Even as the empty at-bats piled up, Dustin Pedroia never got bogged down by the numbers.
He was 0 for his last 16 coming into the Red Sox’s 8-2 win Tuesday night over the Mariners and 3 for 39 since the All-Star break.
He still went about every at-bat the same way, spoiling pitcher’s pitches, dragging out at-bats as many pitches as possible, hitting the ball hard, and accepting the stretch of tough luck he was being dealt.
When Mariners shortstop Brad Miller booted Pedroia’s ground ball in the first inning, Pedroia didn’t necessarily see it as luck slowly shifting his way. It was just an error.
When he wrung nine pitches out of Mariners starter Joe Saunders in the second inning before finally jacking a full-count fastball over the Monster, he didn’t look at it like a watershed moment. It was just his seventh home run.
A 2-for-4, three-RBI night didn’t necessarily bust him out of a slump, but it was a nice reward after grinding out so many fruitless at-bats.
“Just keep plugging away,” he said. “You go through streaks where you don’t feel well or you hit the ball at people. So you’ve just got to keep going.”
No set of numbers was more telling than Pedroia’s batting average on balls in play before the All-Star break (.348) and after (.081).
“He’s been crushing the ball right at people,” said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. “So I’m glad he was able to get a homer.”
Having been through a similar stretch before, Saltalamacchia knew the feeling. He also knew that luck was temporary.
“Pedey’s such a professional that as a teammate, you know it’s going to happen,” Saltalamacchia said. “For him, it’s probably a little frustrating, but it’s nothing he’s not done before. I know personally, two years ago, I was hitting the ball well right at people. But, you know, that’s a better feeling than being kind of lost up there and he’s never lost.”
For his part, Pedroia never changed his approach. The 4.09 pitches he sees per plate appearance is 18th in all of baseball. It was the fifth time in his career that he stretched an at-bat nine pitches and ended it by going deep.
“Just try to be consistent and play every day,” Pedroia said. “You go through 30 or 40 at-bats where you don’t feel well. I wasn’t feeling that well and when I did hit the ball hard, I just hit it right to people. So, it happens.”
Red Sox manager John Farrell appreciated the candor of umpire Jerry Meals, who admitted he blew a call at the plate in the eighth inning of Monday night’s 2-1 loss to Tampa Bay. But what Farrell really wants is for Major League Baseball to use instant replay to get such calls right.
“I’ve always felt the advances in technology, how it’s come into the game, there’s no reason to think that it can’t be used to a greater extent without prolonging the time of the game,” Farrell said.
“I know it’s an ongoing conversation with the commissioner’s office. How it’s ultimately implemented, that’s the biggest challenge in all of this.”
One concern is whether replay would slow games that many think already drag on too long.
Clay Buchholz is getting closer to throwing with full intensity from flat ground, the final hurdle before he returns to pitching from a mound. Farrell said Buchholz threw all of his pitches during a throwing session Monday. The Sox, Farrell said, believe Buchholz will be back in their rotation by late August or early September . . . Lefthander Andrew Miller has been back around the team after undergoing season-ending surgery on his left foot. Doctors have said he should be recovered in time for spring training. Miller faces a long rehab. He is in a non-weight-bearing cast now and will graduate to a walking boot in a few weeks. Eventually a second surgery will be required to remove a long screw from his foot. “The ligament I tore can’t be repaired, so the screw kind of fuses my foot together,” he said. “I’ll be OK over time. But for now I really can’t do much.” Miller will return to his home in Florida when the team goes on the road next week. He was having the best season of his career at the time of the injury with a 2.64 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. “It stinks not to be pitching,” he said. “But I’ll be back.”
Reports were positive on lefty reliever Franklin Morales, who started a minor league rehab assignment with Triple A Pawtucket on Monday and struck out the three batters he faced. “Good command, velocity was in the low-90s. It was a quick inning of work,” Farrell said. Morales could return to the roster after two more appearances. “Don’t hold me to three appearances,” Farrell said . . . Veteran righthander Jose Contreras, who has pitched well for Pawtucket in three appearances, was given a few days off because of a death in his family. Contreras has thrown 4⅔ scoreless innings and struck out eight. Farrell said the Sox will evaluate their bullpen this week and Contreras could be a candidate for promotion . . . Double A hitting coach Rich Gedman will coach in the Arizona Fall League. The Sox will send Gedman and a handful of prospects to the Surprise Saguaros.