It’s the little things that seem to feel different right before busting out of a slump. It’s just a little more comfort in the batter’s box, maybe taking a pitch just off the corner that might have been chased a few games prior, or hitting a ball the other way rather than trying to pull it.
Whatever was different about Dustin Pedroia in Saturday night’s win definitely did not go unnoticed by Red Sox skipper Bobby Valentine, who clearly saw something different in the way Pedroia was going about his business. Clearly, Pedroia felt it, too — and it wasn’t just the cool Boston breeze on his freshly-shaven face.
“The clean-shaven Dustin Pedroia,” noted Valentine after the Red Sox’ 8-4 win over the Atlanta Braves. “Last night he said he said he felt really good, and I thought some of his at-bats were a little different than they had been.”
Friday’s 0-for-4 performance was apparently just the calm before the storm for Pedroia, who broke out in a big way Saturday, going 3-for-4 with a walk and two RBIs. Since returning to the field on June 5 after suffering a torn adductor muscle in his thumb, Pedroia had only notched nine hits in 62 at-bats, with a paltry three extra-base hits.
As the rest of the offense has finally started to show some consistent firepower — even while missing star outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford — the team was kind of waiting for Pedroia to get hot and provide his on-base skills for the middle of the Red Sox lineup. It’s obviously too early to say whether or not this is the start of a sustained streak for Pedroia, but — for one night at least — his contributions certainly buoyed the rest of the team.
Staying with the temperature motif, Valentine said before the game that he was waiting for Pedroia to get “firecracker” hot, possibly a reference to Pedroia’s role as the catalyst for the Boston offense. In this facet of the game, the second baseman’s value to the team cannot be understated.
Red Sox hitters batting in the No. 2 hole in the lineup have gotten on base at a rate of just .304, which is woefully inadequate for a team that is known for its prolific offense. A potential return to form by Pedroia, however, completely changes the dynamic of the Boston lineup, making it much, much more dangerous.
Adrian Gonzalez is the perfect example of someone who’s directly affected by the batters hitting in front of him, posting a .344 slugging percentage with the bases empty this season. By contrast, he’s slugging .465 with runners on base.
So while the Red Sox wait for a few stars to come off the disabled list to add some consistency to the lineup, getting Pedroia to return to his MVP form is practically as big a boon for a Red Sox team in need of some help at the top of the lineup.
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