Sox could use lift from Pedroia

BOSTON -- The Red Sox are just 14-12 since the All-Star break, but no one else in the American League East has taken advantage.

Entering play Friday night, only Tampa Bay has a better record, 13-10, but that’s only a half-game better than Boston. The Orioles are at .500 (12-12), the Yankees are 11-14, and the Jays are 11-16.

Sox starters are just 7-9 with a 4.23 ERA since the break, but they’ve been picked up by the bullpen, which has posted a 2.33 ERA in the same span, allowing just 22 earned runs in 85 innings.

The Sox remain tied with Detroit for most runs scored in the majors, but since the break they rank fifth in runs scored in the AL, a problem that has grown acute of late, the Sox having scored just 11 runs in their last five games.

The Sox were just 6-for-34 (.176) with runners in scoring position in Toronto, a big reason they dropped two of three to the Jays, both one-run losses.

And while much attention has been focused on Mike Napoli, who was dropped to as low as seventh in the Sox order and has struck out 35 times in 84 at-bats since the break, Dustin Pedroia has been enduring one of the most prolonged dry spells of his career.

Pedroia has posted a slash line of .213/.295/.296/.591 since the break, with just five extra-base hits, three doubles and two home runs. That’s the lowest OPS of any Sox regular in that span, and has come despite the protection in the order he is afforded by David Ortiz, who has stayed hot (.343/.416/.505/.921) even though pitchers are giving him little to hit with both Pedroia and Napoli slumping.

The slump has coincided with the eight-year, $110 million contract extension agreed upon over the All-Star break, which leads the amateur psychologists to speculate that Pedroia, who turns 30 Saturday, has been pressing.

He had 6 hits in 16 at-bats in the three games in Toronto, including a three-hit game Thursday, his first three-hit game since June 28, a span of 41 games.