Pedroia's clutch homer powers Sox past Tigers

Pedroia's clutch homer powers Sox past Tigers

Pedroia's clutch homer powers Sox past Tigers
BOSTON -- It might not be a full-fledged hot streak just yet, but the Red Sox are putting something together at just the right time.

Backed by a tiebreaking two-run homer by Dustin Pedroia and another solid outing by Clay Buchholz, Boston opened a 10-game homestand with a 7-3 victory over the Tigers on Monday night.

Manager Bobby Valentine's team has won three in a row for the first time since June 19-21.

"We've just got to play hard, keep playing and we'll look up at the end and see where we're at," said Pedroia.

The Red Sox are 8 1/2 games back in the American League East, which is actually the closest they've been to the Yankees since July 7. Boston trails by four games in the Wild Card standings.

"It's just all got to happen at the same time," said Buchholz. "You've got to hit and pitch well to win games or go on a big streak that we need to go on. We've got to build some confidence, get on a little streak, and who knows where it will take us?"

The three-game winning streak has come in the immediate aftermath of Pedroia challenging the team to up its level of play in a postgame interview session on Friday.

And it was Pedroia who came through in the clutch in this one, snapping a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the sixth with a two-run blast into the Monster Seats.

"Dustin is the most determined, talented player I've ever seen," said Valentine. "He was upset he left a man on second base with two outs [earlier in the game] and then he came up in that situation. He was going to make something good happen. Dustin hit a two-strike pitch that not many guys hit out of the ballpark, that's for sure."

Will Middlebrooks hammered a prodigious two-run shot off the light stanchion beyond the Monster in the eighth, giving the Red Sox some insurance.

"That was ricocheting off that light post before the outfielder could turn around," said Valentine.

Buchholz (9-3, 4.75 ERA) allowed five hits and three runs (two earned) over eight innings, walking two and striking out four.

Since May 27, Buchholz is 5-1 with a 2.44 ERA.

"I feel good. You've got to have a little bit of confidence," said Buchholz. "Going out there and throwing well builds confidence and adds to what you already have."

The Tigers actually jumped out first, as Buchholz's second pitch of the game was deposited over the wall in center for a solo homer by leadoff hitter Austin Jackson.

But the Red Sox were swift in their response against Max Scherzer. Jacoby Ellsbury led off with a walk and Carl Crawford drilled an RBI triple off the wall in left-center. Pedroia got Crawford home with a groundout, and Boston had a 2-1 lead.

Buchholz ran into some trouble in the third. He gave up a leadoff triple to Omar Infante and walked Jackson. With one out, Miguel Cabrera smashed an RBI single to center to tie it up at 2. But Buchholz made a big pitch to erase further damage, getting Delmon Young on a 6-4-3 double play.

"We loaded the bases and they got the double-play ball," said Tigers manager Jim Leyland. "That's pretty much why they won the game and we lost the game. They got a big pitch and two out with the bases loaded and got themselves out of a potential big inning."

Buchholz is starting to resemble the pitcher who was in contention for the AL's Cy Young Award two years ago.

"I thought he was spectacular," Valentine said. "Leaving the runner on base in the first inning and getting the ground-ball double play with the bases loaded [in the third]. He was cruising after that. He got his ball down, threw great offspeed stuff. He had a really good changeup, curveball and cutter. He gave us eight great innings."

It stayed that way until Pedroia's blast in the sixth, which ignited the crowd and the Boston dugout.

"It's awesome, it gets him fired up and when he gets fired up we get fired up, so it's been fun to watch," said Middlebrooks. "He's a firecracker, so it's fun to have a guy like that who pushes everybody."

Buchholz had some bad luck to start the seventh, as Brennan Boesch reached on a strikeout, thanks to Kelly Shoppach's throwing error to first after recovering the ball. With one out, a double by Alex Avila scored Boesch to cut Boston's lead to 4-3.

Again, the Red Sox answered. Shoppach led off the bottom of the seventh with a triple to the triangle in right-center -- his second of the season and career -- and Ellsbury brought him in with a one-out single.

It was Boston's last game before Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline.

"I'm not going to go home and stare at the TV or anything," said Pedroia. "I've got to go play some Thomas the Train [with my son] and stuff like that."

Ian Browne is a reporter for Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.