BOSTON (AP) — Will Middlebrooks’ reaction running down the first-base line might have summed up how his teammates were feeling when the Boston Red Sox finally got back to .500.
The slumping Middlebrooks pumped his fist a few times after hitting an RBI single with the bases loaded, capping a two-run rally in the eighth inning that sent the Red Sox over the Cincinnati Reds 4-3 Wednesday night for a sweep of the two-game interleague series.
“I just wanted to help the team win and to contribute,” Middlebrooks said.
Mired in a 2-for-19 stretch and coming off an 0-for-5 night with a pair of strikeouts, Middlebrooks sent a hard grounder up the middle for the go-ahead run.
“I’ve been frustrated, but regardless if you’re 10-for-10 or 0-for-10 or whatever, you’re happy to contribute to a win in any way possible,” he said.
David Ortiz and Mike Napoli also drove in runs for the World Series champions, who reached .500 for the first time since the fourth game of the season. They failed in eight previous chances.
“I don’t think it was a mental hurdle,” Boston manager John Farrell said. “I never heard too many of us mention that we’re bumping up against .500 and taking a step back. It was just more of a situation inside games where we had opportunities that we haven’t cashed in on, finally we do tonight.”
Skip Schumaker hit a two-run homer for Cincinnati, who lost the opener to Boston 4-3 in 12 innings. It was the Reds’ 11th one-run loss, most in the majors.
“We play a lot of low scoring, one-run games,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “We’re battling and we’ll be whole soon, but until then we’ve got to find a way to create some distance between ourselves and our opponent. It’ll come down to making every single play over the course of those last three innings to win the game, and it can’t be like that every single day of a baseball season.”
Trailing 3-2 in the eighth, the Red Sox scored against two relievers.
“It’s tough,” Reds left fielder Chris Heisey said. “We felt like we had the game and let it slip away.”
Napoli drew a one-out walk from Manny Parra, J.J. Hoover (1-4) walked pinch-hitter Jonny Gomes and A.J. Pierzynski’s ground-rule double tied it at 3. Jackie Bradley Jr. was intentionally walked before Middlebrooks had his tiebreaking hit.
Craig Breslow (2-0), who also got the win in Tuesday’s game, pitched one hitless inning. Koji Uehara struck out the final three batters for his eighth save.
Cincinnati starter Mike Leake pitched seven strong innings and was in line for the win before Boston rallied. He gave up two runs on eight hits, walking two and striking out four.
Boston’s Jake Peavy allowed three or fewer runs for the sixth time in seven starts, giving up three runs on four hits with four walks and five strikeouts.
The Reds took a 3-2 lead in the seventh when Roger Bernadina bounced a slow groundout to second against reliever Chris Capuano with the bases loaded.
In the bottom half, Heisey made a nice inning-ending running catch on Shane Victorino’s liner into the gap with the tying run on second.
Boston tied it with a pair of runs in the sixth on a run-scoring single by Ortiz and RBI double by Napoli. It could have been worse for Leake, but Grady Sizemore bounced to second with runners on second and third and, after an intentional walk, Bradley Jr. hit an inning-ending grounder.
Schumaker, who came off the 15-day disabled list on Saturday after being sidelined since spring training with a dislocated left shoulder, homered in the third after Heisey had a leadoff double.
The teams bounced into a combined five double plays, with the Red Sox turning three.
NOTES: Farrell didn’t start SS Xander Bogaerts to “get another left-handed bat in the lineup.” Switch-hitter Jonathan Herrera took his spot and batted ninth. Bogaerts came in as a defensive replacement in the ninth. … Leake had given up eight hits and four runs over seven innings in each of his last two starts. … Reds RHP Alfredo Simon turned 33 Wednesday. … The Reds are off until Friday, when they open a six-game homestand against Colorado with RHP Johnny Cueto (3-2, 1.31 ERA) going against RHP Jhoulys Chacin (0-1, 7.20). After Peavy, Chacin is the second of four straight starting pitchers the Reds are scheduled to face with the first letter of their first name starting with the letter “J.” The Rockies will are also slated pitch RHP Jordan Lyles and Juan Nicasio. … Boston is also off Thursday before opening a six-game road trip in Texas when RHP Clay Buchholz (2-2, 5.63) faces Yu Darvish (2-1, 2.87).