The Boston Red Sox have no idea how much having second baseman Dustin Pedroia back will help, but they're ecstatic the former MVP is ready for the season's stretch run.
Pedroia is expected to be removed from the disabled list Tuesday and start for the Red Sox as they go for an eighth straight win over the Los Angeles Angels in the opener of this three-game series at Fenway Park.With Pedroia sidelined since June 25 with a fractured bone in his left foot, Boston (67-52) went 23-21 without the 2008 AL MVP and lost ground to the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East race. With the club battling key injuries all year, including Kevin Youkilis being out for the season, the Red Sox could use a boost as they chase a fourth straight postseason appearance.Manager Terry Francona, though, doesn't want to put too much emphasis on a player who has gone nearly eight weeks without facing major league pitching."I don't know (what Pedroia's return will mean). How do you know?" Francona told the Red Sox's official website. ".. If he goes 0-for-40, not much. The idea is, he's a great player, so we're thrilled. So we don't know how it affects the games because the games aren't played yet."Right-hander Clay Buchholz (13-5, 2.49 ERA), who will start the series opener, is expecting big things from the energetic second baseman."He's definitely a spark plug for the offense and defense," Buchholz said of Pedroia, batting .292 with 12 homers and 41 RBIs. "He's just a key component to this team. Once he gets back and gets his feel back and everything, he's definitely going to be fun to watch, but he's going to help us out also."Ranked among the league leaders in ERA and tied with fellow All-Star Jon Lester for the team high in victories, Buchholz has more than done his part to improve the Red Sox's playoff chances. He's 3-0 with a 1.48 ERA in his last four outings."I've definitely exceeded anything I thought I'd be able to do in this game so far this year," he said after throwing eight innings of one-run ball in Wednesday's 10-1 win at Toronto.The right-hander has won both of his starts against the Angels (60-59) this year and Boston has won all seven matchups, including four at Fenway from May 3-6.Trailing AL West-leading Texas by a wide margin, the Angels likely need another solid performance from ace Jered Weaver (11-7, 2.87) if they're going to post their first win over Boston since sweeping last year's AL division series.Weaver, 2-0 with an 0.83 ERA in three starts this month, went a season-high eight innings in Wednesday's 2-1, 10-inning victory over Kansas City. He had 11 strikeouts to raise his major league-leading total to 182."Weave's stuff wasn't as crisp as we've seen it, but it was his best job of pitching all season," manager Mike Scioscia said.The right-hander, though, is 1-1 with a 7.06 ERA in four career starts in Boston.Buchholz is 4-0 with a 1.53 ERA in his last five outings at Fenway.Red Sox right fielder J.D. Drew, batting .333 with four homers and six RBIs during a six-game hitting streak, is 6 for 17 with a homer lifetime against Weaver.Angels outfielder Torii Hunter is 3 for 16 without an RBI in his last four games, and he's 2 for 23 with eight strikeouts versus Boston in 2010. Hunter has one hit in nine career at-bats against Buchholz.The Red Sox have never won eight in a row against the Angels in the same season.