BOSTON — It was clear Sunday that Dustin Pedroia had no intention of going to Detroit down 2-0 in the ALCS.
Pedroia, who struggled a bit in Boston’s first five playoff games, turned in a much more familiar performance Sunday as the Red Sox overcame a 5-0 deficit to even up the ALCS at a game apiece. Pedroia served as a catalyst in the Red Sox’ improbable rally.
The first glimpse of Pedroia putting it all on the line came in the third inning with the Red Sox trailing 1-0. Austin Jackson yanked a sharp ground ball to the right side, and Pedroia ranged out onto the outfield grass to make a fantastic diving stop. It was a tough play regardless, but it became even more difficult when the ball took a late hop as Pedroia went into his dive. Plus, Jackson runs well, so Pedroia needed to rush his throw to complete the out at first base.
In the grand scheme of things, Pedroia’s third-inning stop didn’t mean much. In fact, it was all but forgotten three innings later when Miguel Cabrera and Alex Avila homered as the Tigers scored four runs to increase their lead to 5-0. But the defensive gem was a taste of what was to come at the dish.
Pedroia entered Game 2 of the ALCS hitting just .211 (4-for-19) with a .261 on-base percentage through five games this postseason. He struck out swinging in each of his first two at-bats Sunday as Max Scherzer held the Red Sox hitless for 5 2/3 innings. The sixth inning offered Pedroia a chance to build on Boston’s first sign of offensive life, though, and the All-Star second baseman didn’t disappoint.
Shane Victorino singled into left-center field to break up Scherzer’s no-hitter with two outs in the sixth inning. Victorino then took off for second base as part of a hit-and-run, and Pedroia planted a fly ball off the left field wall for Boston’s first run of the series. The Red Sox still trailed 5-1 following Pedroia’s RBI double, but it was as if a weight had been lifted off their shoulders. The Red Sox had just one hit and struck out 27 times in the first 14 2/3 innings of the ALCS, and now, they could finally get down to business.
“Yeah, it was,” John Farrell said when asked if Pedroia’s sixth-inning double was a lift. “Given the first game and a half had gone, Pedey does things a little bit differently than everybody else. And it’s such a strong, competitive spirit — a will to succeed — whether it’s a headlong dive in the three or four hole, or field a ground ball or whether it’s to come up and never give in. There’s a competitive drive in that guy that is second to none. And we thrive off it. We feed off it. That was the case here tonight.”
Pedroia’s most important moment of the game came in the eighth inning. Victorino had just struck out swinging against Al Alburquerque, and the Tigers were positioned to escape a first-and-second jam. But Pedroia singled through the right side to load the bases for David Ortiz, and Big Papi tied the game and significantly altered the series with a grand slam into the Red Sox’ bullpen.
“We felt we were going to break out of it, and I think on the fifth or sixth inning is when everyone got more pumped up and excited,” said Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who drove in the winning run in the ninth inning. “We were getting some opportunities, just not doing anything with it. That was a big walk by [Jacoby Ellsbury] [in the eighth inning], and then we were able to get the bases loaded [for Ortiz].”
Ortiz’s grand slam, Saltalamacchia’s walk-off single and the Red Sox’ ensuing celebration will stand as the lasting images of Game 2. Such images might have only been figments of our imagination, however, had it not been for Pedroia’s tempo-setting performance.
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