Red Sox 9, Athletics 6: Big hits from Will Middlebrooks, Mike Napoli help Sox bounce back

Jim Rogash

The Red Sox bounced back from a doubleheader sweep thanks to big hits from Mike Napoli and Will Middlebrooks.

The Red Sox snapped a short two-game skid Monday night, downing the Oakland Athletics 9-6 with a big offensive attack keyed by Will Middlebrooks and Mike Napoli.

The pitching matchup was not one filled with promise. A.J. Griffin, one of the latest in a long line of homegrown Athletics starters, boasted a 2.90 ERA over 18 major league starts in his admittedly short career. The Red Sox, meanwhile, turned to Felix Doubront, who has a tendency to rack up high pitch counts while giving up a few runs. Not awful, but with the bullpen gassed following a double header, it was all-too-easy to see this one getting out of hand.

It did not take long for Boston's fears to start coming to life. Jed Lowrie drew a six-pitch walk off of doubront to start the second inning, moved to third on a Josh Donaldson double, then scored on a passed ball from Jarrod Saltalamacchia. A Josh Reddick single followed, and the A's quickly found themselves up 2-0 with 35 pitches already on Doubront's arm.

The Red Sox would strike back for one in the bottom half on doubles from David Ortiz and Mike Napoli, but the struggles in the bottom of the lineup would flare up again. After hard contact from Daniel Nava resulted in an out, Will Middlebrooks and Jarrod Saltalamacchia went down easily to end the inning, leaving Napoli stranded at first.

The third inning would be easier for both Griffin and Doubront. The fourth, however, saw the end of Griffin's effectiveness. After getting Ortiz looking at an inside fastball, Griffin caught Mike Napoli on the elbow, gave up a double to Daniel Nava, and finally saw the lineup slacken as Will Middlebrooks came to the plate. The third baseman was in the midst of a 4-for-44 slump, looking incapable of hitting anything not in the middle of the zone, and even that a bit of a challenge. To the third baseman's credit, though, he laid off of ball one and ball two, then finally got the bat up to meet a hanging slider. In the blink of an eye, the ball found the Monster seats, putting the Red Sox on top 4-2.

Doubront would make the top of the fifth an adventure, loading the bases with one out and getting his previously low pitch count nice and high. He managed to get out of it with just one run on the board, however, and in the bottom of the inning, the Red Sox went to work building a big cushion. An error from second baseman Andy Parrino sandwiched between a single from Shane Victorino and walk from David Ortiz served to load the bases with zero outs, and Mike Napoli was up to the task of cashing in, golfing a low 0-1 fastball into the Monster seats for a grand slam. The big homer made it 8-3, with Jarrod Saltalamacchia tacking on a ninth run with a double later in the inning.

That should have been the end of the game, but with the pen still gassed, John Farrell was ultimately forced to press his luck with some less-than-ideal relievers. Entering the game after a surprisingly long day from Felix Doubront, Clayton Mortensen just needed to avoid the big inning, but could not. After getting the last out in the seventh, Mortensen returned for the eighth, walked Brandon Moss, and hit Derek Norris. Rather than tightening up, Mortensen fell apart, allowing back-to-back doubles to make it a three-run game.

Junichi Tazawa would ultimately clean up his mess, however, and Andrew Bailey was there to pitch the ninth and earn the save. It was an offensive performance that would have ideally allowed the Red Sox to rest up their relief corps, but when all is said and done, John Farrell and the Red Sox will be just fine taking the 9-6 win regardless of how they got there.

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