By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
KANSAS CITY It sounds like a pretty simple formula: Insert game-deciding situation with a generous helping of Dustin Pedroia and good things are bound to happen for the Red Sox.
Thats how things unfolded Thursday night in Bostons tight 4-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. The Sox badly needed a victory, and badly needed a shot of Pedroia in the cleanup spot.
Thats why he is who he is," Terry Francona said. "He does come through and he kinda wills himself to do things. Its a comforting feeling when he has something to say about the outcome of the game.
It seems that Francona only taps Pedroia on the shoulder to hit in the middle of the Sox lineup when its become a dire situation, but its a move that always works. Pedroia finished 3-for-4 while driving in three of Bostons four runs including the game-winning run in the fifth inning with two outs in the inning.
Its getting close to the end of the season and everybody in here is just trying to do their part to help us win games," Pedroia said. "Thats all that this is about. Nobody needs to try and do anything extra. Were all trying to do whatever we can to help us win every single night.
That came after Pedroia slapped a two-run single up the middle in the top of the third on a Luke Hochevar cut fastball also with two outs that put a charge into a Sox offense thats looked far from energetic lately.
Both of Pedroias hits came on solid pitches, and had Hochevar talking about Bostons middle infield MVP candidate like he was a Bond villain or the latest bad guy trying to take down Bruce Willis in the endless Diehard flicks.
Instead its just a 5-foot-8, 165-pound second baseman.
"He was a nemesis. He hit the ball where it's pitched," said Hochevar. "The base hit up the middle that scored two runs I was trying to come in off the plate for a ball and I felt like it was off the plate. He put a good swing on it. He had a good piece of hitting."
At the cleanup slot, Pedroia has hit .481 (25-for-52) with six doubles, five home runs and 14 RBI in 12 games, and has made Francona look like the smartest manager alive.
Or has he?
Its either good managing tonight or horrible managing the rest of the year, cracked Francona with a smirk. Were just trying to balance it out a little bit. Were missing two big bats (David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis) and trying to get a little balance. You can put him anywhere. Hes a good player.
Youre not going to drive in three runs every night, but whether its with the bat, in the field, or on the base paths, hes going to give you everything he has.
Hes one of the best players in the game.
The bottom line: Its unfair to pin everything on one player when guys start to go down with injuries, but it looks like its going to have to be Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury carrying the offense on most nights. Youkilis and Ortiz are both gone with injuries, and it doesnt appear either one will be back soon.
Adrian Gonzalez has morphed into a singles hitter over the last month due to a nagging neck problem, and the Sox would desperately like to get him some rest. But Gonzalez will continue to trot out there as long as Ortiz and Youkilis are missing from the middle of the lineup.
So it comes down to the SI cover boy and Sox energizer bunny to rise up and be much more than the Mouth that Roared, and Pedroia does that over and over again for the Sox. Hes hit safely in 50 of his last 57 games and the batting average has spiked all the way up to a .309 mark after he was struggling along at a .272 clip at the end of June amid concerns about his knee.
All that has changed over the last two months, as hes hit at a .364 clip in his last 170 at bats. Francona and the rest of Pedroias teammates have long since stopped marveling at everything he does on and off the field to hold the Sox together, and instead simply give thanks that he is there constantly willing his team to victory.
Hes that guy even when hes hitting in the two-hole whether its guys at the bottom of the lineup or Ellsbury getting on base, said Beckett.
That guy did it again against the Royals on Thursday night, and hes going to have to do it a few more times before Red Sox reinforcements arrive.
Its the temporary formula for Sox success.