Boston Red Sox: 5 Most Surprising 2012 Performances
Franklin Morales matched former Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez pitch for pitch on Thursday night, throwing seven brilliant shutout innings, allowing just three hits.
In his three starts, filling in with Clay Buchholz and Josh Beckett on the disabled list, Morales is 1-0 with a 2.00 ERA. In a season which has seen the Red Sox struggle out of the gate, his is one of a handful of promising performances.
The Boston Red Sox' starting pitching was the source of many of their early-season woes. Of the eight pitchers who have started a game this season, only Franklin Morales (2.59) and Josh Beckett (4.06) have an ERA below 4.32.
In three starts, Morales has been excellent. He allowed two runs in each of his first two outings before his seven shutout innings performance against the Seattle Mariners this week.
With the departure of Kevin Youkilis, Will Middlebrooks is now the Red Sox' starting third baseman. Youk was struggling before he was traded to Chicago, but it was Middlebrooks' form, rather than Youk's lack of it, that brought about the move.
Middlebrooks made his debut on May 2, collecting an extra base hit in each of his first five games and batting .316 for the month. He is second amongst AL rookies in batting average (.298), slugging (.538), and wOBA (.371) and first in home runs (10) and runs batted in (37).
Middle relievers rarely make it to the All-Star Game, but if they had a regular position, Scott Atchison would be in the conversation for a spot.
In 43 innings pitched, the 36-year-old has a 1.47 ERA, third-best in baseball amongst relievers with more than 40 innings.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia had a good case for a spot in the All-Star Game. Salty has had a quietly decent season, and leads all major league catchers in home runs with 15.
Amongst those who have appeared in at least half of Boston's games, Nava owns the team's third-highest batting average at .294. Two years removed from his famous grand slam home run, hit on the first pitch of his major league career, Nava is finally putting together a solid run of form.
His defense has seen an uptick in form, too. Nava has been much more secure in left field than he was in 2010, and has four outfield assists and only one error.