Pedroia has gotten his swagger back
Atlanta (31-34) at Boston (40-26), 7:10 p.m. ET
BOSTON -- For most Major Leaguers, a six-game slide at the plate is completely normal. Every player is entitled to an off week, but in the case of Dustin Pedroia, such struggles tend to ignite widespread concern.
Coming off a season in which he hit .326 with 17 home runs and 83 RBIs, the reigning Most Valuable Player of the American League has set quite the bar for himself. Though some might have fretted over his recent subpar stretch, a 1-for-28 (.036) dip from June 7 to Saturday, worry isn't in the diminutive second baseman's vocabulary.
Based on his performance in Boston's convincing victories over Florida earlier this week, it seems that the fiery hitting machine is back. Not that he ever left.
"I'll be fine," said Pedroia, whose Sox kick off a weekend Interleague series against Atlanta on Friday night at Fenway Park. "You go through tough times during the season when you play so hard and so many games. You're going to have tough bumps in the road, but you get back on track."
If Tuesday night's 2-for-5 effort against Florida didn't signal an offensive outbreak, Wednesday's performance sure did. In the 6-1 win, Pedroia became the first Red Sox second baseman since 1954 to log at least three hits, three RBIs and two stolen bases in a single contest.
"A guy like him isn't going to not hit," shortstop Nick Green said. "He's going to get pitches to hit, so you just keep putting him in there and let him keep swinging it. He's eventually going to come out of it, and he's been doing that lately."
As is true with every hitter, mistake pitches over the plate serve as the best cure for extended cold streaks. And in terms of slump-busting ballparks, there are few venues better than Fenway Park.
"If you make a mistake over the plate, here in Boston, [Pedroia's] going to hit it off the wall or he's going to hit a home run," manager Terry Francona said. "If you throw it away, and keep it away, he'll hit the ball to right field. But if you throw it over [the plate], he's going to hurt you.
"He's a thoroughly intelligent hitter, and in this ballpark, you try to take advantage of it."Pitching matchup
BOS: RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-4, 7.55 ERA)
Matsuzaka's frustrating season continued last Saturday against the Phillies, as he was pounded for four runs on seven hits over four innings. Matsuzaka has some troubling numbers in 2009. He has allowed 51 hits over 31 innings, and opponents are hitting .372 against him. He hasn't pitched six innings in any of his seven outings. He won his only previous start against the Braves, yielding three runs on nine hits over eight innings. ATL: RHP Kenshin Kawakami (3-6, 4.54 ERA)
The Japanese import, who has not won in four starts, is coming off a string of three straight no-decisions. Atlanta has scored just 22 runs for him in 12 starts this season. He isn't prone to allowing home runs, as the first-inning shot by Baltimore's Adam Jones last Saturday was only the second he's surrendered in his past eight outings. Kawakami labored against the Orioles, throwing 53 of his 104 pitches in the first two innings. Tidbits
Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury has stolen a base in five straight games. ... First baseman Kevin Youkilis has reached base via hit, walk, or hit-by-pitch in 15 of his past 16 contests. ... Thursday night's rain-shortened loss snapped a five-game home winning streak for Boston. Tickets
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Saturday: Red Sox (Josh Beckett, 7-3, 4.15) vs. Braves (Derek Lowe, 7-4, 4.08), 7:10 p.m. ET
Sunday: Red Sox (Tim Wakefield, 9-3, 4.39) vs. Braves (Jair Jurrjens, 5-5, 2.89), 1:35 p.m. ET
John Barone is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.