Clean-shaven Pedroia extends streak to 23

Clean-shaven Pedroia extends streak to 23

Clean-shaven Pedroia extends streak to 23
BOSTON -- Dustin Pedroia isn't one of those superstitious ballplayers.

It's not because he doesn't care -- if anything, he's been accused of caring too much. But he doesn't necessarily need to be superstitious.

Since June 29, Pedroia has been white-hot. He had a hit in every one of the 22 games leading into Tuesday's tilt with the Royals, batting .390 with nine doubles, seven homers, 17 RBIs and 24 runs scored.

Some players wouldn't change a thing in their daily routine while on a hot streak. There are those even on the Red Sox who have to put the same sock on first each day if they're playing good. The left sock, left cleat. Right sock, then right cleat.

Not Pedroia.

Even while carrying the longest hitting streak of any American League player this season, Pedroia made a monumental decision before Tuesday's game. He shaved his beard.

"I thought I'd clean it up a little," he said.

It took Pedroia one at-bat to extend his hitting streak to 23 games, roping a triple off the center-field wall in the first inning on Tuesday. His next at-bat came in the third, and the clean-shaven second baseman smacked a double to left field. After a single his next time up, Pedroia was just a home run shy of the cycle in the fourth.

One night after the Red Sox and Royals battled in a 14-inning game that exhausted both bullpens, the most explosive offense in baseball had scored 12 runs by the sixth, further tiring Kansas City manager Ned Yost's pitching staff.

So down six runs in the eighth, rather than wasting any more of his relievers, Yost opted for a position player, sending outfielder Mitch Maier to the mound with Pedroia leading off the inning.

Maier -- who had never pitched before in the Majors -- threw two straight balls, the fastest registering at 76 mph. The next pitch was a bit high, but Pedroia flashed one of his classic, all-out swings, using every ounce of his 5-foot-8, 165-pound frame to try to etch his name into history, becoming the first Boston player to hit for the cycle since John Valentin in 1996.

But Pedroia could only foul it off. And after Maier threw two more pitches in the mid-70s, he dialed back for an 80-mph pitch (recorded as a changeup) that Pedroia flung high into left field. If there's any park in the league that favors fly-ball home runs to left, Fenway is it.

"To be honest, I just didn't want to strike out," Pedroia said. "And he threw me a pitch middle in. I swung as hard as I could and hit it. That's all I got. I thought I was going to hit the [Green] Monster, but I'm not that strong."

The wind didn't blow, and the ball died just short of the warning track.

"I thought it was going to hit the wall," said Boston manager Terry Francona. "Maybe he just got tired. He was talking enough, he's probably tired."

Pedroia said he didn't care about hitting for the cycle, even if it meant putting his name on a list that includes Dwight Evans, Fred Lynn, Carl Yastrzemski, Ted Williams and Joe Cronin.

"It doesn't mean that much to me," he said.

He only wanted to win the game. And he got his wish.

Pedroia ended his night 4-for-5, raising his career average out of the cleanup spot to .559 (19-for-34). Hitting fourth with Kevin Youkilis (tight hamstring) out of the lineup, Pedroia offered no explanation why he's fared well in that slot. But hitting between Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz has played a role.

"It looks kind of weird, though," Pedroia said. "When Adrian goes on deck and I'm behind him, and then David's behind me. It looks a little weird."

Weird has worked. And Francona said Pedroia will probably bat fourth again on Wednesday -- if only to give the talkative second baseman something to gab about.

"If I'm Tito, I'm letting him clean up the whole year," Ortiz said. "Make it easy for us."

-- Jason Mastrodonato