Pedroia ignites Boston's dormant offense
Second baseman sets tone vs. Yanks with first-inning homer
BOSTON -- When the Yankees took a quick two-run lead in the top of the first inning during the Red Sox's opener at Fenway Park on Friday afternoon, Boston needed something to turn the momentum that had been seemingly disappearing during the season's first week.
After newly-bestowed leadoff hitter Carl Crawford lined out to second base to start off the bottom of the first, Dustin Pedroia turned on a high cutter from New York starter Phil Hughes and hammered it over the Green Monster.
He rounded third base and pumped his fist a few times before being welcomed back to the dugout by his suddenly-ecstatic teammates.
"He gave us a huge lift," manager Terry Francona said after the Red Sox's 9-6 victory. "We're down two, he takes a good swing and kind of gets at least a little bit of momentum, a little bit of excitement going."
It was the third consecutive year that Pedroia launched a home run in Boston's home opener. The only other Red Sox player to do that was Fred Lynn, from 1978-80.
"That got us going," said first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who was 2-for-5 with two runs scored and an RBI on the afternoon. "He's our spark plug."
Pedroia entered the game hitting .227 on the season. Pedroia had yet to drive in a run or collect an extra-base hit, and he had struck out five times. But with frustration building, he only becomes more focused, said reliever Bobby Jenks.
"I noticed it playing against him," Jenks said, "but once you get in the same room with him, he takes it to a whole new level. It almost seems like the more [mad] he gets the better he gets, too."
Hughes had held Pedroia to one hit in 13 at-bats before Friday's game. Already struggling this season, the three-time All-Star simply wanted to take good at-bats.
"I haven't had much success against Hughes and I was just trying to get a good pitch to hit and square it up," Pedroia said. "And I was lucky enough to squeak it out of there."
The Red Sox followed Pedroia's solo blast in first inning with a blistering second. They opened the inning with three straight hits by J.D. Drew, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jacoby Ellsbury, who was hitting out of the eight spot for the first time since 2009. The next two batters grounded out, but Pedroia knocked a two-out base hit to center field to tack on two more runs.
"I started out slow in '07, but we were winning, so it didn't really matter," Pedroia said. "But when you're losing and everyone starts out slow, you put more pressure on yourself to be the guy that picks you up."
Reliever Daniel Bard said Pedroia's home run in the first inning not only gave the bullpen a lift, but it gave the entire team confidence it hopes to hold onto for the rest of the series.
"That guy is awesome, man," said Bard. "He's a gamer. He's a jolt of energy, just a great guy to have on the team. That definitely helps. I think everybody felt the energy in the ballpark change and felt the momentum change and just kind of reminded us how good a team we can be."
Jason Mastrodonato is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.