Will Middlebrooks, Red Sox One Step Closer to Locking Up AL’s Top Seed After Huge Offensive Effort in Colorado

Stephen Drew, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Will MiddlebrooksThe Red Sox are one step closer to securing home-field advantage.

The Red Sox entered Wednesday’s game against the Rockies with the luxury of knowing that the Athletics had already lost to the Angels. Boston proceeded to take care of business behind a relentless offensive attack. The Red Sox racked up 16 hits in a 15-5 rout, and Boston will now head to Baltimore with a two-game edge over Oakland in the race for the American League’s best record.

Will Middlebrooks filled up the box score Wednesday with two home runs and a career-high seven RBIs. He hit a three-run homer in the fifth inning, and then added a grand slam in the eighth inning to really put the game out of reach.

“It’s been a tough couple of weeks, but we’ve been winning ballgames, and I’m just trying to do whatever I can to help our team win,” said Middlebrooks, who entered the game hitting just .128 (5-for-39) over his last 11 games.

Overall, Middlebrooks is hitting .298 (39-for-131) with eight home runs and 24 RBIs in 38 games since being recalled on Aug. 10. On Wednesday, he showed power to both fields. Middlebrooks hammered his three-run homer into the right field seats and then hooked his grand slam just fair down the left field line. Perhaps the performance will send the 25-year-old in the right direction as Boston closes out the regular season and gets ready to embark on what it hopes is a deep playoff run.

Middlebrooks was hardly the only member of the Red Sox’ lineup to have a big night. Jarrod Saltalamacchia added four hits and drove in three runs, raising his season average to .272 and his OPS to .803. Shane Victorino had three hits, including a three-run homer, and Stephen Drew and Daniel Nava finished with two hits apiece.

“We’ve got a great core group of veteran guys who have been leading us all year,” Middlebrooks said. “On and off the field, they’ve been great. To see those guys succeed this late in their careers, it’s really cool to see.”

The Rockies actually stuck around in the early going Wednesday. David Ortiz opened up the scoring with a two-run double as part of a three-run first inning, but Colorado’s offense also came out hot, and the score was tied 4-4 after three innings. Victorino launched a three-run blast to left field in the fourth inning, though, and it was all Boston from there.

“A very good night up and down,” manager John Farrell said. “A big night from Will. A big night from Salty. Vic with three hits and a three-run homer himself. David with two RBIs to get to 100 and to open the gate to score first. And the way they kept coming back, we were able to spread things open. Just a good way to finish this two-game set here.”

Jacoby Ellsbury also made his return on what turned out to be a very successful night for the Red Sox. He led off the game with a single and finished 1-for-2 with a walk and two runs before being replaced in center field by Jackie Bradley Jr. — as planned — prior to the bottom of the fourth inning.

“First at-bat looked like he hadn’t missed any time at all,” Farrell said of Ellsbury, who had been sidelined since Sept. 5 with a fracture to the navicular bone in his right foot. “He came out of it feeling the same as when he started, so that was the most important thing here tonight. But just to get him back on the field was a big step.”

The 10-run victory was a big step for both Ellsbury and the Red Sox. Boston still needs to get things done over the final three games, but home-field advantage is well within reach. The Red Sox’ magic number to lock up the No. 1 seed is now two.

“It means a lot,” Middlebrooks said of securing the league’s best record. “We get home-field advantage and then we get to play the wild card winner instead of Detroit, who’s got a real good pitching staff, so it means a lot to us.”

The Red Sox rarely play two bad games in a row. So even though the Rockies had emotion on their side Wednesday, with Todd Helton playing his final game in Colorado, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that Boston would atone for its lackluster effort in Tuesday’s game.

The Red Sox now have three games before it’s officially playoff time. The chances of them starting the ALDS at home became even greater Wednesday.

Have a question for Ricky Doyle? Send it to him via Twitter at @TheRickyDoyle or send it here.

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