PAWTUCKET – Where there’s a will, there’s a … possible return to the Boston Red Sox?
While it should be noted that Will Middlebrooks entered Pawtucket’s record books on Wednesday night, there is a much bigger picture to consider. The sledgehammer he took to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s pitching staff came with a note attached: I’m getting close.
A few more games like the two-home run, 8-RBI showing he posted and Middlebrooks won’t be property of the Pawtucket Red Sox for long. In fact, when the PawSox return to McCoy Stadium next Thursday, it would have to be considered a surprise to see him still with the club.
Middlebrooks was the very definition of locked in as he and his Pawtucket teammates supplied more fireworks in an 11-5 win witnessed before a season-high gathering of 10,929 at McCoy.
“For me, I like to see him in the batter’s box hitting the ball hard,” said Pawtucket manager Gary DiSarcina. “An absolutely incredible night.”
The eight runs Middlebrooks knocked in came as a result of the following: a run-scoring double in the third inning, a three-run home run in the fourth inning and a grand slam in the fifth. The eight RBI matches a franchise record for a single game as Middlebrooks becomes the first PawSox to turn the trick since Freddy Garcia on July 27, 2000.
He put a cap on his 4-for-5 night with a hard single into left field in the eighth inning.
The three-run blast came on a hanging curveball that Middlebrooks sent screaming into the left-field bullpen. The grand slam saw Middlebrooks jump on a 3-2 fastball that sat on the outer edge. Going with the offering, he deposited the ball a few rows behind the right-center field fence.
The fireworks Middlebrooks made with the wood on Wednesday comes a few days after he blasted a pair of two-run homers against the same RailRiders’ pitching staff.
“The past couple of games, I’ve been trying to be patient and – what’s the word? – selectively aggressive. Just seeing and hitting it no matter what the count is,” said Middlebrooks, who served as Pawtucket’s designated hitter. “If they’re going to give me a good pitch, it doesn’t matter what the count is.”
Added DiSarcina, “He’s letting the ball travel (through the zone more) before driving it. I’d bet he’d tell you that he thought the grand slam was a double, but he’s so strong that it just elevated.”
Middlebrooks hinted that he’s starting feel healthy, meaning that the struggles that ultimately led to the Red Sox optioning him may have been the result of the back troubles that landed him on the disabled list last month.
“I’m feeling normal and like myself again,” he said. “Just some lingering things. It was nothing serious, but there was something tight.”
Middlebrooks was responsible for two of the five home runs hit in the contest; a total of 24 round trippers were hit during the five-game set. Jackie Bradley Jr. also went deep for the home team, his seventh coming in the seventh inning.
Alfredo Aceves was the beneficiary of Middlebrooks’ long-ball theatrics, this despite surrounding two homers to Scranton. Aceves improved to 4-2 after allowing five runs on eight hits in five innings.
Three relievers combined to toss five shutout innings – Anthony Carter, Chris Martin and Jose De La Torre. Wednesday’s game saw a pair of position players try their luck at new positions as Xander Bogaerts played third base while Alex Hassan patrolled first base.
The PawSox now begin a stretch that will see them play 16 of their next 20 games away from McCoy Stadium. The first four games will see Pawtucket head to Rochester before heading to Lehigh Valley for a three-game set.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03.