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Closing Time: Jose Iglesias puts exclamation point on his job title, Ryan Dempster cruises as Red Sox rampage over Rockies

06.25.13 at 10:52 pm ET
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Will Middlebrooks‘ struggles contributed to his demotion, but if not for the incredible performance of Jose Iglesias, either Middlebrooks would be manning third or the Sox would be elbows deep in the trade market.

Iglesias is rendering such a search unnecessary while giving the Sox the production to permit them the luxury of sending a talent like Middlebrooks down to Triple-A to try to work out his struggles.

On Tuesday, in the Sox’ 11-4 victory, the 23-year-old offered further validation to the decision of the Red Sox to entrust him with the everyday job at third base. He went 3-for-5, with all three of his hits coming against sliders, including a double that he lined to the warning track in left-center and a liner off the Wall in left that was hit with sufficient force that he was held to just a single. Two of the hits came with two-strike counts, improving Iglesias’ line when down to his last strike to an insane .385/.420/.492.

“I used to be afraid to hit with two strikes but not any more. I think that’€™s big,” said Iglesias. “Know the strike zone and be disciplined about it has helped me.”

His performance is now an ongoing absurdity. He has reached base in 27 straight games, he has 17 multi-hit games this year (fifth most on the Red Sox) and he is hitting .434. He would have to go 0-for-51 in order for his average to drop below .300.

“It’€™s been really impressive what he’€™s done. There’€™s been times when people have said, ‘€˜Well, it’€™s a soft .400.’€™ Is there such a thing?” mused starter Ryan Dempster. “Let’€™s try to figure that out. It’€™s still .430 he’€™s hitting. He’€™s driving the ball, too. And on top of all the hitting, and that’€™s all great, but what he’€™s done with his glove whether he’€™s playing third or short or second or center field, I don’€™t know, he’€™s got this amazing glove and does a really good job. It’€™s good to see the success he has. Ride it for as long as it lasts.”

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

-- The Red Sox wanted a reliable veteran, a consistent pitcher able to offer predictably competitive innings to round out their starting rotation this offseason. To date, Ryan Dempster is living up completely to his end of the two-year, $26.5 million bargain.

The right-hander logged another quality start on Tuesday night against the Rockies. On one of the rare nights when he was entrusted with a measure of run support (Tuesday marked just the fifth time in 16 starts that the Sox scored at least four runs while the veteran was in the game), he held up his end of the bargain. Dempster delivered six innings in which he yielded two runs on six hits while walking two and striking out four. And he finished strong, getting a pair of swinging strikeouts in his final inning of work — including one on a 93 mph fastball on his 106th and final pitch of the night.

“The wind was blowing in — I think it just helped me out,” Dempster deadpanned. “I’€™m not sure why that was happening. Maybe the scoreboard operator was doing me a favor. I feel good. I feel strong. My arm feels really good. I don’€™t worry about velocity. It’€™s nice when you want to rear back and throw a fastball with conviction.”

Dempster now has six consecutive quality starts, tied for the second longest such run of his career. During the stretch, he is 3-3 (a record that reflects mostly on poor run support) with a 3.40 ERA. On the season, he now has 10 quality starts in 16 opportunities — a 62.5 percent rate that is in the top 25 in the American League. He’s on pace for 195 innings. He has a 4.15 ERA, a tick above league average.

– Everyone in the Sox lineup got at least one hit, with the team collecting a season-high 20 knocks. The Sox also matched a team season-high for most runs in a game without a homer.

– The offense amassed an impressive string of well-located hits against Rockies starter Juan Nicasio. The right-hander last just 2 1/3 innings, as the Sox collected a dozen hits against him (their most against any starter this year), with eight singles in the mix. The Sox have now knocked out an opposing starter in three or fewer innings eight times this year, most of any team in the majors.

Daniel Nava, who entered the game having gone 3-for-30 in his previous nine games (35 plate appearances), matched that hit total by the conclusion of his third plate appearance with three straight singles.

Dustin Pedroia went 3-for-5 with a double and drove in four. Two of his hits came to right, while one came to center. After starting June without collecting three hits in any of his first 20 games of the month (hitting .218/.300/.308 in the process), Pedroia now has back-to-back three-hit games. The four runs batted in represented a season high.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

Shane Victorino continues to prove constitutionally incapable of avoiding collisions with walls. He misplayed a flyball in the seventh for a three-base error, then seemed to brace for and almost seek contact with the low fence in right field, on a play where it did not appear he was in imminent danger of contact with the fence. He required the attention of a team trainer and manager John Farrell, but stayed in the game.

“Another wall, another day,” Farrell said. “He hit a bolt that holds up one of those signs. It’s not that he suffered a gash, but it hit him in a tough spot right above the ear. He kind of lost his footing going after the ball. Like I said, it seems like he’s finding a wall on a daily basis.”

Read More: daniel nava, Dustin Pedroia, jose iglesias, Ryan Dempster
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