BOSTON -- Although he knew he could do it, Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks understood just how difficult the situation he came into Thursday night was going to be.
Battling hamstring tightness that occurred Tuesday night and kept him out of the starting lineup since, Middlebrooks was rushed into duty after outfielder Yoenis Cespedes left the game in the fourth to tend to a family medical emergency. As it turned out, Middlebrooks ended up being Boston's only source of offense on the night, doubling off Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim starter Matt Shoemaker in the seventh inning to account for the Red Sox's only hit in their 2-0 loss.
"As a guy on the bench, you start getting loose around the sixth inning for a possible pinch hit -- maybe the seventh inning -- so in the third it was kind of out of nowhere and I had to get as loose as I could and get out there to help us win," Middlebrooks said.
Red Sox manager John Farrell had said before the game that Middlebrooks would be available, but he knew his third baseman was still dealing with some lingering pain. However, with a short bench featuring a back spasm-addled Mike Napoli and David Ortiz -- both of whom Farrell wished to stay away from for the entire game to give them some rest -- Farrell's hand was forced. He needed to rely on Middlebrooks to finish things out.
"He's still dealing with some discomfort there," Farrell said. "He's not a full 100 percent but given the occurrence with Yoenis we had to put him in there tonight. He got through it."
The double alone was enough to test the limits of Middlebrooks' injury. Rounding first on the hit, Middlebrooks grabbed his right hamstring as he slowed into second. After the inning ended one batter later, Middlebrooks spent some time on the infield stretching his leg out before returning to the dugout to get his glove and take to the field once more.
"It wasn't 100 percent coming into the game, but I was good enough to go," Middlebrooks said. "I wasn't too worried about it. I just tried to get in a position to score some runs and unfortunately we couldn't."
A little support could have gone a long way for Red Sox starter Rubby De La Rosa as the right-hander threw 6 2/3 strong innings, matching his career-high of eight strikeouts and giving up both Angels runs. After a rocky first led to an Angels run, and a second that required him to strike out Kole Calhoun and Mike Trout with the bases loaded, De La Rosa faced the minimum in three of his next four innings before leaving in the seventh.
"I tried to do my best," De La Rosa said. "I tried to push myself, tried to keep the game tight."
Said Farrell: "I thought he settled in. He was really strong early on. He pitched well enough to win on most nights tonight."
Lacking offensive support, De La Rosa received help from his batterymate Christian Vazquez, who picked Howie Kendrick off first base on a close play in the third that required a replay to get the call right. Vazquez would need no replay on his second feat of the night, gunning down Trout by a good margin on a stolen-base attempt in the ninth. Not a bad way to celebrate one's 24th birthday.
"I can tell you, it was a rocket," Angels manager Mike Scioscia told reporters after the game.
For the Red Sox, now losers of five straight, the effort was there Thursday night. However, the result wasn't as Shoemaker had everything going to seal the sweep for the Angels.
"We couldn't get anything going against him," Farrell said.