BOSTON With the Red Sox trailing by three runs going into the eighth inning Friday night against the Braves, there were fleeting thoughts that they might be able to duplicate their eighth-inning dramatics of the night before.
After all, the sparkplug to Thursdays three-run, game-winning rally, Will Middlebrooks, was leading off, followed by Ryan Kalish, Mike Aviles, and Daniel Nava, who all played key roles in the outburst.
Middlebrooks and his teammates had been virtually stymied up to that point in the game by Braves right-hander Jair Jurrjens, making his first big league start since April 23. Jurrjens had allowed just three baserunners through the first seven innings a first-inning single by Adrian Gonzalez, a third-inning walk to Nava, and hitting Middlebrooks with a pitch in the fifth.
Middlebrooks came through in the eighth with a lead-off double, off the wall in center field. After Kalish flied out to center field and Aviles grounded out to shortstop, Nava doubled to center, scoring Middlebrooks and ending Jurrjens outing.
Chad Durbin replaced Jurrjens on the mound to face Dustin Pedroia. But Pedroia grounded out to short to end the Red Sox hopes, as they fell to the Braves, 4-1.
Pedroia missed six games after leaving the May 28 game against the Tigers with a slight tear in the adductor muscle of his right thumb. He avoided the disabled list. But, in 15 games since returning to the lineup, Pedroia is batting .145, going 9-for-62, with three extra-base hits, all doubles, five RBI, five walks, and 10 strikeouts. His average has fallen from .295 to .264 in that span.
Today he actually said he felt fine, like its over, manager Bobby Valentine said. It probably did take three weeks plus to heal. And I thought his swings tonight were pretty good. The ball he hit to right field in the sixth was one of the best balls he hit to right field in a long time.
Just pitchers, theres a lot of pitchers that theyre pitching him tough. He hasnt gotten those pitches that he can really drive. And hes battling. Hell get hot. Hotter than a firecracker.
Asked if he would consider moving Pedroia out of his customary No. 2 spot in the lineup, Valentine replied:
Theres been a lot of consideration but I think Pedroia getting hot is right around the corner.