DENVER -- Boston's Dustin Pedroia is one of those guys fans gravitate to, relate to, embrace and hold onto for dear life.

In no way does he fit the standard Major League profile, which makes him all the more endearing. How many thousands of guys across the land look at Pedroia, making all these plays and getting all these hits, and think to themselves, "Man, that could be me if only I'd worked harder and gotten some breaks."

He's 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, and if he runs like the wind, it's a wind that requires no windbreaker. The source of his game, of his success, is found in places that don't register on stopwatches and wow the scouts.

The guy just loves to play and knows how to play, and sometimes that is enough, with a lot of help from his friends, to add up to a champion.

Pedroia came to Coors Field on Sunday nine innings away from celebrating a World Series championship with his Red Sox buddies. It's been a season that bends the imagination in many ways, but here stands the irrepressible rookie in the middle of it all, a catalyst and presence with few equals.

Dropped a spot in the order to No. 2 for Game 3 on Saturday night to accommodate fellow rookie Jacoby Ellsbury, Pedroia delivered hamdsomely. Ellsbury, another young talent with star qualities, was on base all night long.

"Probably part of the reason they're good is they do have the ability to make adjustments," manager Terry Francona said, Game 4 a few hours away. "They both understand how to play."

Pedroia and Ellsbury were Pac-10 Conference stars, Pedroia at Arizona State, Ellsbury at Oregon State. Ellsbury is a classic leadoff hitter -- his four hits in Game 3 were spread all over the field -- with electrifying speed, while Pedroia is a gym rat who knows the inner game and what that entails for a No. 2 hitter.

Pedroia had an infield hit in the first inning, a critical bunt single during a six-run third, then broke Game 3 wide open with a two-run double to right during a three-run eighth inning after the Rockies had closed to within a run.

Ellsbury and Pedroia combined for seven hits -- four doubles (three by Ellsbury) -- while scoring three runs and driving in four.

In Red Sox Nation, this is seen as the start of something big. A pair of quality tablesetters, in tune like a quarterback and his favorite receiver, set an entire offense in motion.

With Ellsbury and Pedroia in tandem creating havoc in front of David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez and Mike Lowell (if he re-signs), the Red Sox should have an offensive chemistry that will be the envy of 29 managers next season and in the foreseeable future.

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Asked about being part of a youth movement along with Jonathan Papelbon, Kevin Youkilis and Ellsbury, Pedroia credited Boston's player development department and Minor League coaches.

"I think the organization did a great job preparing us at each level -- what to expect -- and I think it helps out when you all get called up together, because you've been through a lot of things," Pedroia said.

"We played Double-A together, Triple-A and now here, so I think everybody is comfortable with each other, and it makes it that much more special."

Pedroia entered Game 4 hitting .357 in the World Series, slugging .643 with a homer and double. He's a .304 hitter in 56 postseason at-bats, slugging .518 with a .371 on-base mark.

By any measure, these are remarkable numbers for a 24-year-old kid getting his first taste of October baseball. But they're right in line with his dynamic rookie season.

Rebounding from a miserable (.182) April with the bat, Pedroia started banging away in May (.415) and never stopped racking up hits. He finished at .317 -- 10th overall in the American League and the highest in history by a rookie second baseman.

Pedroia doesn't hit like a little guy. He'll go the other way when the situation demands, but he'll also swing with fury when he gets a pitch in his hot zone, as evidenced by his dramatic homer in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series against the Indians.

Barry Bonds, Pedroia's favorite player as a Giants fan growing up in the Sacramento area, must have been impressed by Pedroia's bat speed.

Another player who influenced Pedroia was Fernando Vina, a second baseman from Sacramento. Yet another Sacramento native, Steve Sax, is the player whose style Pedroia closest mirrors with his passion, confidence and full-tilt aggression.

Sax won World Series championships with the 1981 and '88 Dodgers. Now here's Pedroia at the threshold, one happy ending away from the culmination of a dream rookie season.