Pedroia cleaning up out of the fourth spot

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Pedroia cleaning up out of the fourth spot

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON David Ortiz has seen a lot of Red Sox lineups posted on the clubhouse wall over the last nine years.

Hes seen World Series Championship teams and hes seen baseball clubs that didnt have the goods to crack the postseason. Hes seen plenty of lineup combinations in that time period, and Big Papi has got a little helpful advice for his manager.

It might just be time to think about pushing Dustin Pedroia into the clean-up role on a little bit more of a regular basis.

If Im Tito Im letting him hit clean-up all year and make it easy for us, said Ortiz with a big smile on his face after Pedroia went 4-for-5 with three runs and an RBI to help lead the Sox to a 13-9 romp over the Royals at Fenway Park.

Maybe Terry Francona should start kicking the unconventional idea around a little bit more after Pedroias ten appearances in the cleanup slot have yielded a .559 batting average (19-for-34) with 11 runs, 10 RBI, 10 extra base hits and four home runs over the course of his career.

Its a small sample size, of course, but those are eye-popping numbers.

The Sox skipper admitted Pedroia will probably hit in the clean-up slot again on Wednesday with Kevin Youkilis still out of the lineup with hamstring tightness. He also hazarded the guess that hell hear about it from the verbose former AL Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player.

Well probably do it again tomorrow, and Ill probably hear about it. Pedroia is a pretty good player, said Francona. The three, four and five hitters all had a pretty solid night. Hes talking enough. Hes probably tired."

Pedroia lined up in the No. 4 spot in the lineup snugly between Adrian Gonzalez in the No. 3 hole and Ortiz himself as designated hitter in the No. 5 spot in the lineup, and he once again flourished in that spot.

The sight of feisty little Pedroia loosening up on deck between two of biggest sluggers in the American League even caused the second baseman to step back and laugh at his 5-foot-8, 165-pound body stacking up in the middle of the Boston batting order with the burly beef of Gonzalez and Ortiz.

A lot of guys swung the bat great," Pedroia said. "David was big for us tonight. Thats what good offensive teams have to do in being consistent. It looks kinda weird, though, when Adrian gets up to the plate and Im behind him. Then David is behind me. Its a little weird.

I use the same approach that I have when I hit second, so Im not trying to do anything different. Tito makes the lineup, he has 1,000 wins and hes trying to do special things so I dont know exactly what hes going to do. Im just trying to help us win and thats basically it.

The Sox second baseman smacked a triple in the first inning to extend his career-best hitting streak to 23 games and tied the franchise record for hitting streak by a Boston second baseman with Del Pratt from the 1922 Red Sox. Pedroia is hitting .392 with 24 runs scored and 17 extra base hits during the hitting streak, and has climbed all the way up to .304 with his batting average after a modest start to his season.

Then he jacked a single and a double in his next two at bats, and was of the way to hitting for the cycle for the first time in his career in just the fourth inning of the nearly four hour baseball game. There was a walk and a single in the two ensuing at bats, and Pedroia had one last at bat in the eighth inning to cap off hitting for the cycle with Royals outfielder Mitch Maier pitching mop up to him.

Pedroia got a decent amount of barrel on the Maier meatball, but didnt have enough oomph to power out a ball that landed safely in Alex Gordons glove at the left field warning track. The second baseman insisted he never stepped out of his normal hitting approach despite the cycle staring him in the face with a possible home run, but he very nearly made it happen anyway.

I knew it, but I was just trying to have a good at bat. Its a little tough when youre facing a position player thats just trying to get it over the plate. I actually hit it pretty good, but I cant supply that much of my own power. I knew I hit it pretty good with the wind blowing out, but it couldnt get there.

Pedroias final chance for the cycle falling just a little short is about the only thing not going right for the red-hot infielder at this point in time.

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

Weird umpire replay mistake helps Red Sox to record-tying 20 Ks

Weird umpire replay mistake helps Red Sox to record-tying 20 Ks

BOSTON -- New York’s mistake helped the Red Sox, and they weren’t playing the Yankees.

The Red Sox struck out 20 in a game for the third time in franchise history on Thursday night, and they were able to do so only after MLB’s replay team — based in Manhattan — gave Craig Kimbrel an extra batter to strike out in the ninth inning.

A 6-2 win over the Rangers featured 16 strikeouts for Red Sox pitching heading into the top of the ninth at Fenway Park. Kimbrel came on for a non-save situation because he had five days off previously.

There’s always that outside chance for a four-strikeout inning, and it happened. Even for a four-strikeout inning, however, this was bizarre.

The first batter, left-handed hitting Nomar Mazara, swung and missed at a back-foot breaking ball for strike three — a literal back-foot breaking ball, because it hit him in that foot after he whiffed on the pitch.

On a swing and a miss with a pitch that hits the batter, the ball should be dead. He should not have been able to reach first base. But the umpires didn’t catch the ball hitting Mazara, and instead saw it as a wild pitch. 

Sox manager John Farrell asked for a review and the umpires went for one, but came back empty-handed. The crew was told, erroneously, that the play could not be looked at and the batter was awarded first base.

“It was just a swinging strike three, ball that go away and he obviously reached first base,” crew chief Alfonso Marquez told pool reporter Tim Britton of the Providence Journal. “The only thing that I can tell you, and the only thing I will say is, this was a replay issue. New York will come out with a statement.”

You could say it worked out just fine. Kimbrel went on to strike out the next three, and got the Sox to 20 Ks.

Kimbrel and Tim Wakefield are the only Red Sox pitchers to fan four batters in a single inning. Wakefield did it in the ninth inning on Aug. 10, 1999. 

Kimbrel did it once before as well, when he was with the Braves on Sept. 26, 2012.

No one has struck out five in a major league inning, although Kimbrel has as good a chance as anyone.

“The guy strikes out the world,” Matt Barnes said. “It’s ridiculous. … His fastball is seemingly unhittable. Complement that with the breaking ball he’s got, which comes right off that same plane, when he’s commanding it like he is, the numbers kind of speak for themselves. It’s kind of ridiculous. It’s fun to watch.”

The Sox have struck out 20 in a nine-inning game three times since 1913. Roger Clemens' two 20-strikeout games are the other two.

Red Sox tie strikeout record in completing sweep of Rangers, 6-2

Red Sox tie strikeout record in completing sweep of Rangers, 6-2

BOSTON (AP) There's something about Boston Red Sox pitchers and 20-strikeout games.

There have been six major-league games with that many strikeouts and the Red Sox made the list for the third time, fanning that many Texas Rangers for a 6-2 victory Thursday night and a sweep of the three-game series.

Five Boston pitchers combined on the 20 strikeouts with starter Drew Pomeranz getting 11 in six innings and closer Craig Kimbrel getting four in the ninth when the leadoff batter reached on a wild pitch strike three. Boston's Roger Clemens twice reached 20 strikeouts by himself.

"His stuff is nasty. What he is doing right now I have never seen anything like that," Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes said of Kimbrel.

Kimbrel has retired 53 of the last 56 batters he has faced and right-handed hitters are on an 0-for-41 streak.

Xander Bogaerts and Deven Marrero hit their first home runs of the season helping Boston to its fourth straight win.

"A lot has been made about our home run totals or lack thereof," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "Tonight was the first of what should be many more."

Pomeranz (4-3), who tied his career high with the 11 strikeouts, made it as far as six innings for the third time this season and beat Texas for the first time in nine career outings.

"Felt lost for a couple of starts and wasn't satisfied," said Pomeranz, who gave up four hits and walked one. "Tonight I felt more like last year."

Elvis Andrus homered and Nomar Mazara had two hits and an RBI for Texas, which has lost four of five overall and 15 of 21 on the road.

"The sweep is surprising," Andrus said. "But that's the beauty of baseball, I guess. You cannot take any team for granted. Even when you feel you're playing at your best, stuff like this can happen."

Andrew Benintendi and Mitch Moreland had RBI singles in the first inning as Boston got to Rangers starter Nick Martinez (1-3) early.

Bogaerts hit a two-run homer in the third to put Boston ahead 4-0. Despite finishing with 21 home runs last year, Bogaerts needed 46 games to connect for the first time this season.

"Good to get one over the wall and get it out of the way," Bogaerts said.

Mike Napoli struck out four times while Pete Kozma and Andrus went down three times each. Every Ranger starter struck out at least once.

"Pomeranz was throwing well," Rangers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "Obviously their bullpen came in and threw well also and they played better than we did overall tonight."

Marrero homered in the eighth off Alex Claudio.

Martinez gave up four runs in five innings and is winless in four starts against Boston with a 6.46 ERA.

Andrus cut Boston's lead to 4-1 in the fourth inning with the homer, snapping an 0-for-9 drought.

Moreland tied his career high by driving in at least one run for the sixth straight game and extended his hitting streak to seven games, batting .393 in that stretch.

Boston swept Texas for the first time at Fenway Park since 2008. Since 2009, Texas has the best winning percentage at Fenway Park in the major leagues at .600.

STRIKING SUCCESS

Pomeranz recorded his 500th career strikeout when he whiffed Napoli for the final out of the fourth inning, his eighth of the game.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Rangers: 3B Adrian Beltre will play in extended spring training games in Arizona the next three days after being sidelined all season with a calf strain.

Red Sox: 2B Dustin Pedroia was removed from the game after five innings for precautionary reasons due to left knee pain. He is listed as day to day. ... LHP David Price will make his season debut Monday in Chicago against the White Sox despite surrendering six earned runs in 5 2/3 innings over his last two rehab starts. ... 3B Pablo Sandoval is 3 for 13 in four rehab games.

UP NEXT:

Rangers: Will send RHP A.J. Griffin (4-1) in the opener at Toronto.

Red Sox: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (3-1) looks to win his fourth straight decision when they entertain Seattle on Friday.