BOSTON -- The kid can rake.
In the midst of rampant speculation that the Red Sox are about to trade veteran third baseman Kevin Youkilis, Middlebrooks hasn't been fazed by any of it and keeps producing at the plate.
He finished the night 3-for-4, with an RBI double, a solo home run, a single and a groundout to third. Middlebrooks has reached base safely in 20 of 21 games since May 23 and is batting .385 with four homers and 17 RBIs during that span.
"I feel real comfortable," Middlebrooks said. "I'm seeing it early and I'm seeing it long. I'm getting good pitches to hit and not missing them."
With Middlebrooks handling most of the offense, pitcher Franklin Morales did the job on the mound.
In only his second start for the Red Sox this season, the left-handed Morales worked six solid innings and allowed three runs (two earned) on seven hits with one walk and eight strikeouts. He has 17 strikeouts in his past two outings.
"I have my confidence back and I'm just trying to throw my pitches," Morales said. "I use both sides of the plate."
Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia was impressed.
"He's been great," Pedroia said. "His first start when he struck out nine you could tell his stuff is electric. I mean, it always is when he's in the 'pen and tonight he went out, ate up innings and threw the ball great. He gave us a huge boost."
Braves starter Randall Delgado wasn't nearly as efficient. The right-hander lasted only 1 1/3 innings and allowed four runs on six hits with two walks and one strikeout.
MODEL OF CONSISTENCY: Current Red Sox leadoff man Daniel Nava is locked in at plate. He's 20-for-49 (.408) in 16 games in the month of June. He gave Boston an 8-4 lead with a two-run single in the bottom of the eighth inning Saturday.
PEDEY HEATING UP? It appears to be the time of the season when Pedroia starts to rake. At least the Red Sox hope that's the case. After a 0-for-4 performance on Friday, he entered Saturday's game 3-for-15 on this homestand. He went 3-for-4 on Saturday with a walk, two RBIs and a run scored. July is still a week away, but Pedroia has a career-high .350 average in that month, with 13 homers and 50 RBIs in 97 career games in July.
"Hits are coming," Pedroia said. "Every year I go through a tough time, like everybody else does, but when it rains it pours. You can go from cold to real hot."
He added, "I felt good the last few days and I've swung the bat good but I just didn't get any hits. That's the tough part to deal with mentally -- when you have good at-bats, quality at-bats and you don't get any hits. You've just got to know that they're coming and they will."
A CHIPPER MOMENT: In a classy move, the Red Sox honored the Braves' Chipper Jones in a pregame ceremony. After 19 years in the majors, the 40-year-old plans on retiring at the end of this season.
UP NEXT: Since Red Sox scheduled starter Clay Buchholz was scratched from his start on Sunday due to illness, the club will recall right-hander Aaron Cook from his rehab assignment at Triple-A Pawtucket to replace Buchholz. Cook was scheduled to start for the PawSox on Saturday night. He suffered a lacerated knee when he was spiked at home plate in his Red Sox debut on May 5. He made his first rehab start for Pawtucket on June 18 and had to settle for a no-decision while allowing three runs on seven hits in four innings of work. He began the season with the PawSox before making one start for Boston, when he allowed seven runs on eight hits in 2 2/3 innings against Baltimore before suffering the injury. Cook will face Braves left-hander Mike Minor (3-4, 6.04).