Four days later, Will Middlebrooks was still achy from the high-speed collision with David Ross.
“I’m sore, man,” he said. “I’m pretty sore.”
The Red Sox’ 5-0 win over the Blue Jays Friday was his second game after sitting out Tuesday against the Twins with pain in his right side.
He didn’t want to sit Tuesday. As a matter of fact, he barely wanted to leave the game when it happened.
He stayed in for another inning before the pain finally got to him.
“It’s just kind of something I thought I could play through, but I knew I wasn’t feeling too great,” Middlebrooks said. “But I wanted to be out there for my teammates.”
There was also a part of Middlebrooks that knew he could not afford to miss any at-bats if he could help it. Not while he drags himself through the worst slump he’s experienced in his young career.
Hurt or healthy, he wanted to swing his way out of it.
“The way I’ve been looking at it, the more at-bats I get, the more games I’m in, that’s how much closer I am to getting out of this [slump],” he said. “I want to keep grinding this thing out. I don’t want to go sit down and watch. I’m going to eventually run into something.”
As it happened, he ran into a certain 230-pound someone first.
“I could’ve picked a smaller guy,” he said. “I’m proud of myself, he had gear on and he went out first.”
But after going 2 for 4 with an RBI against the Blue Jays Friday, denting the Green Monster with a double in the fourth inning and going the other way to right field for another double in the sixth, Middlebrooks continued to shake off not only the injury but also his struggles at the plate.
His batting average rose to .203. His three doubles in the past two games came off a stretch of eight games without an extra-base hit. He drove in a run in the second inning when Maicer Izturis and Mark DeRosa misplayed a ground ball that likely would’ve been an inning-ending double play, but when you’re slumping, every break is important.
In the fourth, he pounced on the first pitch he saw from Ramon Ortiz — an 86-mile-per-hour fastball up in the zone.
“I hit it off the end,” Middlebrooks said. “But I’ll take anything right now.”
Beyond his hitting, he was magnet for the ball on a night when Sox starter Jon Lester took a perfect game into the sixth. Between seven assists and two putouts, he was more than busy at the hot corner.
“The way I look at it, if I’m not getting any hits, no one’s getting any hits,” he’s said. “So you try to rob somebody and save a run or whatever I can do to help.”
Plus with Lester on the mound, he knew he’d have to be on his toes.
“I like when Jon pitches because I know they’re going to bring righties up there and I know he’s going to throw those cutters in to them, so I know I’m going to get my share of balls and I tell him that before the game, ‘Hey, I’m ready, let’s go,’ ” Middlebrooks said. “When he’s out there, I know I’m extra locked in because I’m going to get eight to 10 balls.”
If there was anything that came out of the night for Middlebrooks, it was the sixth-inning at-bat against Blue Jays lefty Brett Cecil. Middlebrooks sent a sinker to the opposite field.
The Jays made it clear how they were going to pitch to him — away at all costs — so he went to the plate with a plan.
“I came up there with the approach that I know he’s going throw me away,” he said. “The Blue Jays attack me away. He’s probably going to throw me some junk up here. If he doesn’t throw a strike, he doesn’t throw a strike. If he throws me in, he can have it. He gave me a fastball middle-away and I did exactly what I wanted to do with it.
“It’s been a while since I stuck with a plan and it actually went how I wanted it to. So it felt pretty good.”Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.