Red Sox hope to get spark from Pedroia's return

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ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Boston Red Sox are in last place and eager to see if the return of former league MVP Dustin Pedroia can kick-start a second-half push.

Boston (42-47) will welcome back Pedroia from a right hamstring strain that has kept him out since June 24 when they face the Angels here tonight in the opener of a four-game, wraparound weekend series. The 2008 AL MVP leads the Sox in batting average (.306 ) and OPS (.819).

The Red Sox went 10-6 in Pedroia's absence, though they dropped two of three last weekend to the New York Yankees to fall 6 1/2 games behind their first-place rivals.

The Angels (48-40) are 14-7 against left-handed starters, tying Tampa Bay for the A.L.'s best record against lefties, but one of the defeats came May 24 to Friday starter Wade Miley (8-8, 4.80 ERA). Miley gave up one run over eight innings in a 6-1 home win in his only career start against Los Angeles.

The Angels will also start a southpaw in C.J. Wilson (7-7, 3.83), who allowed four runs over six innings in an 8-3 defeat to the Red Sox on May 23 to fall to 6-3 with a 2.94 ERA in 11 starts against them. Pedroia is 11-for-27 against Wilson. David Ortiz is 3-for-20 and is batting .128 overall against lefties this season, baseball's worst average.

Boston has dropped six of its last nine in Anaheim after winning seven straight there.

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