BOSTON -- The accolades continue growing and the hits keep coming for Dustin Pedroia.
Pedroia's two-run single capped a four-run sixth inning, Paul Byrd pitched seven efficient innings and the Boston Red Sox beat the struggling Baltimore Orioles 7-4 on Monday night.Byrd, Pedroia's teammate for a little less than three weeks, was gushing with praise for the scrappy second baseman. This coming after White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen continually lauded his play over the weekend."I can't say enough about my second baseman," Byrd said. "This guy, in my opinion, is the MVP of the league. He's unbelievable. I didn't know he was that good when I came over here."Pedroia, who hit .374 in August and closed the month going 9-for-12, scored 33 runs last month, the most for the Red Sox since Dom DiMaggio and Billy Goodwin had 35 in 1950, according to the Elias Sports Bureau."He said that," Pedroia said, breaking into a smile, when informed of Byrd's MVP comment. "That's a great compliment coming from him. I definitely love playing behind him."On Monday, he was 2-for-4, scored a run and made a nice backhanded play on Brian Roberts' seventh-inning grounder."A lot of people talk about Manny [Ramirez] leaving. I wish Pedroia was leaving," Guillen said a few days earlier.The Red Sox, who had the AL's second-best record at 18-9 in August but failed to gain ground on AL East-leading Tampa Bay, which went 21-7, pulled to five games behind the idle Rays. Boston increased its lead to three games in the wild card race.Baltimore, swept in a three-game series at Tampa Bay over the weekend when its pitchers allowed 34 runs, lost for the ninth time in 10 games.Jason Varitek and Jeff Bailey hit consecutive homers for the Red Sox. Varitek's tied Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk for a club record with his 157th as a catcher.Adam Jones, Juan Castro and Kevin Millar had solo home runs for Baltimore. Millar's was his 20th, the third time -- and first since he hit 25 with the Red Sox in 2003 -- he's reached that mark.Trailing 3-2 in the sixth, Boston grabbed the lead for good against Garrett Olson (8-7). Jason Bay and Jed Lowrie hit consecutive doubles, tying the game. After Bailey walked, Coco Crisp hit an RBI single up the middle. Jacoby Ellsbury reached on an infield hit to load the base before Pedroia lined reliever Dennis Sarfate's outside pitch to right, making it 6-3."We couldn't get the third out before Pedroia got the big hit," Baltimore manager Dave Trembley said. "Obviously he's having a tremendous season and is an exceptional player, so those guys have a knack for coming up with the big hit in those kinds of situations."Olson, recalled from Triple-A Norfolk to make the start, felt he went away from his best pitch by trying to fool Boston's strong fastball hitting lineup."You've still got to stay with your best stuff," he said. "My fastball, I thought was my best pitch. I think I got a little defensive."Byrd (10-11), making his fourth start for Boston since being acquired for a player to be named or cash from Cleveland on Aug. 12, gave up four runs and seven hits.Javier Lopez worked a perfect eighth before Jonathan Papelbon pitched the ninth for his 35th save.The Orioles jumped ahead 1-0 in the first when Jones, activated from the disabled list before the game, homered on the first pitch he saw, sending a drive over the Green Monster seats.
Pedroia's key single was his 184th hit, a record for Red Sox record for second baseman, breaking Del Pratt's 1922 mark. ... Kevin Youkilis was back in Boston's lineup after missing two games with flu-like symptoms. ... Red Sox 3B Mike Lowell, on the 15-day DL with a strained right oblique, took grounders and BP before the game and is close to returning. He hopes to be back this weekend. ... Boston manager Terry Francona said RF J.D. Drew, on the DL with a strained lower back, was expected to hit in an indoor cage. ... Trembley said closer George Sherrill, on the DL since Aug. 16 with left shoulder inflammation, played long toss and is scheduled to do so again Wednesday. ... Baltimore 3B Melvin Mora missed his third straight game with a strained left hamstring.