BOSTON — To hear Dustin Pedroia tell it, he only knew he was on the verge of making history Saturday night because he overheard the broadcasters discussing it on television as he walked through the Boston Red Sox clubhouse between innings.
“I heard something, but I didn’t know what it was,” Pedroia said, straight-faced. “I didn’t really catch what they were saying.”
That doesn’t seem quite right, does it? Not after right fielder Mookie Betts confessed that the Red Sox dugout was “locked in every time [Pedroia] came to the plate” in an 8-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park. Meanwhile, shortstop Xander Bogaerts could tell Pedroia was in the midst of piling up nine, 10, 11 hits in a row because, well, he has a good memory and he’s able to count.
“Matter of fact,” Bogaerts said, “I told [assistant hitting coach] Victor [Rodriguez] that I thought he got 10 straight hits because in Tampa [on Thursday] he got out his first at-bat and then got three hits and then four [Friday night] and then tonight. He was on an awesome roll. It was fun to see.”
OK, so Pedroia preferred to play it cool after getting a hit in 11 consecutive at-bats and reaching base in 12 straight plate appearances, streaks that came to a close when he grounded into a double play to end the eighth inning. That’s fine. For as much as the 33-year-old Red Sox second baseman is known for his bravado, he has largely refrained from bragging about himself since his memorable 2010 description of his feats at the plate as a “laser show.”
Pedroia’s play speaks for itself, especially at times like this. With the Red Sox locked in a three-team race for the AL East crown and leading a pack of five clubs that are separated by four games for two wild-card berths, he is enjoying nothing less than a career revival in his 11th big-league season.
For one thing, Pedroia is healthy for the first time in at least four years, having started all but four of the Red Sox’s 129 games. He’s playing his usual Gold Glove-caliber defense, highlighted again Saturday night when he ranged behind second base to snare a grounder up the middle and made a strong, off-balance peg to throw out speedy Billy Burns at first base. And he’s batting .320 with an .840 OPS, which would represent his best mark since 2011.
Three weeks ago, manager John Farrell shifted Pedroia from his preferred No. 2 spot in the lineup to the leadoff spot, a move designed to put Betts in a run-producing middle-of-the-order position. Over the years, Pedroia hasn’t felt entirely comfortable at the top of the order, but not only did he not balk at the move, he has thrived, going 33-for-72 (.458) with four walks and a .481 on-base percentage. In his last three games at Fenway Park, he is a ridiculous 12-for-14 with a walk.
And over the past three games, in particular, Pedroia rewound the “laser show” to 2008, when he was named American League MVP. He singled in his last three at-bats Thursday against the Tampa Bay Rays, singled four times and walked in five plate appearances Friday night against the Royals, then notched three singles and a double in his first four at-bats Saturday night.
By the time Pedroia came to the plate in the bottom of the eighth inning, he was one hit away from tying the major-league record of 12 in a row shared by Walt Dropo (1952), Pinky Higgins (12) and Johnny Kling (1902).
“That’s special,” said Red Sox starter David Price, who allowed two runs and struck out seven batters in six innings, lowered his ERA to 3.97 and picked up his fourth straight victory. “Whenever your name is up there with guys in black-and-white photos, that’s pretty special. He’s a gamer. He’s a very special teammate and everybody in here definitely cherishes what he brings to this team every single day. We’re all happy for him.”
The streak ended one hit shy of the mark, but that didn’t make it less impressive. Betts said the Red Sox treated it like a no-hitter, with Pedroia’s teammates trying to avoid speaking to him between at-bats. Bogaerts, who bats behind Pedroia, made sure everyone was aware of what was going on.
“Every time I went up to hit, I was letting [Royals catcher] Salvador Perez know,” Bogaerts said. “I remember I told him he’s going 10 straight hits. I told the umpire the last at-bat and he was like, ‘Really?’ They didn’t really know, but afterwards, they’re like, that’s pretty nice. It’s probably one of the coolest things you’re going to experience. Obviously such a great teammate as he is and a great player also. It was awesome to go through that with him.”
Pedroia let on only that he felt “a little tired from getting on base a lot.” Otherwise, he chalked up the 11 consecutive hits to simply a good few days.
“You hit hot streaks throughout the year,” he said. “You’ve got to ride them as much as you can.”
At this rate, the Red Sox will ride Pedroia straight to the postseason. Then, perhaps, he’ll finally take a bow.