Will Middlebrooks: Boston Red Sox 3B Wins AL Best of the Night Award
Will Middlebrooks is running out of ways to prove that he deserves to be the starting third baseman on the Boston Red Sox.
Middlebrooks has been a star for the Red Sox ever since the team first called him up in early May, but he really outdid himself on Thursday night in Boston's 6-5 sweep-clinching win over the Miami Marlins at Fenway Park. Middlebrooks all but won the game single-handedly.
The 23-year-old hot-corner-manner had three hits, each of which drove in a run in a key situation. He started with a bloop RBI single to right field in the fourth inning that put the Sox on the board and cut the Marlins' lead to 3-1. He tacked on another bloop RBI single in the fifth inning that tied the score at 3-3.
Middlebrooks' biggest hit, however, came in the bottom of the eighth inning. With nobody out and Jarrod Saltalamacchia on second, Middlebrooks blasted a home run to center field off Edward Mujica to tie the score at 5-5.
If you missed any of his big hits, you can watch all of them over at MLB.com.
Boston took the lead on an RBI single by Daniel Nava, and Alfredo Aceves shut down the Marlins in the ninth for his 18th save.
In case you're wondering, Middlebrooks did make a bit of history on Thursday night. He already has three games in which he's driven in at least four runs. According to the Elias Sports Bureau (via ESPN.com), only three other Red Sox rookies have ever recorded three four-RBI games before the end of June: Mike Greenwell in 1987, Walt Dropo in 1950 and Ted Williams in 1939.
Pretty good company right there.
Middlebrooks has had big games before this season, but it's fair to call Thursday night his coming out party. It's one thing to get hits. It's another thing entirely to get hits when your club needs them. When kids like Middlebrooks can do it, it's hard not to get excited about them.
Rest assured, the Red Sox are excited about Middlebrooks. All they have to do is figure out how to make him their everyday third baseman.
And that, of course, is far easier said than done.
Winslow Townson/Getty Images
Middlebrooks is obviously a better choice to play every day than aging star Kevin Youkilis, but the Red Sox aren't about to bench Youkilis.
Alex Speier of WEEI.com broke the situation down at length in an article posted earlier on Friday, but the breakdown is simple: The Red Sox want to trade Youk, but knowing they may need him down the stretch, they don't want to sell low, so they'd rather wait for him to start playing well before they trade him.
So yeah, the situation is just as complicated and as generally awkward as it's been ever since Youkilis was activated off the DL a few weeks ago. Middlebrooks' big night doesn't change a thing.
If it's any consolation for him, he clinched today's American League "Best of the Night" award as soon as his game-tying homer cleared the center-field fence last night. If and when he becomes an everyday player, he'll probably win the award a few more times before the season is over.
Red Sox Nation is chomping at the bit to see Middlebrooks become an everyday player, but, well, it is what it is. New England Baseball Journal columnist Jared Carrabis summed it up best:
When I see Will Middlebrooks, I say, "There goes the greatest bench player that shouldn't be a bench player that ever lived." #RedSox— Jared Carrabis (@Jared_Carrabis) June 22, 2012
For now, this saying will have to do.
If you ever want to nominate a player for the American League "Best of the Night" award, hit me up on Twitter.
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