Dustin Pedroia finally had a major break through on Tuesday night, and it looks like the second baseman is regaining his All-Star form.
Pedroia, who has finally settled back in at the plate following a debilitating thumb injury, drove in the game-winning runs with a two-out single in the eighth inning against the Blue Jays and helped the Red Sox continue to gain ground in the playoff race.
The hit itself was meaningful, as it gave the Red Sox a win. But the moment meant much more than a go-ahead single, especially after failing to tie the game on a David Ortiz double two inning earlier.
So, while Pedroia likely reflected on the botched opportunity until his next chance, it was his ability to overcome the tough out that truly proved his importance. With the hit, Pedroia finally appeared to re-discover the clutch stroke that has made him one of the most feared hitters in baseball over the past five seasons. But even more so, it was his show of perseverance that could have the biggest impact for the club.
Manager Bobby Valentine didn't miss the message, as he commented directly on the importance of Pedroia's impact to the lineup after the 5-1 win.
"It seems like it's been so long since [Pedroia has] been in that opportunity late in the game where he could win the game. It presented itself and he drove the runs in," Valentine said, praising his star infielder. "I mean that really gives us strength."
Strength. That is what Pedroia has always been for his Boston teammates. He always seems to undertake the role of leader both on and off the field for the Sox, and his strength and passion are what constantly seems to propel the team forward. This season is no different, either.
After a hot start to the year, in which Pedroia was hitting .321 and looked to be back to his MVP ways, a nagging thumb injury held the second baseman out for six games. Upon his return, Pedroia wasn't the same player either. Pedey hit an atrocious .145 (9-for-62) over his first 15 game back with just three extra-base hits and five RBIs, dropping his batting average all the way down to .260. Needless to say, there was something wrong.
But just five days later, and Pedroia has appeared to finally find his stroke. In the past four games, Pedroia has gone a dazzling 7-for-14 with two extra-base hits and four RBIs, and his average is all the way back up to a more respectable .272.
What changed? We're not really sure. Pedroia claimed the thumb was feeling better, but it seems that the return of his confidence has been the biggest factor.
On Tuesday, he showed off that swagger with a clutch hit late in the game. And while that won't always be exactly what the Red Sox need to succeed, the mere sight of Pedroia persevering through the hardship and back to prominence is reassuring.
David Ortiz may be the vocal leader and steadying presence in the Red Sox clubhouse this season, but it's still Pedroia who holds the emotional pulse of the team. So as Boston continues chugging along in hopes of corralling one of the five AL playoff spots, it will be Pedey who must lead his team through the good times and the bad. Persevering through it all, on to victory.