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Red Sox 13, Royals 9

Pedroia is spot on in Sox win

He’s a force at cleanup (4 hits)

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / July 27, 2011

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In the pantheon of baseball stereotypes, the cleanup hitter is readily identifiable.

He is supposed to be a big guy, a muscle-bound slugger with a mean glare and malice in his heart. Prince Fielder hits cleanup. Ryan Howard fits the profile almost exactly, as does Alex Rodriguez.

To hit Dustin Pedroia cleanup goes against convention. The second baseman is listed at 5 feet 9 inches, 180 pounds and that is being polite. Line up the 25 Red Sox and he might be the last player you’d select to hit fourth based on appearance.

That all changes once he swings the bat. Pedroia hit cleanup last night and stood tall, pounding out four hits to help the Red Sox to a 13-9 victory against the Royals.

With Kevin Youkilis out with a sore right hamstring, manager Terry Francona inserted Pedroia into the fourth spot of his lineup. He preferred to make one move rather than shift Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz out of their usual spots.

Pedroia extended his hitting streak to 23 games with a triple in the first inning. He later added a double and two singles along with a walk. He scored three times and drove in another.

Pedroia has hit cleanup seven times in his career. He is 17 for 31 (.548) with seven extra-base hits and nine RBIs.

“If I’m Tito, I’d let him hit cleanup the whole year,’’ Ortiz said. “Make it easy for us. It’s crazy but the little guy’s numbers are ridiculous the way he hits. Might as well take advantage of it, right?’’

Pedroia, who relishes the role, can’t explain his production in that spot.

“I don’t change my approach. I’m trying to get on base and see pitches, get deep in the counts. That’s basically it,’’ he said. “There’s no secret behind it.’’

Pedroia came to the plate in the eighth inning a home run shy of hitting for the cycle. The battered Royals had an outfielder, Mitch Maier, on the mound by that time.

Pedroia took a big swing and bit a fly ball to deep left field. As the crowd of 37,460 tried to will the ball over the wall, it landed in the glove of Alex Gordon.

“To be honest, I didn’t want to strike out. He threw me a pitch middle in, so I swung as hard as I could and hit it. That’s all I got,’’ Pedroia said.

The manager had a different theory.

“He was talking enough, he was probably tired,’’ Francona said.

Ortiz also had four hits, three of them doubles, and drove in five runs. Gonzalez was on base four times and drove in two runs. The 3-4-5 segment of the order had 10 hits, scored six runs, and drove in eight.

The Sox needed all of the offense as starter Andrew Miller gave the team good reason to seek a starter before Sunday’s trade deadline. He gave up seven runs (five earned) on nine hits and two walks over 3 2/3 innings.

Miller has a 5.45 earned run average in seven starts since being called up from Pawtucket.

The tall lefthander pitched well in three starts against National League lineups after his arrival. But in four starts against American League teams since, he has a 7.94 ERA and a 2.29 WHIP with just four strikeouts in 17 innings.

Francona had a blunt assessment, saying Miller didn’t locate his fastball very well or throw to the spots where catcher Jason Varitek set up.

Miller allowed two runs in the first inning, then two more in the second after the Sox tied the score. When the Sox took a 5-4 lead in the third inning, he gave up three runs in the fourth.

“I just wasn’t very good. I seemed to dig myself a hole for every at-bat,’’ Miller said.

The invaluable Alfredo Aceves (6-1) went 3 1/3 scoreless innings for the win, saving the bullpen the night after a 14-inning game. Aceves is 5-0 with a 2.50 earned run average in 25 relief appearances.

“If he doesn’t do what he does, you’re asking a lot. The ability to not just get people out, but to go multiple innings is so important,’’ Francona said.

Rookie lefthander Danny Duffy, the Kansas City starter, also had a rough night. He allowed six earned runs on six hits and three walks over 3 2/3 innings.

The fifth inning resembled a disorganized tee-ball game as the Sox sent 11 batters to the plate and scored six runs.

Josh Reddick and pinch hitter Jacoby Ellsbury started it with singles against Nathan Adcock (1-1). Drew Sutton, another pinch hitter, put down a bunt that was thrown away and two runs scored.

Marco Scutaro walked, bringing Blake Wood into the game. Gonzalez (RBI single), Pedroia (single), Ortiz (two-run single), and Carl Crawford (single) had consecutive hits. Reddick then had a sacrifice fly.

Pedroia’s hit streak is the longest for a Sox second baseman since Del Pratt had a 23-gamer in 1922. Dom DiMaggio has the team record with 34 consecutives games in 1949.

With Youkilis needing another day to recover, Francona plans to hit Pedroia cleanup again tonight.

“He’ll be back in there and we’ll probably hear about it,’’ he said.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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