BOSTON – For much of his tenure with the Red Sox, Dustin Pedroia has been a mainstay at the No. 2 spot in the batting order.
What used to serve as a foregone conclusion for Boston received a noticeable jolt this season. On Opening Day at Yankee Stadium, Pedroia found himself hitting in front of cleanup “banger” David Ortiz while newcomer Shane Victorino assumed the spot in the lineup that used to have the second baseman’s name written all over it.
Instead of teaming up with leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury to form a top-of-the-lineup combination that was asked to perform one chief function – getting on base so that Ortiz and whoever was hitting behind the slugger had the opportunity to hit with runners aboard – Pedroia is being asked these days to be part run producer, part table setter.
Serving as a dual threat was exactly what the former American League MVP did in Game 1 of the World Series as Pedroia’s first-inning single was parlayed into Mike Napoli’s bases-clearing double.
An inning later, Pedroia drove in a run that helped bury the St. Louis Cardinals in such a deep hole that the National League champs were never able to climb out.
Pedroia finished the night 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored, a stat line that spoke volumes about a player who has been asked to wear multiple hats for the Red Sox in 2013.
“As far as my offensive approach, my mentality hasn’t changed,” said Pedroia prior to the Red Sox and Cardinals taking the field for Game 2 of the Fall Classic Thursday night. “Sometimes on the bases with David hitting behind me, if they’re not shifting him as much and he can hit with that hole, I won’t run as much.
“I still try to take it the same way like I did hitting second,” he added. “I’m a run scorer who gets on base and tries to make something happen like hit the ball into the gaps. I don’t look at it that I’m Miguel Cabrera and I’m going to hit 40 home runs. I just try to play the game and do what I can.”
The most encouraging development from Wednesday’s series opener was that for perhaps the first time this postseason, Boston’s 3-4-5 combination of Pedroia, Ortiz and Napoli were all on the same page. The trio combined for five of the team’s eight hits and drove in seven of the eight runs.
“Each one of those guys has the ability to carry us, and the fact we can get the middle of the order going is very encouraging,” expressed Red Sox manager John Farrell. “Any time you can get multiple guys to swing the bat like the ones you mentioned, it gives us the ability to put a crooked number up.”
One day after it was suspected that Jon Lester benefited from a foreign substance in his glove, the Red Sox, Cardinals and Major League Baseball all did their parts in defusing a puzzling matter that gained traction following a tweet from a St. Louis minor-league pitcher who watched Game 1 on television.
“I’ve played with Jon my whole professional career, and he kind of sweats a lot. It was not like he was up there throwing balls that were moving 20 feet. He was on his game, and that’s the way I saw it from second base,” said Pedroia. “I know he loads up with resin all over the place. I don’t even like going out there and telling him ‘Good job’ and patting him on the back because you get all wet and stuff.”
St. Louis manager Mike Matheny made it a point to say that no one in his dugout called MLB officials to complain about Lester possibly doctoring the baseball.
“If we started going down that path, we would be just trying to make excuses for a pitcher who pitched a very good game against us,” said Matheny. “That’s not the kind of team we are. So we see what happens, we make a note of it and we just keep playing.”
Both skippers were asked if Major League Baseball possibly needed to better clarify to the rule about pitchers and the presumed use of foreign substances.
“How it’s updated, I don’t know. Do you start to list individual products? At the same time, I know from talking to our own hitters, they want to be sure that a pitcher has a complete grip on the baseball,” said Farrell. “(Wednesday) night and during this series, there are going to be pitchers on both sides that are going to be mid- to upper-90s type velocity. If a hitter in the batter’s box has a little more comfort knowing the pitcher has a good grip, then maybe they’re a little more at ease as well.
“You’ve got to draw the line somewhere, and the way it is right now seems to fit,” Farrell continued.
Added Matheny, “It’s the responsibility of the league if they notice something that looks out of character to jump on it. I’m not part of the Rule Committee to start making changes, but again, it’s been addressed and I think it’s been taken care of.”
Why Lester was so successful in shutting St. Louis down for 7.2 innings was a product of the budding relationship he has with catcher David Ross. Wednesday marked Lester’s fourth postseason start with Ross behind the plate for three of them.
“The last six or seven weeks, this tandem has really taken some major strides forward,” said Farrell. “They’ve gone out and executed a very good game plan and that consistency, if we need to, which we fully expect, will take place again in Game 5.”
A former Gold Glove catcher, Matheny knows a thing or two about making sure the pitchers are in good hands.
“You can tell there are guys on the staff that like David, and that’s the greatest compliment you can get as a catcher,” said the St. Louis skipper. “He’s a guy who’s been around for a reason.”
Farrell confirmed that Clay Buchholz remains on track to pitch Game 4 in St. Louis on Sunday night with Jake Peavy to go in Game 3. Regarding when the World Series shifts to a National League ballpark, Farrell hasn’t decided what to do with Ortiz and Napoli regarding who will play first base and who will ride the bench.
“One or the other is going to sit, unfortunately,” said Farrell.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03