Dustin Pedroia is making a strong case to be the AL’s MVP, even proving effective as a No. 4 hitter. Not that Daisuke Matsuzaka needs much run support, but Pedroia has been particularly productive for the Boston Red Sox right-hander.
Pedroia may be pressed into cleanup duty again as Matsuzaka looks to win his sixth straight decision when the Red Sox try for a three-game sweep of the lowly Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday.
Boston’s Kevin Youkilis, the team’s scheduled cleanup hitter, was scratched with back spasms Tuesday night for the middle game of this series. He was replaced by Jeff Bailey at first base, and his status for Wednesday’s game is uncertain.
Pedroia ended up hitting cleanup for the third time in four games, and tied a career high with five RBIs to lead the Red Sox (81-57) to a 14-2 rout of the Orioles (63-75). It was Boston’s 10th win in 14 games, and cut its deficit in the AL East to four games behind Tampa Bay.
With Youkilis ailing, Pedroia has helped keep the Red Sox’s lineup productive. The 5-foot-9 second baseman has gone 7-for-12 while replacing Youkilis as the No. 4 hitter.
“It’s funny to see him come up after (David) Ortiz, a big burly guy,” Boston right fielder Mark Kotsay said.
Pedroia is batting .600 (18-for-30) over his last seven games to raise his AL-leading average to .330. He has scored 27 runs in his last 19 games, giving him 108 on the season and prompting Red Sox fans to serenade him with “MVP!” chants.
“I just come to the park and do the same thing I’ve done all year,” he said.
Pedroia has helped give Matsuzaka (16-2, 2.82 ERA) an average of 6.27 runs to work with. Pedroia is 11-for-22 with nine runs and five RBIs in the last five games Matsuzaka has started.
Matsuzaka hasn’t needed much help, but another strong game at the plate from Pedroia certainly wouldn’t hurt his chances of winning for the sixth time in his last seven starts. He has given up two runs or less in five of his last six outings.
In his last start, the right-hander gave up two hits while striking out seven in eight innings as Boston beat the Chicago White Sox 8-0 on Friday night.
Matsuzaka is 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA in two starts versus the Orioles this season, and 2-1 with a 4.79 ERA in four career starts against them.
Baltimore was set to counter with Jeremy Guthrie - its only effective starter - but he was scratched due to a tired arm. The Orioles will pitch this game by committee, starting with Lance Cormier (2-3, 4.61).
Cormier will be making his first start of the season, and 24th of his career. He went 2-6 with a 6.85 ERA in nine starts for Atlanta last season.
The right-hander has struggled over the last five weeks, going 1-0 with an 8.27 ERA and a .375 opponents batting average in 11 appearances spanning 16 1-3 innings. He is 0-2 with a 7.36 ERA in one start and four relief appearances against Boston.
Cormier will take the mound for a Baltimore team that has lost 12 of 14, posting a 7.57 ERA in that span.