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Pedroia clutch again? No surprise there

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Dustin Pedroia is past the point of surprising his teammates. He’s beyond producing a three-RBI night and having the Red Sox turn it into anything more than Pedroia doing what he has done for years.

And so when he pounded out three hits and three RBIs to lead the scuffling Red Sox past the Kansas City Royals 4-3 on Thursday night, the Red Sox didn’t jump to any extraordinary conclusions.

“That’s why he is who he is,” manager Terry Francona said, “because he does come through so much. He kind of wills himself.”

Yet here is the reason why nearly everyone else marveled at the way Pedroia carried the Red Sox on this night: He did so from the cleanup spot, and he did so with David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis both injured and unavailable to play.

And he did so with the Red Sox seeking an offensive boost after generating just three hits in each of their last three games and having gone 8-8 in August.

Pedroia delivered a two-out, two-run single up the middle in the third that gave the Red Sox a 3-1 lead. Then, after Josh Beckett allowed a two-run homer to Alex Gordon, Pedroia produced again. This time, he slapped another two-out hit with a runner in scoring position in the fifth to deliver the deciding run.

“I just try to go out there and play the game hard and help us win,” Pedroia said. “That’s basically it. But that’s what everyone is trying to do. Just because a couple of our main guys are out doesn’t mean we’re going to change our approach.”

Pedroia has reached base in 50 of his last 57 games, with 11 homers and 37 RBIs. He is perhaps even more valuable now while the Red Sox try to absorb the losses of Ortiz (bursitis) and Youkilis, who went on the 15-day DL on Thursday because of a sore back.

Francona batted Pedroia fourth for the eighth time this season. He hit .355 with three homers and five RBIs in his previous seven games at the spot this year before his latest outburst.

“You can’t ask people to be more than they are,” said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek, who delivered the other RBI in the second inning. “That’s kind of the player he already is.”

Pedroia took two well-placed pitches Thursday from Royals starter Luke Hochevar and converted them into two hits and three runs. During his second at bat, Pedroia took a pitch down and in and pushed it back through the middle even though it jammed him, driving in two runs. During his third at-bat, he hit a slider down and away for another RBI.

“He’s a good hitter,” Hochevar said. “The only thing you can do is execute the pitch you’re going after. I felt on both of those pitches, I did. That’s how the game goes sometimes.”

Yet Pedroia’s timely hitting wouldn’t have mattered much if Beckett didn’t uphold his end. Beckett allowed one run in the first inning when Billy Butler drove in Gordon with a sacrifice fly. It marked the ninth straight game in which the Sox fell behind, and the seventh time during that stretch in which they gave up a first-inning run.

Gordon's homer in the third was the eighth homer Beckett has surrendered in his last six starts after allowing seven homers in his first 18 starts.

“I was missing up a little bit early,” Beckett said.

After Gordon’s homer, though, Beckett settled down. He allowed four more hits but all were singles. The Royals never put a runner on third base in the final six innings.

Beckett lasted seven innings for the first time in three starts. He allowed seven hits but limited his damage to the first three innings. He didn’t walk anyone while striking out four.

“If we keep this team in the game, we’re going to score runs,” Beckett said. “It’s tough losing David and Youk, but the good thing about being with the Boston Red Sox is we have guys that can pick up that slack.”

Which is exactly what Pedroia and the rest of the Red Sox did.

Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon closed out the game in the eighth and ninth innings. Papelbon converted his 24th straight save and his 29th for the season.

Mike Aviles filled in for injured shortstop Marco Scutaro, and Jed Lowrie took Youkilis’ place at third. Highly regarded catching prospect Ryan Lavarnway made his major-league debut as a DH and went 0-for-4.

“Our margin for error may be a little smaller when guys are out,” Francona said, “but that doesn’t mean we can’t win.”