DETROIT — The bugaboo the night before was a grounder to Dustin Pedroia, a double-play ball that the trusty Red Sox second baseman felt he should have cashed in for two outs and bankrupted a Detroit rally.
“Yeah, we turned the page on that,’’ Pedroia recalled 24 hours later, after the Red Sox pinned a 4-3 loss on the Tigers Thursday night to take a 3-2 series lead in the ALCS, “and tried to do it today.’’
When the night was over, the Sox had converted three double plays, with Pedroia in the thick of two of them in the late innings with their lead winnowing. Their bugaboo of the night before turned into their best friend.
In the sixth, with the Tigers having just picked up their second run of the night, Austin Jackson rapped a ball to third that was snagged by rookie Xander Bogaerts. With Brayan Pena charging toward second base, Pedroia collected the toss from Bogaerts and jumped over the barrel-rolling Pena to make the throw to Mike Napoli at first to complete the DP.
“It was a big play,’’ acknowledged Pedroia. “Any time you turn two . . . when you don’t do it, it’s frustrating. So we were able to get the two outs today and we won the game. Last night, we weren’t and they took advantage of it.’’
In Game 4, the play that Pedroia didn’t make, on a backspinning hotshot grounder by ex-Boston infielder Jose Iglesias, kept alive a second inning in which the Tigers scored five runs. Had Pedroia been able to handle the ball cleanly, effectively, it would have been an inning-ending DP that left the Tigers with only one run. Instead, a second run scored on the play and the bleeding only grew worse.
“I shoud have had it,’’ Pedroia said the night before. “That’s a play I have to make.’’
Had he slept after the loss?
“I haven’t slept in two years, man.’’
But with better fielding in Game 5, the Tigers now are on the verge of going to sleep for the winter. The series shifts to Boston for Game 6 on Saturday, with a possible Game 7 on Sunday. The Sox only need to win one to advance to the World Series.
“A big win for us,’’ said Pedroia, who also added a pair of hits in Game 5, livening up the 2-3-4 part of the Boston order that entered the evening in a woeful 6-for-45 funk for the series. “[Mike] Napoli swung the bat great. A lot of guys swung the bat good. Pitching and defense . . . [all] good tonight.’’
Pedroia also was a key factor in the next DP, again with the Tigers threatening to add another run and chip Boston’s lead down to 4-3. The hard-luck Miguel Cabrera came to the plate with no outs, men on first and third, and smacked a routine roller Pedroia’s way. No backspin this time. In fact, it was all but gift wrapped.
Pedroia gloved it, stepped on second for the force on Torii Hunter, then fired over to Napoli again to snuff out Cabrera. Iglesias scored on the play, and it was the end of Detroit’s scoring for the night.
The first of Pedroia’s two double plays was the more impressive. First because it had the young Bogaerts showing his surehanded stuff, second because Pedroia made the expert leap to avoid getting rolled by Pena at second.
“He is always under control,’’ said Pedroia, praising Bogaerts. “It feels like he’s been in the big leagues for like 10 years. He’s always thinking out situations. Great approach at the plate. He is going to be good for a long time.’’
Now back to Boston with the hope of finishing business.
“We feel good about it,’’ said Pedroia. “We aren’t going to relax by any means.’’