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A Panda with a cause? Pablo Sandoval trending right

BOSTON -- Boston Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski needs no introduction to third baseman Pablo Sandoval. Three years ago, Dombrowski was victimized by Panda-induced nightmares, Sandoval leading the San Francisco Giants to a four-game sweep of Dombrowski's Detroit Tigers in the 2012 World Series.

That's the one in which Sandoval launched three home runs in Game 1, a galvanizing performance that ultimately led Sandoval to be rewarded as Series MVP after batting .500 (8-for-16) and playing errorless ball afield.

Sandoval did nothing nearly so dramatic in Wednesday's 6-4 win over the Cleveland Indians, but his leadoff double off the top of the center-field wall touched off a four-run fourth inning against Indians ace Corey Kluber.

More importantly, whether it's reflected or not in the defensive metrics that haven't been Sandoval's friend all season, the eye test suggests that Sandoval may be winning his battle against the bulge since the Sox finally admitted his conditioning was an issue.

Since making errors in consecutive games in Anaheim coming out of the All-Star break, Sandoval has now gone 22 consecutive games without a miscue, while displaying an agility that has been absent for long stretches this season. In Tuesday's 9-1 win over the Tribe, Sandoval handled six chances, snagging a reaction-play liner in the first, barehanding a ball by Roberto Perez and throwing him out while on the run in the second, and taking a hit away from Carlos Santana on a scorched grounder in the fourth.

Wednesday night, Sandoval started a double play in the second inning, then turned two ground balls into ninth-inning outs in support of Junichi Tazawa's first save of 2015.

Keep this up, and the calls for Sandoval to be moved across to first base may die of their own volition. Panda-inspired propaganda? There are 42 games left for him to demonstrate that the effort he's making is sincere.

Working hard has not been the issue, as manager John Farrell has repeatedly asserted all season. Resisting the temptations on his plate has been more problematic.

"He's working really hard behind the scenes," interim manager Torey Lovullo said Wednesday night, "to make those types of plays. A couple of lateral plays, one an outstanding hands reaction play, got back up on his feet and threw across the diamond. Those are the kinds of plays we expect from all our infielders.

"Offensively, he got our big inning started with a nine-pitch at-bat and double off the center-field wall. He's been engaged, offensively and defensively, and that's really fun for us to see."

Sandoval missed parts of two games after being drilled Saturday by a Felix Hernandez fastball in the right elbow, leaving him with a nasty bruise. It was the sixth time this season he has been hit by a pitch, matching his career high.

His .258/.308/.392/.700 slash line still lingers well below where he would like it to be, but there have been two encouraging developments: One, after batting .049 (2-for-41) against lefties until May 23, he is at .278 (22-for-79) while batting primarily from the left side. He also has shown a bit more patience at the plate since the break, drawing nine walks after recording only three in his previous 51 games.