Commentary

Dustin Pedroia builds on success

Updated: July 27, 2011, 8:47 AM ET
By Joe McDonald | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- In case you didn't notice, Boston has a new skyline.

And you better check it out fast because it figures to return to its normal configuration Thursday afternoon.

The new shape and size was on display Tuesday night and will be again Wednesday as it lights up the city sky in grand fashion. But before you go racing to see what's going on downtown, don't get nervous. The Prudential Building is still there, and its neighboring skyscrapers are standing tall.

The impressive sight we're talking about is the towering presence of the Boston Red Sox and their current three, four and five hitters in the batting order.

At No. 3, there's slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. At cleanup is Dustin Pedroia. And batting in the No. 5 spot is David Ortiz. Think about those three players, and the difference in size and strength.

"It looks kind of weird when Adrian goes on deck and I'm behind him and then David is behind me," the 5-foot-8 (ish) Pedroia said. "Yeah, it's a little weird."

With Kevin Youkilis, Boston's regular cleanup hitter, out Tuesday night (right hamstring tightness), Pedroia was penciled in to the No. 4 spot in the order. Red Sox manager Terry Francona said after Boston's 13-9 victory over the Kansas City Royals that he'll also give Youkilis Wednesday night off, meaning Pedroia will be back in the cleanup role.

Pedroia finished Tuesday night 4-for-5, with a pair of singles, a double, a triple, a walk, an RBI and three runs scored as he extended his league-leading hitting streak to 23 consecutive games.

He's matched the longest hitting streak by a Red Sox second baseman (Del Pratt hit in 23 straight in 1922). Pedroia's streak is the longest in the American League this season, batting .392 (40-for-102) with one triple, nine doubles, seven homers, 17 RBIs, 24 runs and 11 walks during that stretch.

What's more impressive is that Pedroia dominates opposing pitchers when he hits cleanup. He has a .559 average (19-for-34) with five doubles, one triple, four home runs, 10 RBIs, three walks and one strikeout in nine career games (seven starts) in the cleanup spot.

"If I'm Tito, I'm letting him hit cleanup the whole year," Ortiz said with a laugh. "It'll make it easy for us. It's crazy, baby. If you look at his numbers, it's ridiculous the way he hits there. You've got to take advantage of it, right?"

[+] EnlargeDavid Ortiz
AP Photo/Elise AmendolaDavid Ortiz followed clean-up hitter Dustin Pedroia with a big night of his own, with four hits and five RBIs.

When Pedroia is batting in his normal No. 2 spot in the order, his approach to each at-bat is simple because his job is to reach base for the explosive hitters behind him, namely Gonzalez, Youkilis and Ortiz.

His mindset was the same Tuesday.

"I don't change my approach," Pedroia said. "I'm just trying to get on base, see pitches and get deep into counts. There's no secret behind it. I guess I'm lucky."

When Pedroia stepped into the batter's box in the bottom of the eighth inning, he was a home run shy of the cycle. The Royals had outfielder Mitch Maier on the mound because Kansas City's bullpen was taxed. Maier was just trying to throw strikes when Pedroia turned on one of his offerings, but it fell barely short of the left-field wall for an out.

"I thought it was going to hit the wall," Francona said. "Maybe he just got tired. He talks enough, so he's probably tired."

Pedroia, at least publicly, doesn't care about hitting streaks, cycles or where he hits in the order.

"I'm just trying to help us win, and that's basically it," he said.

His comments, like his style of play, are genuine. He's not faking, and there's nothing phony about his ability to play this game.

If hitting is all about feeling good at the plate, as Ortiz explained, Pedroia exudes confidence right now.

"Pedey, man, when he's on, he's ridiculous," Ortiz said. "That's him, man. It doesn't matter where you put him, he produces."

Pedroia wasn't alone with his offensive prowess, as Ortiz provided three doubles, a single, a walk and five RBIs.

"A lot of guys swung the bats great," Pedroia said. "David looked great tonight. We all have to keep it going because that's what good offensive teams do."

Boston and Kansas City combined for 31 hits Tuesday with the Red Sox holding a slim advantage with 16.

"We've got a good hitting ballclub," Ortiz said. "When we've got it going, it's hard to stop."

It's going right now.

When Ortiz was asked whether this lineup is better than the World Series-winning clubs of 2004 and 2007, he replied, "I'll let you know in November."

Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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