Through it all, there has been one constant, one guy whose performance has yet to waver: Dustin Pedroia. And on Thursday night in Anaheim, he was so much more.
Pedroia reached base five times and was the ignition in the decisive rally as Boston claimed a 4-2 win in 11 innings over the Angels. His average, now up to a very healthy .333, tells just a portion of the story. Everything he did against Anaheim tells the rest.
The former Most Valuable Player used his bat, his feet, his arm, his legs and his cunning instincts to foil the Angels in almost every scenario imaginable.
It began early in the 230-minute affair. Pedroia's single in the top of the first was the first hit of the game and the first of 20 base runners for Boston. He walked in the third, stole second and then shook off the trainer when he jammed his left foot, the very one that had to heal over the winter.
Another single in the fifth and another walk in the seventh kept Pedroia on the bases, but he was just a victim of the Red Sox' inability to do anything with runners in scoring position. They finished 2-for-18 in that category.
But it was Pedroia who made such futility only a footnote. He helped Boston take advantage of a moronic base running decision by Erick Aybar in the eighth by throwing Aybar out at third after he tried to stretch a leadoff double into a triple. That kept the potential go-ahead run off the bases and stifled Anaheim's final threat.
After J.D. Drew walked to start the 11th, Pedroia fouled off a hit-and-run attempt and then couldn't get his bat back soon enough on a bunt attempt, falling into an immediate 0-2 hole. No worries. He promptly laced the next pitch from reliever Rich Thompson into right field, giving Boston runners at the corners.
Adrian Gonzalez would drive in the go-ahead run and Pedroia would score the final run, but only after avoiding a tag on a pickle in the third-base line, and then doing so again at home plate on a Jed Lowrie sacrifice fly. In one inning, the Angels had Pedroia on the verge of being out three times. In each instance, he beat them to the punch.
It was as complete an effort as a player can produce. Three seasons removed from his MVP campaign, Pedroia is playing like one again.
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