SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) — Will Middlebrooks hit his second home run off Tommy Hunter in a four-day span, a solo shot in the sixth inning that helped a Boston Red Sox split squad beat the Baltimore Orioles 6-5 Tuesday.
Brock Holt and Ryan Lavarnway also connected for the Red Sox, who stopped Baltimore’s seven-game winning streak.
Hunter is vying to replace closer Jim Johnson, who was traded during the offseason. Hunter has pitched three innings this spring training and yielded two runs — both on homers by Middlebrooks.
“He’s a good pitcher, man,” Middlebrooks said of Hunter. “He’ll ramp it up when the season gets here, too. He’s throwing 94 (mph), 95 but he’s got triple digits in him.”
This time, Middlebrooks pounced on Hunter’s first pitch to put Boston up 3-2. A.J. Pierzynski followed with a single but Hunter avoided further damage.
“He’s fine,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “He’s throwing the ball well, feels fine physically.”
Middlebrooks is batting .318 and feels good at the plate.
“I’m not trying to hit home runs. I realized I didn’t have to try to hit home runs to hit home runs,” he said. “I’m able to stay in the middle of the field more, and even in my first two at-bats when I got out, I feel like I laid off some pitches I would have normally swung at. I was happy with that.”
Holt homered in the third off Miguel Gonzalez, who was struck in the shin by a line drive in his previous outing.
Orioles: Gonzalez was bothered by back spasms before the line drive found his left leg, so getting some work Tuesday was significant.
“We’ve got a couple more weeks, but I always want to be out there and be able to do more, get my innings up,” he said. “I think that’s important to me right now.”
The right-hander allowed two runs and four hits in three innings.
“I felt good throughout all three innings,” Gonzalez said. “All I wanted was to be out there and try to throw 45 to 50 pitches, and that’s what I did.”
Red Sox: Allen Webster breezed through three innings before walking the bases loaded with one out in the third before being pulled.
“I’m not sure if it was getting tired or something, but I was drifting forward and not getting a good angle toward home plate,” he said.
He gave up two runs, two hits and those three annoying walks in 3 1-3 innings.
Orioles: Catcher Matt Wieters left after four innings with a twisted right ankle, the result of a poor turn around third base.
Showalter said Wieters was removed as a precautionary measure. No x-rays were taken.
In addition, reliever Brian Matusz went two innings instead of three because he was still recovering from an allergic reaction to peanuts, and outfielder Francisco Peguero is out with a sprained right wrist.
The Orioles reassigned right-hander Eddie Gamboa, infielder Cord Phelps and outfielder Julio Borbon to minor league camp.