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Takeaways from Sarasota: Going deep

3/11/2014

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Takeaways from Sarasota, where the Red Sox used a wind blowing out to left to produce three homers, A.J. Pierzynski demonstrated opposite-field power and the host Orioles scored two runs without hitting the ball.

The result: The Red Sox defeated the Orioles, 6-5, before a crowd of 7,647 at Ed Smith Stadium, the second sellout of the spring at the O's spring home -- both with the Sox in town. Will Middlebrooks, Brock Holt and Ryan Lavarnway each hit solo dingers for the Sox, while Pierzynski went 3-for-3 with a double and an RBI single. The Orioles benefited from three consecutive walks by Sox starter Allen Webster and a wild pitch by reliever Alex Wilson to plate two runs in the fourth inning.

On top of their game: Several players had solid offensive days in Sarasota, including the top four in the lineup.

Daniel Nava went 2-for-4 with two doubles as the leadoff hitter, Jackie Bradley had a run-scoring triple and a walk in a 1-for-3 day, Middlebrooks went 1-for-3 to raise his spring average to .318 and Pierzynski looked solid at the plate and behind it.

"A lot of good at-bats," manager John Farrell said. "Once again, Daniel Nava -- his typical approach, all fields. He's going to hit pitches whether located in the strike zone. A good day with A.J. behind the plate and also offensively. Will continues to improve and profiles exactly what you'd want from a third baseman. Jackie is beginning to see the ball better as he gets more at-bats. It's good to see timing becoming a little bit more consistent as we get to this point of the spring."

After hitting a double off Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez down the left-field line in his first at-bat, Pierzynski had two more opposite-field hits in his final two plate appearances, both singles. His single in the third inning resulted in the second run for the Sox after Holt ripped a line drive over the left-field fence for his first home run of the spring.

Middlebrooks hit his second homer of the spring, both off of Orioles righthander Tommy Hunter -- the first came three days ago in Sarasota. The solo shot in the sixth gave the Sox a 3-2 lead before the Orioles evened things in the bottom half of the inning.

"I'm not trying to hit home runs," Middlebrooks said. "I'm just trying to stay in the middle of the field more."

Middlebrooks earlier created a highlight-reel day reminiscent of his high school days at Liberty Eylau in Texarkana, where he played primarily as a shortstop before being drafted by the Sox in 2007.

With the Orioles' J.J. Hardy on first and no outs, Middlebrooks was positioned at the shortstop location in a shift during Matt Wieters' at-bat. Wieters hit a slow roller that got past Webster toward a charging Middlebrooks, who quickly corralled it with his glove and flipped it to shortstop Deven Marrero at second for the force out.

"My dad's here and he'll probably get on me for trying to be a prettyboy," Middlebrooks joked. "It goes back to my high school days when I played shortstop. Didn't really think about it, just did it."

In the seventh, Holt (2-for-3) started the inning with a double and came around to score on a one-out double by Nava. Bradley then tripled home Nava.

"It was nice to finally get one," said Bradley, who raised his spring average over the Mendoza line to .208.

Webster wows, then walks one after another: Webster continues to make his case for a spot starter role when the regular season rolls around, tossing three shutout innings before creating his own trouble in the fourth. The righthander, who pitched three scoreless innings on March 6 at Miami, ended up allowing two runs and two hits while walking three and striking out three over 3 1/3 innings.

"He's really understanding how to use his stuff," Farrell said. "He's using the sinker more, evident by the number of groundballs today. He's got a trememndous package of pitches. I think his last two outings have been extremely positive for him, particularly throwing two-seamers to allow him to get some outs early, getting into the flow of the game. That's taken place the last two outings."

Webster, who had seven starts in the majors last season, going 1-2 with an 8.60 ERA, has used this spring to refine his technique, garnering help from Jon Lester and John Lackey at the request of pitching coach Juan Nieves. The major point of emphasis has been to stay "north to south" from the start of the motion to the point of delivery.

For the first three innings Tuesday, the lanky 6-foot-2 righty effectively did so, surrendering just a single in the first and one in the second while striking out three and forcing four ground outs, including one double play.

The trouble came in the fourth when Webster clearly looked gassed. After getting Nick Markakis to fly out to right, Webster walked Nelson Cruz, Chris Davis and Hardy on 14 total pitches.

Farrell saved the 24-year-old from any further damage by calling on Wilson, who let in two runs by walking Wieters and tossing a wild pitch during Delmon Young's at-bat.

"I was drifting forward and wasn't staying back and getting a good angle toward the plate," said Webster, who tossed 57 pitches, 32 for strikes. "I definitely learned something from it. The fatigue got to me, but I need to learn from it and keep staying back. It's a matter of getting my timing, pulling it down instead of stepping to the side, instead of at the last minute not pulling off, losing it."

Dot, dot, dots: Corey Brown, who was signed as a minor league free agent from the Washington Nationals during the offseason, went 0-for-3 to drop his spring average to .400. ... Despite leaving four on base, Lavarnway's 1-for-4 performance has him batting .316 for the spring.