Pedroia finishes what Saltalamacchia starts in 7th inning

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Pedroia finishes what Saltalamacchia starts in 7th inning

BOSTON -- The difference in Tuesday night's 5-1 Red Sox win over the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park came with two outs in the bottom of the seventh.

The rally started with Jarrod Saltalamacchia. And it ended with Dustin Pedroia.

With two outs in the seventh, the Red Sox trailed 1-0 and had only three hits against the Blue Jays.

Then Saltalamacchia ripped a 1-0 fastball the other way, off Jason Frasor, and it ended up in the Monster Seats, tying the game at 1-1.

"He's playing a confident brand of baseball, because he believes in himself," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine after the win. "And he's a talented player. I haven't seen him get down on himself -- I just told him during the game -- I haven't seen him get down on a pitcher. Some things that might have haunted his past, seem to be gone. And he's just playing the game of baseball. He looks good doing it."

It was the beginning of a two-out rally that helped the Red Sox to their eighth win in the last 10 games. The finishing touches of that rally came four batters later, when Pedroia broke a 1-1 tie by ripping an 0-1 sinker -- with bases loaded -- up the middle that scored the eventual game-winning runs, and gave Boston a 3-1 lead after seven innings.

"I think it means a lot, the way we did it," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine after the win. "With Dustin getting the two RBI's with the bases loaded. It seems like it's been so long since he's been in that opportunity late in the game, where he could win the game. And it presented itself, and he drove the runs in. That really gives us strength."

Since returning from a thumb injury for which he was given a day off last Friday, Pedroia seems to be getting back to his usual self.

"Obviously in baseball there's times when you're going to come through and there's times when you're not going to come through," said Pedroia afterwards. "When I dont, I dont get too upset. When I do, I dont get too happy."

Pedroia's teammates were pleased to see him come through in the clutch once again.

"Dustin, you know when he comes to the plate, he can do some damage," said Red Sox shortstop Mike Aviles. "He's shown that over the course of his career. And it just so happens, this year we have a lot of guys doing it as well. So i think every night you never know who's going to be the hero. And that makes the game intriguing for us. You never know who's going to be that guy that's going to step up and get the big hit. We know Pedey's done it so many times. And he's going to do it a lot more times from now until the end of the year. So is Papi, so is Gonzo. I mean, it just makes it fun."

Saltalamacchia and Pedroia weren't the only ones doing all the work in that seventh-inning rally that won the Red Sox Tuesday night's game. After Saltalamacchia's solo home run that tied it up, both Ryan Kalish and Daniel Nava pinch hit with two outs.

Kalish -- the lefty -- kept the rally alive with a double to right field on an 0-2 slider -- against the left-handed Luis Perez.

"I told Kalish before the game, when he wasn't playing, that he's saves all his hits for the big opportunities," said Valentine. "So when the inning started, I lined him up that way. Of course, with two outs, I'm also thinking that Daniel Nava's going to be able to lead off the next inning, if Kalish makes an out. So it's not like I was praying for it. But, I wasn't afraid."

Kalish doubled, and then the pinch-hitting Nava was hit by a pitch. Then they loaded the bases after a Mike Aviles walk.

"Kalish battling with two strikes against a left-hander in a pinch-hit opportunity, and he got a double," said Valentine. "Those are big plays.

"Mike Aviles' at-bat to walk, to get Dustin up to the plate, is a big play," he added. "It's not one of his forte's, in case you haven't noticed."

"It was pretty fun," said Aviles. "I was looking for a pitch, something that I could drive into the outfield. And I took two terrible swings. I just told myself that, make sure his sinker starts at the belt, because anything below the belt, it was just going to fall down."

After falling behind 1-2, Aviles took three-straight balls to set Pedroia up for the clutch hit.

The Red Sox added two more in the eighth on an Adrian Gonzalez RBI double and a Will Middlebrooks RBI sac fly, but the seventh inning battle with two outs will be what stands out on this night.

"Everyone stepped in and played great," said Pedroia. "Weve had some injuries but guys have stepped in and theyre producing like the guys that got hurt. So its big for us."

Report: Third base among 'major upgrades' Red Sox seek by trade deadline

Report: Third base among 'major upgrades' Red Sox seek by trade deadline

Despite still being owed more than $42 million after this year, Pablo Sandoval's days with the Red Sox appear numbered. So, it's no surprise that landing a third baseman at the trade deadline is a priority.

That's among the "major upgrades" the Sox are seeking by the July 31 deadline, MLB.com columnist Mark Feinsand reports.

With Sandoval now on his second disabled list stint of the season - this time with an ear infection - after turning into what Feinsand calls "a horror tale for the Red Sox," and with fill-ins Josh Rutledge and Deven Marrero holding down third, it's apparent that the position is a glaring need.

"Sandoval is basically a non-entity at this point," a source told Feinsand. "They need to make a move there."

Feinsand mentions the usual suspects - Mike Moustakas of the Royals and Todd Frazier of the White Sox - as possibilities. Also, he wonders if former MVP Josh Donaldson could be pried away from the Blue Jays (if "Dave Dombrowski knocks their socks off") with an offer and if Toronto is still sputtering at the deadline?

Those other upgrades? "Boston is also looking for pitching, both in the rotation and bullpen," Feinsand writes. Again, no surprise there.

Drellich: Red Sox' talent drowning out lack of identity

Drellich: Red Sox' talent drowning out lack of identity

A look under the hood is not encouraging. A look at the performance is.

The sideshows for the Red Sox have been numerous. What the team’s success to this point has reinforced is how much talent and performance can outweigh everything else. Hitting and pitching can drown out a word that rhymes with pitching — as long as the wins keep coming.

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At 40-32, the Sox have the seventh-best win percentage (.556) in the majors. What they lack, by their own admission, is an intangible. Manager John Farrell told reporters Wednesday in Kansas City his club was still searching for its identity.

“A team needs to forge their own identity every year,” Farrell said. “That’s going to be dependent upon the changes on your roster, the personalities that exist, and certainly the style of game that you play. So, with [David Ortiz’s] departure, his retirement, yeah, that was going to happen naturally with him not being here. And I think, honestly, we’re still kind of forming it.”

To this observer, the vibe in the Red Sox clubhouse is not the merriest. 

Perhaps, in the mess hall, the players are a unified group of 25 (or so), living for one another with every pitch. What the media sees is only a small slice of the day. 

But it does not feel like Farrell has bred an easygoing, cohesive environment.

Farrell and big boss Dave Dombrowski appeared unaligned in their view of Pablo Sandoval’s place on the roster, at least until Sandoval landed on the disabled list. 

Hanley Ramirez and first base may go together like Craig Kimbrel and the eighth inning. Which is to say, selfless enthusiasm for the ultimate goal of winning does not appear constant with either.

Dustin Pedroia looked like the spokesperson of a fractured group when he told Manny Machado, in front of all the cameras, “It’s not me, it’s them,” as the Orioles and Red Sox carried forth a prolonged drama of drillings. 

Yet, when you note the Sox are just a half-game behind the Yankees for the American League East lead; when you consider the Sox have won 19 of their past 30 games, you need to make sure everything is kept in proportion.

How much are the Sox really hurt by a lack of identity? By any other issue off the field?

Undoubtedly, the Sox would be better positioned if there were no sideshows. But it’s hard to say they’d have ‘X’ more wins.

The Sox would have had a better chance of winning Wednesday’s game if Kimbrel pitched at any point in the eighth inning, that’s for sure. 

Kimbrel is available for one inning at this point, the ninth, Farrell has said.

A determination to keep Kimbrel out of the eighth because that’s not what a closer traditionally does seems like a stance bent on keeping Kimbrel happy rather than doing what is best for the team. The achievement of a save has been prioritized over the achievement of a team win, a state of affairs that exists elsewhere, but is nonetheless far from ideal — a state of affairs that does not reflect an identity of all for one and one for all.

Maybe the Sox will find that identity uniformly. Maybe they’re so good, they can win the division without it.