The "MVP! MVP!" chants continue from adoring fans who are continually amazed that such a small player can generate so much power. Yet again last night, Dustin Pedroia, hitting cleanup after Kevin Youkilis was a late scratch with back spasms, thumped the baseball in a manner that would make Albert Pujols jealous.
He had five more RBIs and hit his 16th homer. Could you ever imagine Pedroia hitting 20 home runs in a season?
That's precisely the path the little big man is on.
"I don't know about any of that stuff," said Pedroia following a 14-2 win over the Orioles in a game in which the Red Sox tagged Baltimore pitching for 20 hits. "I'm just trying to go out there and put a good swing on the ball."
He has run out of things to say. It's the same old story, but the best of stories. With three hits, he raised his American League-leading average to .330. He's 9 for 14 from the cleanup spot with six RBIs.
He had plenty of help, as David Ortiz, hitting in front of him, went 3 for 3 with four RBIs. All of it was in support of Jon Lester's 13th win, though the lefthander went just five innings, getting his pitch count up to 99 before Terry Francona decided there was no point in stretching him out.
It was an easy night at Fenway, though any euphoria over the 10 runs the Sox scored in a two-inning span had to be tempered by the fact that the battering was done against the Orioles and a fellow named Radhames Liz.
That being said, what a thrashing it was.
"I don't know how much worse it could get," said Orioles manager Dave Trembley. "You'd like to think that this is it. You'd like to think that tomorrow is another day and you'll play better. You've got to keep that approach, keep that in mind."
Yet it could get worse, with the Orioles throwing Lance Cormier this afternoon in place of the injured Jeremy Guthrie.
The Sox had this one wrapped up by the fourth inning, when they held a 10-1 lead. By that time, Ortiz had all three of his hits, including two doubles, and had knocked in his four runs. Pedroia had already knocked in four with a sacrifice fly and a three-run homer.
The Sox scored four in the third and six in the fourth, and the rest was pretty much a walk in the Fens.
So much for the "progress" the Orioles have made this year. So much for the "spoiler" team they could be in September. They look every bit the last-place team they are, having dropped a season-low 12 games below .500. In their last 54 games, the Orioles have allowed 10 or more runs 13 times.
"You hope you can get it out of your system," said Trembley. "You've hit rock bottom and you would think that sooner or later, it's going to turn for you."
With the Rays losing to the Yankees, the Sox are within four games of the division lead, and with six games left against Tampa Bay, they haven't given up on winning the AL East.
"We're playing very well as a team right now and we're trying to defend our title," said Pedroia. "We'd love to win our division and we know we have a climb to do that, but I think everybody here is up for it. There's a whole month of September to go, and a lot can happen."
Before the game, Francona went on about how proud he is of this team and how much fun he's had managing it because "we do things the right way."
There is a cohesiveness to the Sox that has been brought about, in part, by the many injuries they have had to work around. Even last night, they had to adjust on the fly with Youkilis's last-minute problem.
"We grinded it out really well tonight," said Francona. "We were patient, started making [Liz] throw the ball over the plate. He made some mistakes and we made him pay for it."
Francona was particularly thrilled with Ortiz.
"He had some very good swings," said the manager. "Took a good swing at a 3-and-0 fastball, little bit late, and he hit the ball off the left-field wall on the very next pitch.
"But again, he came up in situations where the pitcher had to throw the ball right over the plate because there were so many men on base. The guys ahead of him did a pretty good job."
As did the guy behind him, Pedroia, who now has 75 RBIs - second among AL second basemen to Seattle's Jose Lopez.
All are amazed by what they've seen from Pedroia, including a new teammate, Mark Kotsay, who said, "I was going to paint an 'S' on his chest. He's a great young player. It's fun to see him hit behind Ortiz, who's such a huge guy, but Dustin is such a great competitor."