Red Sox notes: Pedroia continues to rake

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Red Sox notes: Pedroia continues to rake

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs

BOSTON -- Before the game former Red Sox third baseman, Mike Lowell, visiting the clubhouse, mentioned he had dinner with Dustin Pedroia Thursday night. He said Pedroia claimed he would have four hits in Friday nights game against the Mariners.

Pedroia very nearly backed up his claim. He had three hits in his first three at-bats. But in his fourth and final at-bat in the seventh inning, he was one of Felix Hernandezs four walks in the game.

Despite falling short of his prediction, he extended his career-high hitting streak to 19 games, the longest active streak in the American League and tied for the longest overall in the AL this season (with teammate Jacoby Ellsbury, Kansas Citys Alex Gordon, and Baltimores Nick Markakis). He has also now reached safely in his last 31 games since June 15, extending his career-high, also the longest active in the majors. He has reached base four times in a game three times during the streak.

He is hitting .390, 32-for-82, with six doubles, seven home runs, 16 RBI, 20 runs scored, and 10 walks over his hitting streak, with nine multi-hit games.

Im just trying to have good at-bats and get on base, Pedroia said. I get paid to get on base for Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz. So Im trying to do that the best I can.

Daniel Bard retired the only batter he faced, Ms No. 9hitter Greg Halman in the eighth inning, extending his scoreless streak to 23 innings over his last 22 games since May 27. It is the longest by a Sox reliever in one season since Calvin Schiraldis 23-inning scoreless stretch from July 20 Aug. 17, 1986. Bard also extended his team record for consecutive scoreless outings.

The Red Sox had a five-run outburst in the seventh inning of Fridays victory over Seattle, and have outscored their opponents by a 90-32 margin during the seventh inning of ballgames this season. While most of the Sox players didnt want to read too much into the single statistic, theres no denying the seventh frame is normally the time when Bostons offense can hammer away at the middle relievers in the oppositions bullpen and create some breathing room.

Its just the way the game goes, said Adrian Gonzalez. In the seventh inning youre really not seeing the eighth or ninth inning guys, so youre more or less facing the middle relief guys.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia sounds like hes over the Muddy Chicken nickname for Dustin Pedroia after the last road series in Baltimore. It was with a playful smile on his face, but the Sox catcher made it pretty clear that he wont be utilizing Pedroias new nickname anytime soon.

"I refuse to call Pedroia Muddy Chicken, said a smiling Saltalamacchia. Anybody that calls themselves the Muddy Chicken deserves to be slapped.

Sox centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury blasted his 16th home run of the season. The blast was the deepest blast of his big league career at 445 feet into the right field bleachers, according to research done by ESPN. Ellsbury had eight home runs during his entire rookie season and nine home runs during his second year in the bigs, but has already powered a total of seven home runs during the month of July. Its the most home runs in a single month by a Red Sox centerfielder since Carl Everett smacked seven home runs in June of the 2000 baseball season.

Injured right-hander Clay Buchholz was originally scheduled to throw off a mound in a bullpen session on Friday afternoon, but the player and medical staff instead opted for a long toss session for the hurler as he attempts to come back from a strained back. Buchholz voiced frustration and talked about stuff happening in his back during the follow through on his delivery, but the minor setback hasnt changed his timetable for recovery. The string bean righty is still expected back in early August, but will certainly require some rehabilitation starts to build up arm strength before a potential return.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

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

Red Sox welcome Betts’ surprising power surge

Red Sox welcome Betts’ surprising power surge

BOSTON - With one quick flick of his wrists Monday night, Mookie Betts drove a pitch into the Monster Seats, marking his 30th homer of the season.

The homer put Betts into exclusive company in team history. Only two others before him -- Ted Williams and Tony Conigliaro -- had ever reached the 30-homer milestone before turning 24. 

It's a reasonable assumption that, with five weeks still to play in the regular season, Betts will more than double his home run total (17) from last year, a remarkable jump.    

More to the point, Betts wasn't projected as a power hitter. In 2011 and 2012, Betts played the first 72 games of his pro career career without hitting a single homer. 

The power began to manifest itself somewhat the following year when he belted 15 homers between Low-A Greenville and High-A Salem, but still, few envisioned that Betts would show this kind of power at the major league level.

He was athletic, with extra-base capability, and speed. But a 30-home run hitter? That wasn't in the cards.

"That's pretty cool, hitting 30,” allowed Betts after the Red Sox' 9-4 win over Tampa Bay. "But that's not the reason we play.''

 For several minutes, Betts did his best to deflect questions about his milestone, consistently emphasizing team goals "first and foremost” over his own personal achievements.

"Trying to affect the game in some form or fashion,” he shrugged. "We're in a race right now and that's way more important[than individual stats].”

Still, Betts himself acknowledged that his homer total has come as something of a revelation.

"I definitely wasn't expecting [this kind of] power,'' he said. "But I'll take it while it's here.''

Maybe the power explosion shouldn't come as a shock, however. Betts has always demonstrated exceptional strength and fast reflexes, exhibiting the sort of "quick-twitch'' athleticism that make scouts drool.

He's improved his pitch selection and recognition, and it surely hasn't hurt to be part of a powerful Red Sox lineup that currently has him hitting behind David Ortiz and in front of Hanley Ramirez.

"Experience...knowing when and when not to turn on balls,” Betts explained further. "There's a whole bunch of things that kind of go into it.”

As he's gained confidence, Betts now picks certain counts where he allows himself to take bigger swings, though he's careful to  point out that he's not ever trying to hit homers.

"Not necessarily trying to hit a home run,'' he offered, "but trying to drive [the ball]. Those things come with experience and knowing when and when not to. I'm not trying to hit a home run. They just kind of come.''

In this, just his second full season in the big leagues, they're coming more and more frequently -- whether anyone expected it or not.

     

Bogaerts continues to battle through struggles with bat

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Bogaerts continues to battle through struggles with bat

BOSTON -- Early in 2016 praises, were sung around the league that Xander Bogaerts was the best hitter in baseball.

Rightfully so. For a good portion of the season he led the league in both batting average and hits. But between Mookie Betts’ ascension and Bogaerts’ drop in average from .331 on 7/29 to .306 after Monday night’s game, he’s taken a back seat.

But the Red Sox shortstop’s month-long dry spell hasn’t been a straight decline. Although he was held hitless Monday, Bogaerts went 6-for-13 (.462) against Kansas City.

In fact, the 23-year-old doesn’t even consider the recent month of struggles the worst stretch of his career.

“2014 probably,” Bogaerts said, “yeah I had a terrible, terrible few months -- probably three months.”

That was of course the season a lot came into question surrounding the now All-Star shortstop, so he was pretty spot on. In 2014 Bogaerts went from hitting .304 through 5/31, to .248 by the end of June, .244 after his last game in July, all the way down to .224 by the last day of August.

Bogaerts would hit .313 that September and finish with a .240 average -- but more importantly, an appreciation of what he’d experienced.

“That definitely helped me become a better person, a better player -- and understanding from that and learning,” Bogaerts said.

From that experience, he gained a better understanding of the importance of maintaining a consistent day-to-day routine.

“That has to stay the same,” Bogaerts said without question in his voice. “The league adjusted, they adjusted to me. It kind of took a longer time to adjust to them. They’ve just been pitching me so differently compared to other years.”

Bogaerts has had the point reinforced to him throughout, with Red Sox assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez serving as one voice of reinforcement.

“When you have a routine from the mental side, physical side, when you struggle that’s when you really need that,” Rodriguez said. “He’s been so good with his daily preparation, it doesn’t matter the result of the game. He can always go to something that feels comfortable.”

“He’s been so comfortable and confident with his daily routine and preparation that it allows him -- when he doesn’t get the results he wants in the game -- to have some peace knowing that the next day, we’re going to go back to doing that again.”

It’s clear Bogaerts needs to maintain his daily routine to help work through slumps -- and maintain hot streaks -- but Rodriguez made it clear, consistent preparation from a hitter doesn’t magically cure every problem.

“That doesn’t mean that because you stick with the routine you’re going to have results,” Rodriguez said. “What it means is, [because] you know and believe in that routine that you know you’re going to get out of it.”

Which means in addition to sticking to his normal routine, Bogaerts also had to identify flaws elsewhere in order work through his problems. He came to realize the problem was more mechanically based than mental -- given he’d done everything to address that.

“They pitched me differently, and some stuff I wanted to do with the ball I couldn’t do,” Bogaerts said. “I just continued doing it until I had to make the adjustment back.”

Bogaerts isn’t fully out of the dark, but he’s taken steps in the right direction of late -- and is nowhere near the skid he experienced in 2014. He and Rodriguez fully believe the All-Star’s ability to maintain a clear mind will carry him through whatever troubles he’s presented with the rest of the way.

“The more stuff you have in you’re head is probably not going to help your chances,” Bogaerts explained, “so have a clear mind -- but also have the trust in your swing that you’re going to put a good swing on [the pitch] regardless of whatever the count is.”

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter @ngfriar.