Haggerty: Pedroia key ingredient for Red Sox

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Haggerty: Pedroia key ingredient for Red Sox

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs

KANSAS CITY It sounds like a pretty simple formula: Insert game-deciding situation with a generous helping of Dustin Pedroia and good things are bound to happen for the Red Sox.

Thats how things unfolded Thursday night in Bostons tight 4-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. The Sox badly needed a victory, and badly needed a shot of Pedroia in the cleanup spot.

Thats why he is who he is," Terry Francona said. "He does come through and he kinda wills himself to do things. Its a comforting feeling when he has something to say about the outcome of the game.

It seems that Francona only taps Pedroia on the shoulder to hit in the middle of the Sox lineup when its become a dire situation, but its a move that always works. Pedroia finished 3-for-4 while driving in three of Bostons four runs including the game-winning run in the fifth inning with two outs in the inning.

Its getting close to the end of the season and everybody in here is just trying to do their part to help us win games," Pedroia said. "Thats all that this is about. Nobody needs to try and do anything extra. Were all trying to do whatever we can to help us win every single night.

That came after Pedroia slapped a two-run single up the middle in the top of the third on a Luke Hochevar cut fastball also with two outs that put a charge into a Sox offense thats looked far from energetic lately.

Both of Pedroias hits came on solid pitches, and had Hochevar talking about Bostons middle infield MVP candidate like he was a Bond villain or the latest bad guy trying to take down Bruce Willis in the endless Diehard flicks.

Instead its just a 5-foot-8, 165-pound second baseman.

"He was a nemesis. He hit the ball where it's pitched," said Hochevar. "The base hit up the middle that scored two runs I was trying to come in off the plate for a ball and I felt like it was off the plate. He put a good swing on it. He had a good piece of hitting."

At the cleanup slot, Pedroia has hit .481 (25-for-52) with six doubles, five home runs and 14 RBI in 12 games, and has made Francona look like the smartest manager alive.

Or has he?

Its either good managing tonight or horrible managing the rest of the year, cracked Francona with a smirk. Were just trying to balance it out a little bit. Were missing two big bats (David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis) and trying to get a little balance. You can put him anywhere. Hes a good player.

Youre not going to drive in three runs every night, but whether its with the bat, in the field, or on the base paths, hes going to give you everything he has.

Hes one of the best players in the game.

The bottom line: Its unfair to pin everything on one player when guys start to go down with injuries, but it looks like its going to have to be Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury carrying the offense on most nights. Youkilis and Ortiz are both gone with injuries, and it doesnt appear either one will be back soon.

Adrian Gonzalez has morphed into a singles hitter over the last month due to a nagging neck problem, and the Sox would desperately like to get him some rest. But Gonzalez will continue to trot out there as long as Ortiz and Youkilis are missing from the middle of the lineup.

So it comes down to the SI cover boy and Sox energizer bunny to rise up and be much more than the Mouth that Roared, and Pedroia does that over and over again for the Sox. Hes hit safely in 50 of his last 57 games and the batting average has spiked all the way up to a .309 mark after he was struggling along at a .272 clip at the end of June amid concerns about his knee.

All that has changed over the last two months, as hes hit at a .364 clip in his last 170 at bats. Francona and the rest of Pedroias teammates have long since stopped marveling at everything he does on and off the field to hold the Sox together, and instead simply give thanks that he is there constantly willing his team to victory.

Hes that guy even when hes hitting in the two-hole whether its guys at the bottom of the lineup or Ellsbury getting on base, said Beckett.

That guy did it again against the Royals on Thursday night, and hes going to have to do it a few more times before Red Sox reinforcements arrive.

Its the temporary formula for Sox success.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs.

Drellich: Pomeranz lessens heat on Dombrowski's trade history

Drellich: Pomeranz lessens heat on Dombrowski's trade history

BOSTON — Drew Pomeranz is helping out Dave Dombrowski’s balance sheet in Boston.

The Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel trades have been awesome — beyond awesome, even. The Tyler Thornburg deal looks like a disaster that, maybe someday, Dombrowski will acknowledge rather than sidestep. The Carson Smith deal has produced, if nothing else, no gain. The Fernando Abad deal has not hurt the Sox, and he’s had some decent moments.

But the Pomeranz trade with the Padres, for just top pitching prospect Anderson Espinoza, stood as the most controversial of Dealer Dave’s moves until the past couple months. Now, the Cult of Travis Shaw has slowly made folks forget about Espinoza and the complicated set of circumstances that surrounded that trade.

“Rescind” is something you’re hearing less and less. 

It’s remarkable what a 2.70 ERA in a 40-inning, seven-start stretch can do. Pomeranz is looking like a lot shinier these days, particularly after Tuesday night, when he came back out despite a rain delay of more than an hour in a 9-2 win over the Twins.

From the day that 40-inning stretch began, May 25, through Tuesday, only four qualified starters posted a better ERA in the American League: Corey Kluber (1.29), Jason Vargas (2.27), Jordan Montgomery (2.52) and Mike Pelfrey (2.64).

For comparison: Chris Sale is 10th in that stretch, at 3.54. Rick Porcello has 6.08 ERA in the same time.

Realistically, where the Sox stood last season, they needed Pomeranz. He was healthy enough to throw. That’s the reality everyone who wanted the deal undone always undersold: the back of the rotation was crumbling. 

But that was just one layer of the deal.

The Padres did not provide as much medical information as they should have, and the Sox stuck with Pomeranz despite the opportunity to look elsewhere.

Espinoza hasn’t pitched for a Padres minor league affiliate yet this season. He’s playing catch from flat ground as he comes back from a forearm injury, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported recently. 

Trades, to this observer, are typically best evaluated by reviewing the process behind them — which is to say, by looking back at the information was available at the time the deal was made. And at the time, it was known that the Sox were paying for Pomeranz beyond just last season's second half. They were paying for a controllable arm who could help out the rotation this year too.

Dombrowski may well have acquired Pomeranz at his peak value, which is unsurprising. But what mattered most was whether the team believed Pomeranz could contribute effectively beyond 2016. That, once they had all the health information, whether they properly evaluated what it would mean for his future.

It looked bad when Pomeranz started the season on the disabled list. He had a stem-cell injection in his forearm in the winter, too. There wasn’t much to hang your hat on at the start of April. 

Realistically, Pomeranz probably isn’t 100 percent right now. Even within the relative world of pro baseball — where no one is ever 100 percent — Pomeranz is probably further from it than most. 

But he's powered through. Pomeranz’s attitude might actually fit Boston better than most realize. He also is, whether people want to acknowledge it or not, a pitcher with a high ceiling in terms of ability (if not innings).

He also is, whether people want to acknowledge it or not, a pitcher with a high ceiling in terms of ability (if not innings).

How Pomeranz holds up is to be seen. But the team’s judgment that he would have value beyond last season, a value worth surrendering Espinoza for, is looking better and better.

Francona misses second game this month because of health issues

Francona misses second game this month because of health issues

CLEVELAND -- Indians manager Terry Francona missed Tuesday night's game against Texas after his second trip to the hospital this month.

The Indians said doctors for now have ruled out major health issues and Francona will be monitored the next several weeks.

Francona, 58, left Monday night's game because he wasn't feeling well. He spent several hours at Cleveland Clinic and underwent a series of tests.

Francona was released from the hospital on Tuesday and spent the rest of the day at home. He was expected to return to the dugout Wednesday when the Indians host the Rangers. Cleveland lost to Texas 2-1 on Tuesday.

Bench coach Brad Mills ran the team in Francona's absence. Cleveland began the day in first place in the AL Central after rallying for a 15-9 win Monday.

"Tito actually wanted to come back to the ballpark today," team president Chris Antonetti said Tuesday. "I told him he can't come back to the ballpark today. He only got a couple hours of sleep last night, so despite his desire to want to be here, I thought it was best that he gets some rest tonight and just come back tomorrow. His plan when he was getting released from the hospital was to come over here."

"I don't think he was exceedingly happy with me," Antonetti said with a laugh. "That's OK."

Francona was hospitalized June 13 following a game at Progressive Field. He underwent tests and was released a few hours later, returning to work the following night. Last August, he missed a game after experiencing chest pains but was back the next day.

"Thankfully, we've got some great doctors that are coordinating his care," Antonetti said. "They've done every test they can possibly imagine. They've all come back clean. They're now working to try to figure out what are some of those things that are causing him to not feel so well."

Francona, a close friend of Mills for several years, has retained his sense of humor through his health issues.

A statement released by the team Tuesday read, "Mr. Francona also wanted to express that medical personnel have not yet ruled out an allergy to Bench Coach Brad Mills."