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 visiting Cincinnati Reds, 4-3, last 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."
* At San Diego, James Shields (4-3) scattered seven hits over seven innings, Eric Hosmer drove in a season-high four runs and the Kansas City Royals beat the San Diego Padres, 8-0.
* At Chicago, Gordon Beckham homered for the second straight night and Paul Konerko had a big three-run double, leading the White Sox to an 8-3 victory over the sliding Cubs
* At Arlington, Nolan Arenado had three hits to extend his hitting streak to 27 games, matching Colorado's team record, and the Rockies had their third lopsided victory over Texas in as many nights, 9-2.
Adrian Beltre homered for Texas and became only the fifth player in major league history with 100 home runs for three different teams.
In NL games
* At Washington, Stephen Strasburg (3-2) recovered from another rough first inning to pitch into the eighth, Wilson Ramos produced a go-ahead sacrifice fly in his first game since opening day, and the Nationals edged the Los Angeles Dodgers, 3-2.
Yasiel Puig returned to the Dodgers lineup 3 days after crashing into a wall during a game.
In Nationals news, first baseman and outfielder Tyler Moore was optioned to Triple A, making room on the roster for righthander Doug Fister to make his season debut tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Nationals manager Matt Williams' car was rear-ended yesterday during a police chase. Williams was doing an interview with a local radio station when he was interrupted by the minor crash.
* At Miami, Marcell Ozuna hit a sacrifice fly with one out in the ninth inning, and the Marlins completed a three-game sweep of the New York Mets by winning, 1-0.
* At Pittsburgh, Gerrit Cole (3-2) won for the first time in nearly a month, and the Pirates beat San Francisco, 4-3, for their second straight win over the Giants.
* At Milwaukee, Paul Goldschmidt hit a two-run homer for the second straight game to back Bronson Arroyo (3-2) and lead the Arizona Diamondbacks over the Brewers, 3-2.
* At Atlanta, Adam Wainwright (6-2) pitched eight strong innings, Matt Holliday drove in three runs and Peter Bourjos homered to lead the St. Louis Cardinals past the Braves, 7-1.
In AL games
* At Oakland, Justin Smoak hit an RBI single with two outs in the 10th inning to help the Seattle Mariners win for the 10th time in 12 games, beating the Athletics, 6-4, in the first game of a doubleheader.
Fill-in starter Drew Pomeranz (2-1) pitched five scoreless innings for his second win in his past 20 starts and the A's salvaged a split of a doubleheader by beating Seattle, 2-0, in the nightcap.
* At Cleveland, Mike Aviles's two-out single in the ninth inning gave the Indians a 4-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins.
In Indians news, centerfielder Michael Bourn missed his fourth straight game because of a tight left hamstring but could return to the lineup today.
* At Detroit, Miguel Cabrera hit a two-run homer in the first inning, and Rick Porcello (5-1) pitched effectively into the seventh to the lead the Tigers to their eighth straight win, 3-2, over the Houston Astros.
* At St. Petersburg, Adam Jones hit a pair of solo homers and Jonathan Schoop launched a tiebreaking, two-run shot that sent the Baltimore Orioles over the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-3.