Pedroia's big day leads rejuvenated offense
Ellsbury, Martinez score two runs apiece to win series
KANSAS CITY -- It was Dustin Pedroia who announced after Friday night's loss -- the third in a row for the Red Sox -- that, "We'll do a better job, I'll do a better job."
The reason the second baseman is both a spark plug and a leader for the Red Sox is that his words are most often backed up by action. So there Pedroia was on Sunday afternoon, going 4-for-5, including his second homer in as many days, fueling a rejuvenated Boston offense to an 8-6 victory in the rubber match of a three-game series against the Royals.
After scoring a total of eight runs during the three-game skid, the Sox roared back for an aggregate of 16 in the final two contests in Kansas City. Now, it's on to Minneapolis, where the Red Sox will help the Twins open up Target Field on Monday afternoon.
"We've looked good," said Pedroia. "We've hit the ball good. We've got to keep that going. We've got a lot of really good offensive players so we're going to be fine."
It was Pedroia's third home run of the year, which is noteworthy considering he didn't hit his second homer until May 31 of last season and No. 3 didn't come until July 5.
"Yeah, I don't know how many games it was [last year] but it seemed like forever," said Pedroia. "I'm actually seeing the ball good, which is good. I usually have a tough time early but I feel good up there."
The pitch he smoked out over the wall by Gil Meche was the high, inside fastball, which created some humor because, as manager Terry Francona pointed out, it was the pitch a fan taunted Pedroia that he couldn't get a hold of in a video game commercial last year.
"Yeah, pretty close," laughed Pedroia.
But the diminutive second baseman proved once again that he can hit pitches in any part of the strike zone, or even a little bit above.
"I just kind of reacted to it," Pedroia said. "On 3-2, you're just kind of in battle mode. I got a pitch, it was up, and I just got on top of it."
Aside from Pedroia, the Sox also got strong getaway day performances from Jacoby Ellsbury (two runs, two hits, stolen base), Victor Martinez (two runs, two hits) and Adrian Beltre (two hits, three RBIs).
"We swung the bats real good," said Francona. "And there was some balance. We used everybody. That was really good. Our whole team's played now, and everybody's done something to help us. So that's real good."
The beneficiary of the batting barrage was righty Clay Buchholz, who labored, despite an early cushion. Buchholz threw 94 pitches over his five innings, giving up seven hits and three runs (two earned), walking two and striking out one. Still, it was enough for Buchholz to earn the win in his first start of 2010.
"It was a battle," said Buchholz. "I felt like I got into some really good counts and threw some good pitches, and they just kept fouling, fouling, fouling, and worked the count deep. I even made some good pitches, and they made some contact and found some holes. It was not how I planned it out, but to get the win, and all that went into it, that made it all worthwhile."
Ramon Ramirez struggled in relief allowing Jose Guillen to hit his second homer, a three-run blast, in the eighth while failing to retire a batter.
With what was once a five-run lead down to two, Francona was forced to close it out with his most trusted relievers. Daniel Bard (scoreless eighth) and Jonathan Papelbon (second save) both got the job done. So, too, did Manny Delcarmen, who reeled off two shutout innings in relief of Buchholz.
"The good news is Bard and Pap came in and did a great job. The flip side of it was we had to get to them," Francona said. "Every once in a while, you lose one of those games. We didn't. Manny, I thought, especially the first inning threw the ball a lot better, which is very encouraging. It was one of those where we came out of the chute with a lot of energy and did some good things and then hung on for dear life."
And they also avoided what could have been a significant injury. In the ninth, Mitch Maier lofted a foul ball down the line in left, and Beltre and Ellsbury collided. Ellsbury's left ribs absorbed Beltre's knee. But X-rays on Ellsbury, taken immediately after the game, proved to be negative. He is day-to-day with a contusion.
The Red Sox, fresh off a five-homer eruption on Saturday night, stayed in the flow early in this one. Ellsbury led off with a single and stole second, setting him up to score on a one-out, RBI single by Martinez. Following a walk to David Ortiz, Beltre punched an RBI single to right. Jeremy Hermida gave Buchholz a 4-0 lead before he threw his first pitch, roping a two-run double to center.
Despite giving up a run in each of the first three innings, Buchholz still had plenty of room to work with. This was because the Boston bats attacked Meche. In the fourth, the Red Sox delivered a knockout punch on the righty, getting a solo shot by Pedroia, a double by Martinez and a walk to Kevin Youkilis.
With two on and two outs, Beltre greeted Royals reliever Robinson Tejeda with a two-run double to the gap in right-center, giving Boston an 8-3 lead.
Beltre is hitting .400 in the first week of the season and leads the Sox with six RBIs.
"For me, it's always good to get off to a good start," said Beltre. "I'm getting some key hits, some RBIs and trying to keep the same swing all year."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.