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Pedroia ready to leave slump behind

By Alex Prewitt
Globe Correspondent / June 24, 2012
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Following Friday’s 4-1 loss to the Braves, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine predicted second baseman Dustin Pedroia would soon bust out of his offensive funk.

“He’ll get hot,’’ Valentine said then. “Hotter than a firecracker.’’

Consider it done.

Pedroia broke an 0-for-11 drought with a 3-for-4 performance in Boston’s 8-4 win over Atlanta Saturday night, silencing those who called for Valentine to consider dropping Pedroia in the batting order and those who wondered why the Sox never put him on the disabled list when a torn muscle in his right thumb caused him to miss six games.

“Hits are coming,’’ Pedroia said. “You guys have seen it. Every year I go through a time where, like everybody else does, I have a tough time. But when it rains, it pours. It can go from cold to real hot.’’

Valentine had ample evidence to justify a lineup shuffle. Pedroia had struggled mightily since he returned and made an early exit in Tuesday’s win over the Marlins amid concern that he had reinjured the thumb.

But for all the lineups Valentine has penned this season, he has stuck with Pedroia in the No. 2 hole. In 64 games, Pedroia has hit second 51 times.

Pedroia had his first three-hit game since May 11 against Cleveland, when his batting average was .316, not the .260 it was entering Saturday.

“The last few days I’ve swung the bat good, and I just didn’t get any hits,’’ Pedroia said. “I think that’s the tough part to deal with mentally, when you have good at-bats and don’t get any hits. You just have to know that they’re coming, and they will.

“I’m always in a good frame of mind. I just try to know that, in the end, I’ll be right there where I normally am. You guys saw it last year and the year before and the year before. Everyone goes through tough times. It’s how you bounce out of it and once you find your swing, you just take off.’’

After starter Franklin Morales put the Sox in a 1-0 hole in the first inning, Pedroia sparked Boston in the bottom half, singling and then scoring on an Adrian Gonzalez single.

He gave the Sox a 4-1 lead in the second by cranking a two-run double into left-center, plating Mike Aviles and Daniel Nava.

Pedroia singled in the fourth and walked in the sixth before grounding into a fielder’s choice in his final at-bat. He had not reached base four times in a game since May 7.

“[Friday] he said he felt really good and I felt some of his at-bats were a little different than they have been and tonight his ground balls had the power to get through the infield,’’ Valentine said. “He had good at-bats. He’s feeling good.’’

Pedroia has historically been at his best around this time. He has a lifetime .350 average with a .938 OPS in July, by far his best month.

“Good,’’ Pedroia said. “It’s coming. July’s coming.’’

Will Middlebrooks offered a different explanation for Pedroia’s breakthrough.

“I don’t know if it’s because he shaved his beard or what,’’ he said. “But he’s a heck of a hitter. It’s fun to watch.’’

Alex Prewitt can be reached at aprewitt@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt.

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