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Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Dustin Pedroia snaps Red Sox out of it

By Joe McDonald
ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz recently claimed it was time to panic since the club was in the midst of a five-game losing skid and a postseason berth that looked like a sure thing a couple of weeks ago seemed to be in jeopardy.

He said if the Sox didn't start to play better then there would be no October baseball in Boston.

"We've been playing like [expletive]," Ortiz said. "That's a fact. We have to be better."
Dustin Pedroia
Red Sox manager Terry Francona says Dustin Pedroia, who hit two home runs Tuesday, may be ready to carry the team for a spell.

The Red Sox returned home to Fenway Park on Tuesday night after a dreadful road trip in which they lost six of seven games. They needed to respond in a big way with the Tampa Bay Rays closing in on their wild-card lead and coming to town for a four-game series later this week.

Respond they did.

Boston banged out 18 hits en route to an 18-6 win over the Toronto Blue Jays, and widened its lead over the Rays to four games on a night Tim Wakefield posted his 200th career win.

During his recent tirade, Ortiz said someone needed to step up and get this team going before it was too late.

Enter Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury.

The top two batters in the Sox's lineup produced a total of eight hits, eight runs and six RBIs.

Ellsbury went 4-for-5, including a double, home run and a pair of singles to extend his hitting streak to 17 games. He also set a career high for hits with 190. He registered 188 hits in 2009.

Pedroia had five RBIs to match a career-high and ripped two home runs, including a three-run shot in the sixth inning that blew Boston's lead out to 10-5.

"I think Pedey has taken it upon himself," Sox manager Terry Francona said. "He's been trying to do that for the last week, but he swung at some good pitches tonight and drove the ball. He's a little guy but I bet he can put us on his shoulders for a couple of days."

Pedroia claimed he's only doing his job.

"I was just trying to have a good game and help us win," Pedroia said. "The last couple of weeks have been tough. We've had a tough schedule and haven't gotten much sleep. We're at that time of the year where we all need to step up together and play winning baseball. We played great tonight, but tomorrow we need to come out and find a way to win. It's getting close, so we've got to figure it out."

Ellsbury and Pedroia have become a dynamic duo at the top of the order for Boston. When they produce, the Red Sox win. They became the first set of Red Sox teammates to record at least 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in the same season. Ellsbury has 27 homers and 36 steals, while Pedroia has collected 20 and 25.

"Our job is to get on base and wreak havoc," Pedroia said. "Ells' season is unbelievable. He's done everything. We have to get on base for Gonzo, David and Youk. If we're doing that, our offense is really good."

Boston's offense was potent Tuesday night, and it will need to stay that way for the remainder of the season with the starting rotation struggling to get healthy and find its effectiveness. That won't be easy, especially with four games remaining against the Rays and three more against the Yankees.

The Red Sox said this recent string of losses felt eerily similar to the team's 0-6 start to the season. Once the Sox got that first win, the entire season turned around. They're hoping Tuesday's victory can have the same effect.

"We started off the season kind of like this and we just need to get back playing the game pitch to pitch," Saltalamacchia said. "We got away from that and tried to do too much. We're just trying to play the game the right way and see who comes out on top. We're too good of a team to go out there and give games away and not play up to our potential."

The road trip was difficult, but the Red Sox proved it's good to be home.

"Every win is big," Pedroia said. "We're going to come out every day and play like it's Game 7 from here on out. We have to. We have a great group of guys, very talented, but if we don't play together we're not going to be very good. So we have to make sure to do that."

Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.