Will Middlebrooks wasn't in the starting lineup for Game 5 supplanted by rookie Xander Bogaerts getting the first postseason start of his career. Middlebrooks himself didn't find himself in the game until the ninth inning and when he did it was as a pinch-runner. And though he didn't score an insurance run in the top of the ninth in the Red Sox' 4-3 win over the Detroit Tigers in Game 5 of the ALCS it was an eventful appearance anyway. After Bogaerts drew a leadoff walk in the ninth Middlebrooks was the surprise choice to run for him. The Sox regard Middlebrooks as the superior defender at third over Bogaerts -- who hadn't played the position until this summer -- but it seemed an odd call. If the Sox wanted Middlebrooks in for defense in the bottom of the inning they could have run speedster Quintin Berry for Bogaerts and then inserted Middlebrooks at third when the Sox took the field. Still there was a method to the seemingly peculiar decision. The Sox wanted Middlebrooks to get into the game physically and not be asked to take over at third cold. And there was another reason. The Sox were going to try to bunt the runner over and while not the runner Berry is Middlebrooks is a smart baserunner who understands what the Sox were asking of him. In their meetings before the series with help from their advance scouts the Sox talked about how the Tigers like to have third baseman Miguel Cabrera charge on bunt situations leaving third base uncovered. So when David Ross bunted toward third sure enough Cabrera came in to field the ball. Cabrera wheeled to first and nipped Ellsbury at first as Middlebrooks bolted for second.
As a pinch-runner, Middlebrooks' presence felt
NBC Sports Boston | Oct 18