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BOS@COL: Middlebrooks clubs a grand slam to pad lead

DENVER -- While Todd Helton said good-bye to Rockies fans with a memorable performance in his home finale, the Red Sox stayed focused on their own business and closed in on clinching the best record in the American League.

Backed by a dominant offensive attack, the Sox rolled past the Rockies, 15-5, on Wednesday night at Coors Field.

With three games left in the regular season, Boston (96-63) leads the Athletics by two games in the quest for home-field advantage throughout the postseason.

"With all due respect to Todd, he's had a great career," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "We fully expected the ovation each at-bat he came to tonight, but whether it's his ceremony tonight or Mariano's a couple of weeks ago, our guys don't let that come into play as far as a distraction of any kind."

While Helton (2-for-3, homer, double, three RBIs) gave Rockies fans one last reminder of how gifted a hitter he's been over the last 17 years, the Red Sox got offense from all over the lineup.

There were plenty of standout performers, led by Will Middlebrooks, who belted two homers, including a grand slam, and had a career-high seven RBIs.

"It was an up-and-down night to be honest," Middlebrooks said. "I had a couple bad at-bats, a couple of good at-bats, but I can't complain, it ended up being a good night. I did something to help us win a game."

Middlebrooks has stayed the course, even after a near two-month demotion to Triple-A and a recent slump. He feels primed to help the Red Sox in whatever way he can down the stretch.

"It's been a tough couple of weeks, it's been a tough year," Middlebrooks said. "But at this point of the year, man, it's not about me, it's about winning to us. Like I've said many times before, if I go 0-for-4 and I make a play to help us win the game, that's fine, it's about winning."

One player who just keeps helping the Red Sox win is Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who went 4-for-5, scored twice and drove in three. The same goes for Shane Victorino, who ripped a three-run homer and had three hits.

"A very good night up and down," Farrell said. "A big night from Will. A big night from Salty. Vic with three hits, a three-run homer himself. David [Ortiz] with two RBIs to get to 100. To get out of the gate, to score first, and the way they kept coming back, we were able to spread things out. Just a good way to finish this two-game set here."

Jake Peavy turned in a so-so performance from the mound, giving up eight hits and five runs over six innings. But it was good enough to get the win, and Peavy aided his own cause with a double that led to a three-run rally.

"Well it was a grind, as it always is in this ballpark," Peavy said. "It's a live ball. You try to keep it out of the air. It's a grind. Anytime you can win on your day, it's a good day. The way we swung the bats was outstanding. We did just enough to end their rallies when they had them going."

Jacoby Ellsbury wasted no time making an impact in his first start since Sept. 5, opening the game with a line single to right. Victorino followed with a bunt single. Ortiz ripped a two-run double to right, coming up with RBIs No. 99 and 100. It was the seventh season of at least 100 RBIs in Ortiz's career.

Saltalamacchia gave Peavy a 3-0 lead before he threw a pitch with a two-out, RBI single to center.

Helton brought the crowd to its feet when he launched a towering solo homer to right with one out in the second.

"Cutter," Peavy said. "He got enough of it. After those first few innings, you realized you did not want the ball hit in the air to right field. Or left field, once I saw it traveling out there. Todd's a tremendous competitor and a tremendous person. The little bit I do know him, congratulations on a wonderful career. I had fun competing against him tonight."

With two outs, Yorvit Torrealba belted an RBI double to center to trim Boston's lead to 3-2.

In this game, one rally just sort of led to the next. Saltalamacchia drilled an RBI double in the third to bring home Daniel Nava.

But the Rockies roared back in their half of the third, tying the game on a sacrifice fly by Helton and a ground-rule double to right by Nolen Arenado. Victorino prevented the inning from being worse when he flagged down a liner to right-center by Torrealba.

It was Peavy of all people who jump-started the Boston offense in the fourth. He smashed a one-out double off the wall in right.

"The ball was carrying tonight," Peavy said. "You hit the ball in the air, you have a chance."

Ellsbury walked, and Victorino delivered a three-run homer to left.

"Any time a pitcher gets a hit, it breaks your spirit," Peavy said. "You're supposed to get that guy out. To be able to contribute a little that way is fun. It brought me back to a few years back when I enjoyed doing that."

It was the first hit this season by a Boston pitcher.

Middlebrooks went the other way for a three-run shot to right in fifth and Boston had a commanding 10-4 lead.

Helton, who was in the middle of everything all night, roped an RBI double to left-center in the fifth to make it a five-run game.

"That's not my forte, being the center of attention," Helton said. "But it's one of those situations where you have to embrace it, enjoy it, because I'm never going to be on that field again playing."

The rout was on when the Sox tacked on a five-spot in the eighth, including the grand slam by Middlebrooks down the line in left.

The Red Sox will enjoy an off-day in Baltimore on Thursday, and then finish their regular season with a three-game series at Camden Yards, hoping to clinch that best record.

"It's something that's another goal that guys have in front of them, it's a motivator inside of a game to finish out strong and put together a strong game and play a good brand of baseball," Farrell said. "And that's what we hope to do on this trip. And to finish out this season with the best record would be a further statement that these guys are making."

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