Dustin Pedroia had given Chicago fits over the weekend, and manager Ozzie Guillen really didn’t want any part of him. He’s been boosting Pedroia all weekend, just floored by the desire and heart of the kid, and when Pedroia’s 11-for-11 streak came to an end with the easy ground out to starter Gavin Floyd in the third, the manager playfully called for the ball and stuffed it in his pocket.
Trailing by a couple of runs in the ninth inning yesterday, the Red Sox couldn’t have asked for a better setup. David Ortiz stepped to the plate and worked a two-out 3-2 walk off of White Sox closer Bobby Jenks. It wasn’t a game-tying home run, but there still were two men on when the Boston cleanup hitter stepped to the plate.
Make no mistake about it; this cleanup hitter scared the White Sox as much as any previous dreadlocked or otherwise cleanup guy had done. Dustin Pedroia had given Chicago fits over the weekend, and manager Ozzie Guillen really didn’t want any part of him.
“The last person you want to see there is him,” Guillen said, “and we went around everyone just to face him.”
Pedroia gave Guillen plenty of reason to fear him. Before he grounded out in the third inning, the Boston second baseman had reached base 11 straight times in the first two games of the series -- nine hits, two walks, one intentional, five runs to set a team record for second basemen -- continuing with a first-inning single.
“This kid had an unbelievable weekend,” Guillen said. “He puts you under a lot of pressure. He’s the type of player that keeps coming and coming.”
Alas, Pedroia didn’t keep coming this time around. After the third-inning ground out, he grounded out again and walked before his two-out at-bat in the ninth. Jenks got Pedroia to foul off a pitch as the still sizeable Fenway crowd began chanting “MVP,” and with good reason.
He then took a ball before sending Jenks’ final pitch to shallow left field for the game’s final out.
With a 4-2 loss in the books, it was a rare failure for Pedroia, now batting .326 and the leader, or amongst the A.L. leaders, in numerous offensive categories. Pedroia wasn’t exactly happy with himself, nor was he beating himself up. It happens, he explained, and there’s a reason why Jenks has a 1.82 ERA.
“We fought back,” he said. “All we could ask for was a chance to win at the end of the game and we had that. I just didn’t get that big hit. It happens.”
Here’s what’s important: although Tim Wakefield pitched well (six innings, six hits, three runs) in the loss, giving up a two-run home run to Jim Thome in the first inning, the Red Sox have comported themselves well of late. They came back from the road last week with a 6-3 record, soured only by a final-game come-from-behind loss to the Yankees at the Stadium. They had whooped the White Sox but good in the first two games of this series, scoring eight runs each time out, the first via shutout.
“Yeah, we’re playing good baseball,” Pedroia said. “We’ve just gotta continue. We have 25, 26 games left. We have to continue playing this way and we’ll be fine.”
“We’re playing pretty well,” said Jason Bay. “We’ve been taking series after series. We’re playing good teams and playing well. (Injured) guys are coming back in the near future, and these aren’t just spare parts. They’re huge parts.”
That’s why Bay was thrilled to see Pedroia at the plate in that situation in the ninth inning. “I don’t think there’s one guy in here who didn’t want to see him at the plate,” he said. “He’s been the MVP since I’ve been here.”
Guillen pretty much agrees with that. He’s been boosting Pedroia all weekend, just floored by the desire and heart of the kid, and when Pedroia’s 11-for-11 streak came to an end with the easy ground out to starter Gavin Floyd in the third, the manager playfully called for the ball and stuffed it in his pocket.
“I have fun with him,” he said in his thick Venezuelan accent. “I’m a big Pedroia fan. I love the way he plays. If 90 percent of players played the way he plays, I would pay for a ticket to watch baseball.
“It’s not all home runs and power pitching. That’s the way people should be playing every day. I admire him because of his size. He’s got a heart bigger than anybody in this league.”
If nothing else, that at least cheered Pedroia up. He did notice that Guillen had pocketed that ball after the ground out.
“I started laughing,” he said. “Ozzie’s great. He’s good for the game. He keeps it relaxed over there and wants those guys to play hard. I like Ozzie.”
Enough that the pair had a conversation behind the batting cage Saturday afternoon.
What did they talk about?
“Just talking,” Pedroia said. “I don’t know. I couldn’t really understand him.”
The Patriot Ledger