Little man comes up big (cont.)
Posted: Monday October 22, 2007 3:06AM; Updated: Monday October 22, 2007 9:13AM
But Francona stuck by his man, and Pedroia responded with a year that will have him front-and-center when the AL Rookie of the Year award is announced. Even with that poor start, Pedroia finished the season hitting .317, with an on-base percentage of .380. He had eight homers and 39 doubles.
With a comeback like that, it wasn't surprising that Francona wasn't about to pull his leadoff man after four bad games.
"I think we all thought he would be just fine," Francona said. "Sometimes, when you don't get hits, don't think that you run away from guys that got you there. They're good players. He's a winning player."
Pedroia started to find his groove with a pair of hits in Game 5, and he had another pair in Game 6, and when he came to the plate in the seventh inning of Sunday's Game 7, he already had one hit. Facing righty Rafael Betancourt with Ellsbury on third, Pedroia took a 95 mph fastball and blasted it over the Green Monster. The shot, his first career postseason home run, gave the Sox a 5-2 lead.
"When your season is almost over -- we're down 3-1 -- you get that sense of urgency that we're going to play every inning, every pitch, everything as hard as we can. And we did that the last three games," Pedroia said. "It was the biggest at-bat of my life. And I'll never forget it."
Pedroia came up in the eighth and, just to prove he could, cranked a three-run double to left off Betancourt. After hitting just .188 through the first four games, Pedroia finished 7-for-15 (.467) with the homer, three doubles, five runs and five RBIs in the final three games.
The win Sunday marked the third time the Sox have climbed out of a 3-1 hole to win the ALCS. No other team has done it more than once. This one wasn't quite the same as 2004, when the Sox beat the Yankees to become the first team in Major League history to lose the first three games and still win a seven-game series.
But it really wasn't all that different, either.
"Most of the guys who were in here in '04 know what it took. Nothing was said. But we knew it. Nothing had to be said," said pitcher Tim Wakefield, one of the members of the World Series champs of '04. "It's exactly like '04. Just a different team."
In '04, the Sox broke an 86-year World Series drought with a four-game sweep of the Cardinals. This time, they will face a Colorado team that has won 21 of its last 22 games and has yet to lose in the postseason.
The Sox probably will be favored, enjoying, as they do, their spot as champs of what is considered the superior league. Still, there are questions around this team, not the least of which is the status of starter Daisuke Matsuzaka who was, again, mainly ineffective in his Game 7 start.
But the Sox hit .318 against the Indians. They're confident. They have shown that endearing capability to bounce back from even the direst of circumstances.
And, of course, they have Pedroia on their side. Don't ever count out the little guy.
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