Some may call it a hangover. But, simply put, the Red Sox just didn't give their best effort on Friday night.
Josh Beckett, looking to build a streak after a solid outing on Sunday, endured some early-inning struggles once again against the Blue Jays in what turned out to be a 6-1 loss. The defeat itself wasn't all that devastating, but coming off such a glorious high as Thursday night's walk-off it was as disheartening a loss as any.
The silver lining, though, was the reemergence of Will Middlebrooks at the plate. After struggling through a 2-for-16 stretch with Kevin Youkilis back in town earlier in the week, Middlebrooks finally emerged from his cubby hole to rediscover his stroke on Friday.
The 23-year-old went 2-for-4 against Toronto in the game and scored Boston's only run of the night, as he attempted to spark another Red Sox rally in the bottom of the ninth. His resurgence may not have come on the most ideal of nights, but it is important nonetheless.
Middlebrooks has officially taken over the Sox starting third base job — that was confirmed when Youkilis took his final bow in front of the Fenway Faithful on June 24. But now it is time for the youngster to embrace the role and find his groove at the dish.
The importance of Middlebrooks' offensive production has only grown since David Ortiz found himself sidelined with a bum wheel (Achilles, to be exact). Cody Ross saw the opportunity and seized the chance to assert himself as an integral part of this team, belting three three-run home runs and propelling the Sox to back-to-back wins. But while Ross thrives, Middlebrooks has floundered. That was until Friday night.
After an 0-for-2 start, including an inning-ending double play in the fourth, Middlebrooks found his rhythm at the plate and made the Blue Jays pay with their inside fastballs. Smacking a pair of singles in the seventh and ninth, Middlebrooks finally impacted the offense and may be just the jolt the team needs to keep a consistent flow.
While Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford wreak havoc on the basepaths, and Ross and Adrian Gonzalez continue to mash with power, Middlebrooks needs to be the uniting force that keeps the offense flowing. He's now an important piece to Boston's postseason dreams, and if he can find contribute more consistently the Red Sox will certainly be in a better position to accomplish that very goal.