09/03/08 12:09 AM ET
Pedroia, Papi lead way in blowout
Pair comes up big to lead Red Sox over Orioles at Fenway
By Mark Remme / MLB.com
Tuesday's outing against the Orioles was nothing out of the ordinary for the thrice cleanup hitter in four days -- who moved into the position just moments before the game when Kevin Youkilis was scratched with lower back spasms. Pedroia came to the plate, used all areas of the park and drove in pivotal runs.
"I told him I was going to paint an 'S' [for Superman] on his chest," outfielder Mark Kotsay said. "He's a great young player who comes to the park ready to play every day, and you can't say enough about that."
But he wasn't alone on this night. All nine starters collected hits, David Ortiz added four RBIs and the Red Sox rolled to a 14-2 win over the Orioles at Fenway. Coupled with a Tampa Bay loss to New York, Boston moved to within four games of the American League East-leading Rays.
Pedroia is currently in the midst of a seven-game hitting streak in which he's batting .600 with three doubles, two homers and 11 RBIs.
He notched five on Tuesday, sending a three-run homer to left in the fourth inning that was part of a six-run outburst. It turned a 4-1 contest into a 10-1 rout rather quickly.
As his roll continues, so do the "MVP" chants from the Fenway bleachers. And with each passing night, they get a little bit louder -- with good reason, considering the 5-foot-9 second baseman is leading the AL with a .330 batting average.
"I just come to the park and keep doing the same thing I've done all season," Pedroia said.
Does he hear the chants in the stands when he comes to the plate?
"I don't think about that," he said. "I just keep trying to hit; keep doing what I do."
On this night, Pedroia wasn't alone. In fact, Boston's top four hitters accounted for 12 RBIs in the shellacking, led by Pedroia's five and Oritz's four.
Ortiz hasn't exactly put up the numbers he's accustomed to this season, having just 66 RBIs coming into Tuesday's bout with Baltimore. But he rallied off a pair of two-run doubles in the third and fourth innings that put Boston in command without looking back.
"He had some very good swings," manager Terry Francona said. "But, again, he came up in situations where the pitchers had to pretty much throw the ball over the plate, because there were so many men on base. The guys ahead of him did a pretty good job."
Jacoby Ellsbury and Jed Lowrie did their part at the top of the order. Not only did they each collect a hit and drive in a combined three runs, but they drew a combined five walks in the contest. Having those two on base throughout opened up Ortiz and Pedroia to situations where they could produce big hits.
The offense provided enough muscle to put the game away by the fourth. Jon Lester's steady hand helped put his team in position to run away with the victory.
While it wasn't his soundest performance of the season, it certainly did the job. Lester improved to 3-0 in four starts against the Orioles in 2008, racking up a stout 2.16 ERA in those outings.
He left after five innings on Tuesday, having already recorded 99 pitches. But he allowed just one run on six hits, earning his 13th win of the season.
"It was one of those nights, I felt real strong, almost too strong," Lester said. "I was getting out too early trying to throw the ball past guys every time."
Too strong might be the correct term. While Lester admitted he'd never topped 96 mph in his career prior to this season, he notched a 97 mph fastball in the first inning against leadoff hitter Brian Roberts.
It was an early indication of an overpowering performance by the Red Sox.
"His stuff was phenomenal," Francona said. "The ball's coming out of his hand -- I think he touched 97 early in the game. He's strong."
But it was the strength of his second baseman that added the muscle in this game. Pounding that three-run shot in the midst of a six-run fourth added the exclamation point to Ortiz's doubles.
It didn't go without notice, by the fans or by Lester on the hill.
"Petey's been unreal -- he's swinging the heck out of the bat right now," Lester said. "It seems like every time you turn around, he's up to bat with guys on base and comes up clutch every time."
Pedroia's heard that a lot this week. Monday's starter, Paul Byrd, praised him for the way he plays in the field and at the plate. So when the crowd throws "MVP" chants around, it's nothing the Sox players in the clubhouse aren't echoing either.
That doesn't change Pedroia's perspective, or his play. He just goes out the next game and does it again.
"I'm just trying to have good at-bats," Pedroia said. "No goals ... I'm just trying to put a good swing on the ball."
Mark Remme is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.