks grounded into a 6-4-3 double play in the fifth inning. The Red Sox came into Wednesday's contest tied for second in the majors in double plays with the Rays, having grounded into 33 twin killings, trailing only the Texas Rangers with 37. -- Jackie Bradley Jr. went 0-for-3 and stranded four baserunners. He's 2-for-22 (with four walks) in seven games in May. -- A.J. Pierzynski fell flat on his face on a fielder's choice on which second baseman Brandon Phillips dropped the throw. Had Pierzynski not fallen down, it's feasible that he could have beaten the throw and extended the inning with Napoli standing on third base following his RBI double. He then had an even more egregious baserunning gaffe in the fifth, failing to run hard to second on a grounder that first baseman Joey Votto bobbled. He could have had a chance to beat a throw had he run out the play. -- Grady Sizemore couldn't build upon his strong Tuesday night performance, in which he went 3-for-6 with a walkoff single. He went 0-for-3 on Wednesday.  

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