|Dustin Pedroia slides headfirst for a triple, one of his four extra-base hits. (Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)|
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - A home run, a triple, a double, all before the sixth inning. Another double, driving in a run in the eighth. Was Dustin Pedroia bent on beating the Tampa Bay Rays last night by himself?
"He tried," manager Terry Francona said.
Pedroia couldn't do it alone, but made history in the effort, becoming the first Sox second baseman to collect four extra-base hits in a game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Had he merely singled in his last at-bat, he would have become the first Sox player since John Valentin in 1996 to hit for the cycle.
"I was trying to go up there and hit a ball hard those last two times I got up," said Pedroia, who also lined out in the sixth. "When I got back after I hit the double, guys were joking, 'You should have fallen down or something.' But I just play the game."
Fifteen second basemen have had four extra-base hits in a game since 1956, the last Marcus Giles, who was playing for Atlanta when he hit four doubles July 27, 2003, against the Montreal Expos. The last American League second baseman with four extra-base hits in a game was Carlos Baerga, who had three doubles and a triple for the Indians Sept. 20, 1990, against the Yankees.
Pedroia has a 10-game hitting streak in which he is batting .568 (25 for 44) to raise his average from .274 to .311. The last Sox batter with four extra-base hits in a game was catcher Jason Varitek, who hit two home runs and two doubles July 4, 2003.
Nothing doingManny Ramírez, who began the season with a .311 career average and 25 home runs at Tropicana Field, went 0 for 5 and was 0 for 11 in the series, with five strikeouts.
Ramírez, who homered and singled in Boston's last game in Houston, has not hit safely since his shoving incident involving traveling secretary Jack McCormick was reported Sunday night by the Providence Journal. The club has still not announced whether it has taken any disciplinary action against the slugger.
Ramírez is batting just .120 (3 for 25) at the Trop this season.
Varitek is just 3 for 48 (.063) in his last 15 games after last night's 0 for 4 with three strikeouts. His average has plummeted from .295 to .216 in 30 games, as he has batted just .118 (12 for 102) in that stretch. And while he was batting .261 from the right side entering last night, Kazmir had been tough on him, holding him to a .214 average (6 for 28 with an RBI).
Varitek struck out in his first at-bat last night, but walked in the third and was at the plate in the fifth when Kazmir uncorked a wild pitch to score J.D. Drew after having given Kevin Youkilis an intentional walk. Varitek struck out in the seventh and ninth.
With the Sox playing tomorrow afternoon after a night game, Francona may try to give Varitek another breather, though Kevin Cash (4 for 41, .098, in his last 15 games) has not fared any better at the plate. Sox catchers came into last night's game batting a collective .224 (68 for 304), the second-lowest average in the American League at that position, ahead of only the Angels (.216).
Varitek's value far transcends his offensive contribution, but his struggles are magnified by the absence of David Ortiz. If Ortiz was playing, Francona said, he could drop Varitek further in the order.
"I absolutely stunk, there's no two ways about it," Varitek said after Tuesday's loss. "I'll have to find a way; it's got to be me."
The Sox accelerated Ortiz's schedule a bit; he took soft toss each of the last two days. "I never thought I was going to have such a hard time hitting soft toss," Ortiz said, "but at the end, I took like 25 swings, and I started catching up."
Ortiz said he hopes he might be able to step into the cage next week.
"It's been hard for me since Day 1," said Ortiz, who has not played since May 31. "I'm not used to this.
"Every day I feel better. Every day I discover something new, but in a good way, you know what I mean? My problem might be that because I swing so hard, I've got to be 100 percent to play, Otherwise, I can have a setback and I don't think this team needs that."
Star qualityFive members of the Pawtucket Red Sox were selected to play for the International League in the Triple A All-Star Game: second baseman Joe Thurston, who is leading the league in hitting (.324), outfielder Jeff Bailey, designated hitter Chris Carter, outfielder Jonathan Van Every, and knuckleballer Charlie Zink. The game is in Louisville, Ky., July 16, the day after the big league game, and will be televised on ESPN2.
The PawSox own the best record in the league, 55-33. They've never had this many players selected, and one deserving candidate, pitcher David Pauley, who leads the league with 10 wins, was not chosen.
Meanwhile, in Portland, three Sea Dogs were named Eastern League All-Stars: pitcher Michael Bowden, outfielder Bubba Bell, and outfielder Jeff Corsaletti. The game is scheduled for July 15 in Manchester, N.H.