Commentary

Pedroia shows Red Sox the way

Speaks loudly and carries a big stick in powering Boston to first win of season

Updated: April 8, 2011, 10:04 PM ET
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- And on the seventh day, the Nation exhaled.

Dustin Pedroia promised that the Red Sox weren't going to go 0-162, and then performed the anatomically impossible feat of placing the rest of the team on his size XS shoulders during the team's first win of the season, 9-6 over the Yankees in the Fenway opener on Friday. Pedroia homered in the first, ripping his elbow pad off as he circled the bases, delivered a two-run single in Boston's five-run second, made a daring slide home in the same inning, and generally electrified the ancient joint.

"We got back from the road trip, we're 0-6, that's the worst feeling as a player, with the expectations we had,'' he said. "I just came in here thinking, we have to find a way to win. I don't care how we do it. I don't care if it's the ugliest win of all time. We need that win.

"We played great, man. We played good and we'll continue tomorrow.''

Whatever Kelly Pedroia told her husband when he returned home Thursday night (he had predicted she'd greet him with "You're 0-6. You stink.''), the Sox should hope she stays on message.

So, just what did she say?

"She started yelling at me, man,'' he said. "She's like, 'Why did you throw me under the bus with the media?' I'm like, 'Don't worry, they won't say anything.' ' '

[+] EnlargeDustin Pedroia
AP Photo/Elise AmendolaDustin Pedroia managed to avoid Russell Martin's tag with a hook slide at the plate in the second inning.

For the record, a stop was made at the Sox family room outside the clubhouse, but the babysitter sent along word that Kelly and the couple's toddler son, Dylan, had already left. No one in this family stays in one place too long.

And young Dylan knew what the stakes were Friday, with the Bombers in town. ESPN broadcaster Jon Sciambi was in camp this spring and related the story of visiting with Mike Lowell in the Sox dugout last summer when Pedroia walked up, his son in his arms, so that Dylan could tug on Lowell's goatee, a source of much amusement for the little guy. As they walked back down the clubhouse steps, Sciambi said, he swore he heard Dustin whisper to Dylan, "Let's go kick the Yankees' butts.''

The Red Sox, of course, were the ones with the sore rumps coming in here Friday, uncertain of what kind of reception awaited them as they returned home after being swept by the Rangers and the Indians. Pedroia had appealed to the fans not to quit on the club.

"It's either two feet in now, or two feet out,'' he had said. "Let us know, because we're coming.''

The reception from the sellout crowd of 37,178 (consecutive sellout No. 632, if you're scoring at home) when the team was introduced was positive.

"This is our park,'' Pedroia said. "The fans love us. They don't love anybody else, so it's fun. It was great.''

With John Lackey giving up a pair of runs in the first inning after allowing nine in his first start, the mood could have quickly soured. But that's when Pedroia answered with his solo home run in the first off an obviously subpar Phil Hughes.

"He gave us a huge lift,'' manager Terry Francona said. "We're down two, he takes a good swing and kind of gets at least a little bit of momentum, a little bit of excitement going." Pedroia followed up with a two-run, two-out single during the team's five-run second inning, the first time this season the Sox had scored more than two runs in an inning.

Pedroia moved up to second on Curtis Granderson's off-target throw home, then sped home ahead of Brett Gardner's throw on Adrian Gonzalez's single through a vacant hole in the overshifted Yankees infield, grabbing a piece of the plate with his hand while eluding Russell Martin's tag.

"Youk did a great job telling me where to go,'' Pedroia said, describing how on-deck hitter Kevin Youkilis pointed the way. "With the Monster so short, I knew Gardner was going to come up throwing right away. I was just trying to get the hell out of the way and touch the plate, to be honest with you.''

The 6-3 lead that Pedroia helped build did not stand up, as the Yankees kept smacking extra-base hits off Lackey, including a game-tying home run in the fifth by Alex Rodriguez. But the Sox, who had been 7 for 44 with runners in scoring position in the season's first six games, almost matched that hit total Friday by going 6 for 10 with RISP. Jarrod Saltalamacchia doubled home an unearned run to break the tie in the bottom of the fifth, and J.D. Drew padded the lead with a two-run single in the seventh.

Pedroia acknowledged the club had staggered under the burden of expectations.

"Hell yeah, man, we all want to do well,'' he said. "I want to get a hit every time up. So does Youk. So does Carl [Crawford]. Everybody does. That's just part of the game.

"I started out slow when I was 7, but we were winning. It didn't really matter. But when you're losing and everybody starts slow, you put more pressure on yourself to be the guy that's going to pick us up. We just need to relax and calm down.''

That's probably sound advice in general. But for Pedroia? He owns a big chunk of this town because of who he is, an excitable boy.

Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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