By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
In a Red Sox clubhouse that seemed equal parts exhausted and exhilarated early Monday morning, David Ortiz paced before his locker, gathering his belongings.
"I wouldn't trade Pedie for anyone in the league right now," he said, shaking his head in astonishment. "Put that in the paper."
"Pedie," of course, is Dustin Pedroia, whose 16-inning single snapped an epic scoreless pitching duel, gave the Red Sox a 1-0 win and sent the Sox on to Baltimore with a series victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
All night -- and into the early morning -- Pedroia seemed to be playing on another level. Twice, he went sprawling to his right in the dirt to field balls headed for the outfield, both times then scrambling to his feet to make throws to first.
By the eighth inning, just halfway through, there were four hits, total, on the game; Pedroia had half of them.
When the game finally ended, Pedroia was 3-for-7. The entire Rays lineup, by contrast, was 3-for-52.
That sort of statistical parallel gives life to the idea that the undersized infielder has an outsized game, bigger than the sum of it's parts.
Terry Francona, whose respect and admiration for Derek Jeter is well-documented, has taken to linking the two when he describes their impact. The Yankees, Francona has noted, want Jeter somehow involved when the game is on the line -- be it at the plate, on the field or on the bases.
The Sox, Francona adds, now feel the same about Pedroia.
That's a heady comparison, one that likely makes Pedroia uncomfortable, since for all his bravura -- think "Laser Show" and his non-stop chirping in the dugout and clubhouse, Pedroia is actually quite modest when it comes to his own accomplishments.
He insisted, for instance, that his game-winner Monday morning was the result of a simple goal.
"I just wanted to go home," shrugged Pedroia. "Everyone did."
The game seemed to play to Pedroia's strengths -- requiring energy when little was left and an intense competitive streak to overcome the rigors of such a game.
"It was a grind," acknowledged Pedroia, who grinds as well as anyone. "You're playing to win. It doesn't matter how long it takes."
Just when it seemed that neither team was capable of scoring -- the Red Sox stranded eight in the spam of three innings at one point while the Rays managed just six baserunners for the entire game -- Pedroia stepped to the plate with teammates at the corners and one out.
His slashing single to right field confirmed that he was the right man at the plate at the right time.
"By that time," said Francona, "it's not only physical, it's mentally draining. (Pedroia) is the one guy you know will figure out a way."