By Sean McAdam
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- As Thursday night's game inched along, the game took on a numbing sameness. Each inning seemed to end the same way: with a Red Sox baserunner -- or, as was often the case, several -- stranded, representing one more lost opportunity to take the opener of their series with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
The 2-0 lead they had built was lost on a single pitch, the lone mistake Josh Beckett would make, and as extra innings beckened, then arrived, increasingly, it appeared as thought the Sox would squander not only Beckett's otherwise brilliant outing, but the game itself as well.
They left runners in scoring position in first, second, third, fourth, seventh, eighth and ninth innings. They left the bases loaded in the eighth.
Then, as these kind of games often do, it quickly turned on several small moments, resulting in a 4-2, extra-inning victory for the Red Sox, their second in a row on the road and fifth win overall in the last six games.
Unsurprisingly, Dustin Pedroia was in the middle of it all.
Small hero. Big spot. Huge win.
First, Pedroia executed a near-perfect relay throw to third to cut down Erick Aybar, foolishly attempting to turn his eighth-inning leadoff liner into the right-field corner from a double into a triple.
Pedroia took the throw from outfielder J.D. Drew on the right-field grass, then pivoted and fired a one-hop bullet to Jed Lowrie, who slapped a tag on Aybar.
Rather than have the potential winning run in scoring position, the Angels had one out and zero momentum. And they had Pedroia to thank.
"Ive said this about Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, said Terry Francona. The Yankees want him to have something to do with the outcome of the game. Thats how we feel about Pedey, whether its offensively, defensively . . . hes a great player. But you see the best of him when the game is close and on the line.
Aybar, one of the fastest players in the league, used his speed to accelerate as he hit the second-base bag and then shifted into another gear as he headed for third.
Pedroia, of course, was prepared.
"We've played against these guys for a while,'' said Pedroia. "They're very aggressive and they run the bases well. It took a perfect play to get him.''
The execution, of course, was spot-on. But it was the preparation that made it happen.
"That's not just execution,'' said Francona. "There's a lot of will there, too.''
"That's why,'' explained Pedroia, ''in spring training, I don't screw around with that. I don't go 50 percent.''
Pedroia wasn't through either. After extricating the Sox from that jam, he singled in the top of the 11th, sending J.D. Drew to third with no out and Adrian Gonzalez at bat.
Gonzalez took a high cut fastball from Rich Thompson and turned on it, lacing a double into the right field corner which scored Drew and gave the Sox a one-run lead.
With the Angels' infield in, Gonzalez got caught breaking for third on an infield grounder behind the mound as Marco Scutaro reached and Pedroia was forced to remain at third.
Darnell McDonald followed with a hot shot to third, and Pedroia, going on contact, realized he would be an easy out at the plate. Halfway home, he quickly reversed direction as catcher Hank Conger returned a throw to Maicer Izturis.
Pedroia seemed to be caught again, but he neatly twisted away from Isturis's swipe and scampered back safelt into third. When Jed Lowrie followed with a sacrifice fly to center, Pedroia scored a critical insurance run.
"You can lose a game like that in this ballpark very easily,'' said Francona, taking note of the Angels' athleticism and aggressiveness.
Of course, it becomes a lot easier to win them when your smallest player comes up big.