Dustin Pedroia Setting Tone as Red Sox’ Heart and Soul, Elevating His Game to New Level

Dustin PedroiaMost of the players on this year’s Red Sox team come from a similar mold. It’s a club stacked with grinders who are determined, resilient and confident.

There’s only one Dustin Pedroia, though, and he remains the heart and soul of the Red Sox.

Boston fans don’t need to be reminded of Pedroia’s impact. He’s heading to his fourth All-Star Game, and he’s considered to be one of the game’s elite second basemen. Neither is by accident. Every now and then, however, it’s hard not to stop and marvel at the effort we see from Pedroia on a consistent basis.

Pedroia, who was named one of the newest members of the Arizona Fall League Hall of Fame on Friday, made an impact both offensively and defensively against the Athletics in the series opener. One might say that constitutes just another day at the office — which is true — but the manner in which he made his impact was impressive, nevertheless.

First came the glove work, which often gets overlooked amid Pedroia’s frequent laser shows. Oakland had just scored a run to cut Boston’s lead in half, and Josh Donaldson, who many consider to be an All-Star snub, stepped up with runners at the corners and one out. Donaldson hit an absolute rocket up the middle to the right of the second base bag. Pedroia, who was moving to his right, hit the ground and picked the hot shot as it took a high, hard bounce to his left. After making the stop, Pedroia flipped to Jose Iglesias, who stepped on second and fired to first to complete the inning-ending, run-saving, rally-killing double play.

The A’s ended up tying the game in the sixth inning when Jed Lowrie jacked a hanging off-speed pitch into the seats in right field. But even then, Pedroia’s play was big, as there’s no telling where that fifth inning was headed had he not kicked off the crucial double play.

The game remained tied until the eighth inning, at which point Pedroia came through with the lumber. Iglesias led off the eighth with a single into right field, and he moved up into scoring position on Brock Holt’s sacrifice bunt. Iglesias advanced to third base when Jacoby Ellsbury grounded out, and Shane Victorino put two runners into scoring position for Pedroia by stealing second base after being hit on the fingers by lefty Sean Doolittle.

Ryan Cook took over for Doolittle before Pedroia stepped in for the game’s most important at-bat. Cook, an All-Star in 2012, has been particularly tough on righties this season, limiting them to a .165 average and .189 on-base percentage through 85 at-bats before Friday’s appearance. That type of stuff tends to go in one ear and out the other with Pedroia, though, and this situation was no different.

Pedroia took two pitches before yanking a 1-1 slider into left field that plated both Iglesias and Victorino to give the Red Sox a 4-2 lead that they would never relinquish. It was an extremely clutch hit by Pedroia, but it was almost expected, especially with how dynamic he’s been this season.

Yankees All-Star Robinson Cano holds the advantage in the power department, but Pedroia has been as good as it gets both in the field and at the dish. If he’s not at least No. 2 on your list of second basemen, then your list is seriously flawed.

Pedroia, an eight-year veteran, has had special seasons before. We’re talking about a World Series champion, MVP and Rookie of the Year winner. The 29-year-old is playing as well as he has ever played, though, and it’s rubbing off on the rest of Boston’s hard-nosed bunch.

Have a question for Ricky Doyle? Send it to him via Twitter at @TheRickyDoyle or send it here.

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